Theater in Philadelphia: Move Over, Broadway!

There is theater … and then there is theater in Philadelphia. Over the years, Philly has become a city of vibrant, original plays and exciting musicals, and a prime stop for national touring productions as well! Move over Broadway!

There is theater … and then there is theater in Philadelphia! Back in the day, Philly was a prime “tryout” town for New York bound plays and musicals. The Philly audience had a huge impact on the success or failure of Great White Way wannabe productions. The scene has changed over the years, but the quality of theater in Philadelphia and its suburbs has remained top-notch. Not only that, but more and more original material by Philly playwrights is in the spotlight!

Theater Right in Philly

To begin at the beginning, The Walnut Street Theatre is America’s oldest (founded in 1809). For over two hundred years, The Walnut has presented the very best in plays and musicals to Philly audiences. To this day, the Walnut Street Theatre has the most subscribers of any playhouse in the country!

Center City Philadelphia boasts the wonderful Avenue of the Arts. Stretching down Broad Street from City Hall, there are several major theaters, each with its own unique flavor. The Wilma Theater, founded by gifted Czech artists Blanka and Jiri Zizka, offers offbeat, challenging new works by writers here and abroad. The Merriam Theater, located down the street at the Kimmel Center, offers “Broadway Philadelphia,” national tours of shows currently running in New York (current offerings include Beautiful: The Carole King Musical). Other touring shows can be found at the nearby Forrest Theater. Another top destination for lovers of theater in Philadelphia is the Suzanne Roberts Theatre, home performing space of the renowned Philadelphia Theatre Company.

Venturing off the Avenue and heading to Old City, a must-stop for those who love theater in Philadelphia is Arden Theatre Company. The Arden is the site of many world premieres by Philadelphia playwrights, and offers a world-class theatre school for kids too! Other exciting city theater companies include the Pig Iron Theatre, the Lantern Theater Company (producing marvelous Shakespeare every season), and the great all original comedy theater company 1812 Productions.

Theater in the Suburbs

A short car or train ride from the city, there is an abundance of first-rate theater to enjoy. People’s Light and Theatre in Malvern, Act II Playhouse in Ambler, Bristol Riverside Theatre in Bristol, and Wilmington’s Candlelight Dinner Theatre, all shine. Even community theater in this region is superb, including the long-running Stagecrafters in Chestnut Hill, the Forge in Phoenixville, and the Players Club of Swarthmore.

So why pay a fortune to see a show in New York? Theater in Philadelphia provides all the excitement and high quality of Broadway — and, if you live here, you’re just a few minutes from home!

Image Source: Flickr/Paul Sableman


Elise Seyfried is a freelance writer based in Philadelphia, PA. She is the author of two books of humorous spiritual essays, and a playwright (co-author of 15 plays for children). Her work regularly appears in the Chestnut Hill (PA) Local and The Word in Season (devotional). She has also written for The Philadelphia Inquirer, The Lutheran Digest, Guideposts magazine, Metropolis and The Wittenburg Door. Elise was the lyricist for the Stanley Drama Award-winning musical Flight, based on the life of Howard Hughes. Elise has served as publicist for the Lewes (DE) Chamber Music Festival, as well as the Atlantic Music Festival in Waterville, ME.She is the mother of five children, and her family life is prominently featured in her writing. Elise's topics to date have included children/parenting issues, humor and spirituality. An avid cook, Elise also enjoys writing about food and dining. Since 2002, Elise has been Director of Spiritual Formation at Christ's Lutheran Church in Oreland, PA; previously, she worked for years as an actress. She blogs at

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