James Barbour stars in Nightmare Alley
James Barbour stars in Nightmare Alley
Jonathan Brielle's dark musical Nightmare Alley, starring James Barbour, making its world premiere at the Geffen Playhouse (April 14-May 23), leads a prolific April shower of shows. Based on William Lindsay Gresham's novel and directed by Gilbert Cates, it is set in the world of con artists, carnies, tented churches, and unpredictable twists of fate.

Another musical of high interest is Michael John LaChiusa's See What I Wanna See (Blank Theatre Company at the 2nd Stage, April 10-May 23), featuring a notable cast -- Doug Carpenter, Jason Graae, Olivier Award winner Lesli Margherita, Perry Ojeda, and Suzan Solomon. Three stories about lust, greed, murder, faith and redemption unfold like a Japanese screen painting. Meanwhile, Grammy winning pop singer Michelle Williams stars as Roxie Hart in a touring edition of Kander and Ebb's evergreen Chicago the Musical (Pantages Theatre, April 20-May 9).

A bunch of promising musicals include the West Coast premiere of The Women of Brewster Place (Celebration Theatre, April 21-June 6), with score and book by Tim Acito and direction by Michael Matthews. It's based on Gloria Naylor's beloved collection of stories of eight very different African-American women in a 1970s housing project. The perennially popular revue Jacques Brel is Alive and Well and Living in Paris is offered by the Colony Theatre (April 7-May 9). There are additional crowd-pleasing tuners in the offing: Buddy, the Buddy Holly Story (La Mirada Theatre for the Performing Arts, April 16-May 2); Roger Bean's The Marvelous Wonderettes (Musical Theatre West at the Carpenter Performing Arts Center, April 16-May 2); the Ashman-Menken genre spoof Little Shop of Horrors (Cabrillo Music Theatre at the Fred Kavli Theatre, April 23-May 2), and Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice's timeless Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat (Redondo Beach Performing Arts Center, April 21-May 9).

Two new musicals in intimate venues include Bizzzy! (Whitefire Theatre, April 9-May 16) about a 1970s family, and the self-explanatory Pot! The Musical (Electric Lodge, April 2-May 7). Meanwhile, talented Broadway darling Sutton Foster brings us the musical show An Evening With Sutton Foster (Kirk Douglas Theatre, April 29-30).

Last season's critically acclaimed drama Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo, by Rajiv Joseph, directed by Moises Kaufman, returns (Mark Taper Forum, April 14-May 30). It's a lyrical, haunting play, set against the war in Iraq. There's also considerable excitement about a heralded revival of Mart Crowley's 1968 watershed gay drama The Boys in the Band (Coast Playhouse, April 7-May 16). This new mounting commemorates the 40th anniversary of the film version.

Beau Bridges and his daughter, Emily Bridges, star in Acting: The First Six Lessons (Theatre West, April 9-May 16), a 1933 piece by Richard Boleslavsky, depicting dialogues between a wise, experimental acting teacher and a young actress at the start of her career. Acclaimed playwright Sheila Callaghan's Lascivious Something ([Inside] the Ford, through May 1), is set in the Reagan era of the 1980s on a secluded Greek island. L. Trey Wilson, whose 2005 play Stage Directions won awards from GLAAD, NAACP, LA Weekly, LA Drama Critics Circle, and the Back Stage Garlands, wrote and directs the debuting Something Happened (Pacific Stages, April 1-May 16), about a startling dilemma faced by the parents of a young boy.

Horton Foote's Getting Frankie Married...And Afterwards (Open Fist Theatre, April 2-May 15) tells the star-crossed tale of two small-town denizens who are longtime lovers, in a style ranging from farce to tragedy. Deaf West Theatre presents Wendy Kesselman's My Sister in This House (April 10-May 30), including deaf and hearing actors in a haunting play exploring class struggle, identity, and the need for companionship and connection. John Millington Synge's once-controversial Irish masterpiece The Playboy of the Western World is offered by the classics-focused A Noise Within, April 10-May 22.

Among comedic offerings are Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa's debuting Doctor Cerberus (South Coast Repertory, April 11-May 2), which mines the world of late-night horror movies for humor, and R. J. Colleary's Cannibals (Zephyr Theatre, April 17-May 23), about a support group for 40-something actresses.

Family fare for April is highlighted by two shows offered at Santa Monica Playhouse: Beauty and the Beast, in a new adaptation by Chris DeCarlo and Evelyn Rudie (April 10-June 20), and And Awaaay We Go to Wonderland (April 4), in which favorite fairy tales are turned upside down.