Budget Travel magazine called Philadelphia one of the top Showstopping Theater Cities around the U.S. With the oldest theater in America, since 1809, Philadelphia continues to entertain audiences centuries later with magical musicals, spectacular shows and outstanding orchestras and operas.
A Guide to Onstage Shows in Philadelphia:
Philadelphia’s opera company has been hailed by the New York Times as “one of the most creative and ambitious companies” in the U.S. and by Opera News as establishing itself as “a model for innovation in the classical-music industry.” Opera Philadelphia mixes traditional and new repertoire that engages the public – taking opera out of the opera house and onto the streets, into parks and museums and other interesting venues throughout the city. The season opens each September with a Festival, featuring world and company premieres, partnering with the Philadelphia Fringe Festival. In 2020, the opera company launched the Opera Philadelphia Channel, allowing fans to stream performances from home.
Upcoming performances: Opera Philadelphia’s return to live audiences will begin on August 26, 2021 with a pre-season performance and American premiere of Amici e Rivali live at the Mann Center for the Performing Arts — part of the outdoor venue’s Summer Picnic Series and complete with a post-performance fireworks display. The untraditional 2021/2022 season of performances, which will entertain audiences at multiple venues and from their comfort of their homes, will include in-person performances of Stravinsky’s Oedipus Rex and George Walker’s Lilacs at the Kimmel Center’s Verizon Hall (January 21 & 23, 2022) and Verdi’s Rigoletto at the Academy of Music (April 29, May 1, May 6 & May 8, 2022). The season will also stream new works created for the Opera Philadelphia Channel, including performances that celebrate Philadelphia’s historic pipe organs (premieres July 2021), an art film of Francis Poulenc’s La voix humaine (premieres September 2021) and the cinematic adaptation of Henze’s El Cimarrón (premieres November 2021), and more. To learn more about on-stage performances during Opera Philadelphia’s 2021/22 season, click here. For the season’s digital offerings, click here.
The Philadelphia Orchestra
The legendary Philadelphia Orchestra is one of the finest music ensembles in the world with leaders such as Leopold Stokowski, who developed the “Philadelphia Sound,” and Eugene Ormandy, who toured the orchestra in China as global ambassadors. The “Fabulous Philadelphians” continue to break new ground under the direction of Yannick Nézet-Séguin.
Upcoming performances: The Philadelphia Orchestra will welcome audiences back to Verizon Hall at the Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts for their Fall 2021 season, Forward, which will reflect on the pandemic, social justice in America, and equity and inclusion within the world of music. Beginning on October 5 with a special Opening Night Concert featuring Yo-Yo Ma, the Fall 2021 season will also feature several performances that celebrate women in classical music, including Missy Mazzoli’s Sinfonia (for Orbiting Spheres) and Schubert’s Symphony No. 9 (December 2-4, 2021), led by principal guest conductor Nathalie Stutzmann. Also look for the world premiere of Wynton Marsalis’s Tuba Concerto (December 9-12, 2021) and the return of a family-friendly holiday tradition, The Glorious Sound of Christmas (December 16-18 & 21, 2021). The Orchestra will also continue to present works via their Digital Stage, which allows audiences from around the world to enjoy the sound of Philadelphia from the comfort of their homes. To learn more about Fall 2021 performances, click here. Additional details for a January-June season will be announced in September 2021.
The Kimmel Center Cultural Campus
The state-of-the-art performance venue, the Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts is home to the Philadelphia Orchestra, the Chamber Orchestra of Philadelphia and Philadelphia Chamber Music Society concerts and also hosts touring Broadway productions and world-renowned artists at historic venues and theaters including the Academy of Music, Merriam Theater and Forrest Theater.
Upcoming performances: Live performances return to the Kimmel Center Cultural Campus in the fall of 2021, beginning with the award-winning musical and cultural phenomenon Hamilton at the Academy of Music (October 20 – November 28). The Kimmel Center Cultural Campus’ 2021/22 Broadway Philadelphia season continues with RAIN – A Tribute to The Beatles (October 29-31 at Merriam Theater), STOMP (December 28, 2021 – January 2, 2022 at Merriam Theater), Pretty Woman: The Musical (January 4-16, 2022 at the Academy of Music), and runs through May of 2022 with can’t-miss performances of Oklahoma!, Hairspray and Rent: 25th Anniversary Farewell Tour. Click here to view the full Broadway Philadelphia 2021/2022 line-up.
Walnut Street Theatre
Founded in 1809, the Walnut Street Theatre is America’s oldest theater and is also the official State Theatre of Pennsylvania and a National Historic Landmark. Walnut Street Theatre produces an exciting season of Broadway-quality musicals and plays, along with its acclaimed WST for Kids series and Independence Studio on 3 season.
Upcoming performances: The Walnut Street Theatre will open their 213th season of live entertainment on September 28 with BEEHIVE- The ’60s Musical (through October 31). The ‘Season of Celebration’ continues through May of 2022 with a slate of performances including the family-friendly Disney’s The Little Mermaid (November 16, 2021 – January 2, 2022), the supernatural and comedic Noël Coward’s Blithe Spirit (January 11 – February 13, 2022), a world premiere adaptation based on a classic Sherlock Holmes tale, The Adventure of The Speckled Band (February 22, 2022 – March 27, 2022), and the hit Broadway musical On Your Feet! (April 12 – May 29, 2022). To learn more about the ‘Season of Celebration’, click here.
Arden Theatre Company
Since 1988, Arden Theatre Company, a professional theatre in Old City, brings to life great stories by great storytellers. Productions include classics, new works, musicals and children’s theatre.
Upcoming performances: Arden Theatre Company will return to the stage in January 2022 with a five-show, in-person season beginning with a production of A Streetcar Named Desire (January 13 – February 13, 2022). Other 2022 season performances include a world premiere play, Backing Track (February 17 – March 27, 2022), a yet-to-be-announced Children’s Theatre production (March 23 – April 24, 2022), School Girls; Or, The African Mean Girls Play (May 5 – June 12, 2022) and Into the Woods (May 26 – June 26, 2022). For more information, click here.
Philadelphia Ballet (formerly Pennsylvania Ballet) was started in 1963 by George Balanchine protégée Barbara Weisberger and is considered one of America’s leading ballet companies, performing at the Academy of Music, the oldest opera house in the United States.
Upcoming performances: Philadelphia Ballet’s 2021-22 season will mark the ballet company’s triumphant return to the stage and will feature live, in-person performances beginning in October 2021. Look for world premieres and all-time classics throughout the season, including The Spark featuring world premieres from Artistic Director Angel Corella in an intimate setting at the Performance Garage (October), a Philadelphia holiday staple, George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker® (December 10-31), and New Works for a New World, which will feature works from three renowned choreographers (February 2022). For more information on the 2021-22 season, click here.
Penn Live Arts (formerly Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts)
Founded in 1971, the Annenberg Center — now Penn Live Arts — is one of the nation’s foremost urban performing arts centers on the University of Pennsylvania campus and serves as a cultural destination in Philadelphia, offering a broad range of programs in theatre, music and dance. Rebranded as Penn Live Arts in 2021, the performing arts presenter seeks to continue the Annenberg Center’s 50-year history of being a multidisciplinary performing arts leader in Philadelphia while also deepening the connection with the University of Pennsylvania and upholding a commitment to presenting innovative national and international artists both inside the Center’s walls and beyond.
Upcoming performances: Beginning what will be a multi-year 50th anniversary celebration, Penn Live Arts’ 2021/22 season will feature dance companies, a family-friendly cirque series, jazz greats, and innovative works outside of the Center’s walls. The season begins in September 2021 with the local premiere of John Luther Adams’ Ten Thousand Birds, performed by musical ensemble Alarm Will Sound at the beautiful and historic Morris Arboretum in Chestnut Hill (September 26). Dance acts include Dorrance Dance (December 9-11, 2021) and Mark Morris Dance Group (May 5-7, 2022), with circus acts including Cirque Mechanics (January 30, 2022) and Kalabanté (May 1, 2022). Notable 2021/22 jazz performances include Maceo Parker (November 19, 2021), Cécile McLorin Salvant (December 12, 2021), the Campbell Brothers performing John Coltrane’s A Love Supreme (January 22, 2022), and Ravi Coltrane (March 26, 2022), all performing at the Annenberg Center’s Zellerbach Theatre. For a full list performances for the 2021/22 season, click here.
The Philly POPS
The largest standalone pops orchestra in the United States, the Philly POPS is a 65-piece orchestra, under the direction of Todd Ellison, performing at both The Kimmel Center and the Met Philadelphia.
Upcoming performances: Tickets are available now for the Philly POPS’ 2021-22 season, Lights Up! Showtime!, which will delight audiences with live, in-person concerts Verizon Hall in the Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts, beginning with Sinatra: A Man and His Hat (September 24-26, 2021) and also featuring Dancin’ in the Streets: The Music of Motown (February 18-20, 2022), POPS Rocks: Let It Be (March 11-13, 2022), and S’Wonderful! S’Gershwin! (April 2022). The season concludes with a performance that will transport audiences to a galaxy far, far away, as the Philly POPS present John Williams’ classic Star Wars scores in Star Wars: A Galaxy of Music (June 17-19). For the full season overview and to view all upcoming performances, click here.
The Met Philadelphia
Formerly the Philadelphia Metropolitan Opera House, The Met Philadelphia was originally built in 1908 by opera impresario Oscar Hammerstein. The grand venue now hosts a variety of local, national and international touring acts, including comedians, solo artists, and chart-topping musical groups.
Upcoming performances: Live performances return to The Met Philadelphia in the summer of 2021, with marquee musical acts including The Decemberists, John Legend, and Deftones, with performers such as Judas Priest, Sting, and Ringo Starr scheduled to perform between the fall of 2021 and the first half of 2022. Comedians Jim Gaffigan and Patton Oswalt will also grace the historic stage in the fall of 2021. For a full schedule of events at The Met Philadelphia, click here.
Philadelphia Theatre Company
Founded in 1974, Philadelphia Theatre Company has presented over 150 world and Philadelphia premieres, many of which have moved on to New York and other major cities, helping to earn Philadelphia a national reputation as a hub for new play development. The theater is housed in the Suzanne Roberts Theatre on the Avenue of the Arts.
Upcoming performances: Details for The Philadelphia Theatre Company’s 2021-22 season will be announced soon. Looking ahead to 2022, fans can expect to enjoy a full production the new musical The Tattooed Lady in the fall of 2022.
The renowned, exclusive conservatory, the Curtis Institute trained the likes of Leonard Bernstein and Samuel Barber and offers student recital series, Curtis Symphony Orchestra, Curtis Opera Theatre, Family Concerts, and more.
Upcoming performances: The Curtis Institute of Music presents digital performances, including student recitals and ensembles, online via its Facebook page. For the latest calendar of performances, click here.
For more arts and culture experiences in Philadelphia, click here.
Cover photo: Hamilton. Photo by J. Marcus.