"The Flea and the Professor"

Thursday, June 09, 2011

You could spend hundreds to take in a play on Broadway and far less on the Avenue of the Arts.

Where do you go to find professional, quality theater for your kids? One answer is the Arden Theatre in Old City, where their original adaptation of Hans Christian Andersen's "The Flea and the Professor" is on stage through Sunday.

This marks the first time that the Arden has commissioned a work.

Three years ago, they asked playwright Jordan Harrison to develop an original production. He wanted to do a children's work, and settled on Andersen's tale, one of his shortest, and the last one he wrote.

After many workshops and other preliminary performances, "The Flea and the Professor" is ready. It's the story of a performer deserted by his wife, who left him with only a flea.

They go on a hot air balloon adventure and end up in the "wild Land", ruled by a rude eight-year-old princess. She falls in love with the flea, whom she helps make king in place of her father.

Through a series of twists and turns, some of them a little scary, the story has a happy ending for all.

But that's not the end of the story for the audience. After the final bow, the cast stays on stage and answers any questions kids might have about the show, whether the performance, the costumes, or the production tricks that help them appear and disappear.

After that, the actors move to the lobby where they're available for pictures and one-on-one chats. Associate producer Matthew Decker says the Arden spends as much time and money on a children's production as a main stage play for adults.

The company takes kids seriously, in part because they provide dependable feedback to the cast on how a show is going. But they're also the future of live theater, and kids who enjoy shows today are most likely to become subscribers as adults.

The Arden is located at 40 N. 2nd Street in Old City, just above Market Street and adjacent to historic Christ Church.

For information about any of its productions, phone the box office at 215-922-1122, or go to their website, http://www.ardentheatre.org

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