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The best theater in Philly this spring

From "Into the Woods" to James Ijames' "Abandon," here is what our theater critics will be watching this upcoming season in Philadelphia

The North American Tour Boleyn Company of The cast of "SIX," the musical that takes the six ex-wives of Henry VIII and remixes five hundred years of historical heartbreak into an exuberant celebration of 21st century girl power.
The North American Tour Boleyn Company of The cast of "SIX," the musical that takes the six ex-wives of Henry VIII and remixes five hundred years of historical heartbreak into an exuberant celebration of 21st century girl power.Read moreJoan Marcus / Joan Marcus

Stages this spring are buzzing with a mix of familiar classics, upbeat musicals, and several world premieres. These seven picks illustrate the range of theater happening in Philadelphia this season, including fan favorites (Into the Woods; Six; The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee), historical dramas focusing on Black women writers (Plum Bun; Written By Phillis), and new plays about the human existence (Abandon; Eternal Life, Part 1).

Six: The Musical, March 21-April 9

The wives of King Henry VIII return as contemporary pop divas in this witty feminist reimagining of Tudor history. In the show, the women compete over who’s been treated most cruelly by the king. Expect an infectious score delivered in bravura style to an audience of committed fans. (JMK)

(March 21-April 9, Academy Of Music, 240 S. Broad St., Phila.,

Into the Woods, April 4-9

There is a reason Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine’s Into the Woods is so beloved, and that is its affirmation of humanity, despite darkness. Coming in April to the Kimmel Cultural Campus’ Miller Theater, this magical amalgamation of favorite fairy tales includes cast members from the show’s highly successful Broadway run. (JMVB)

(April 4-9, Miller Theater, 250 S. Broad St., Phila., 215-893-1999 or

Eternal Life, Part 1, April 11-30

April is rich with world premieres, including Eternal Life, Part 1 at the Wilma — one of four playing locally. Nathan Alan Davis’ work is a little weird, in a good way, with talking snowflakes, a goose, and space travel, all helping to grapple with a basic question: How can we live meaningful lives? (JMVB)

(April 11-30, Wilma Theater, 265 S. Broad St., Phila., 215-546-7824 or

Plum Bun, April 19-29

The 1928 novel Plum Bun is a Jane Austen-meets-Harlem Renaissance story. Written by Philadelphian Jessie Redmon Fauset, a magazine editor who published Langston Hughes and other Black writers in the 1920s, the Black feminist coming-of-age tale follows a light-skinned woman who passes for white before reclaiming her identity on a journey to self-acceptance.

Walter DeShields and Lane Savadove have adapted it for the stage in a collaboration between EgoPo Classic Theater and Theatre in the X. The venue is special too: Christ Church Neighborhood House is where Harlem Renaissance intellectual Alain Locke once worshiped. (RC)

(April 19-29, Christ Church Neighborhood House, 20 N. American St., Phila., 267-273-1414 or

Abandon, April 27-May 21

A chance meeting between a woman haunted by her son’s ghost and a man booted from his home creates a new family, crossing the boundary between shame and acceptance in Abandon, a world premiere by Philly’s own Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright, James Ijames, at Theatre Exile. (JMVB)

(April 27-May 21, Theatre Exile, 1340 S. 13th St., Phila., 215-218-4022 or

Written By Phillis, May 10- June 4

The world premiere of Written By Phillis examines the barrier-smashing life of Phillis Wheatley. Kidnapped from Senegal and taken to Boston, Wheatley was an enslaved girl who became a literary celebrity — earning rave reviews from the Founding Fathers — and the first major Black woman poet in the U.S., before dying at 31. Playwrights Paul Oakley Stovall and Marilyn Campbell-Lowe explore Wheatley’s prose and her role in the country’s founding. Cheryl Lynn Bruce directs this production copresented by Quintessence Theatre and Chicago’s New Classics Collective. (RC)

(May 1-June 4, Quintessence Theatre Group, 7137 Germantown Ave., Phila., 215-987-4450 or

The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, May 25- June 25

With music and lyrics by William Finn and a book by Rachel Sheinkin, adolescent spelling bee contestants unveil their life stories. The Arden Theatre Company’s intimate musical productions are typically a season highlight, and this comedy is a quirky charmer. (JMK)

(May 25-June 25, Arden Theatre Company, 40 N. Second St, Phila.,