Val Kilmer
Val Kilmer
In one of the busiest Los Angeles theater years ever, the fall season kicks off in September with a bountiful harvest of varied offerings. Any season that begins with that musical-comedy icon Val Kilmer warbling his way across the Red Sea is certainly one for the books. Hollywood hunk Kilmer stars as Moses in the American premiere of producer Max Azria's musical epic The Ten Commandments, which originated in Paris. It opens September 27 at Hollywood's Kodak Theatre, featuring a cast of 50 singers and dancers.

Another high-interest opening is the West Coast premiere of Richard Greenberg's Tony-winning Take Me Out, a Geffen Playhouse presentation staged at the Brentwood Theatre, beginning September 22. Tom Hulce (the film Amadeus) stars and Randall Arney directs. More star power arrives with the September 17 world premiere of writer/director/performer Julia Sweeney's Letting Go Of God?, the third part of her autobiographical solo trilogy, at the Hudson Backstage Theatre in Hollywood.

A unique sort of "celebrity" show, Who Killed Woody Allen?, apparently in the tradition of Matt and Ben, embroils a host of other luminaries, such as Diane Keaton, Leonardo DiCaprio, and Christopher Walken in a comic murder mystery. This Off-Broadway spoof, opening September 22 at Hollywood's Improv Olympic Theatre, features actors playing the legendary schlemiel's famous cronies. Other potential blockbusters include the touring edition of Broadway's Tony-nominated revival of the mock-thriller musical Little Shop of Horrors, at downtown's Ahmanson Theatre. It opened August 29 and continues until October 17. Another red-hot Broadway show on tour, Twyla Tharp's dance musical Movin' Out, based on the songs of Billy Joel, moves into Hollywood's Pantages Theatre on September 14.

Those with a taste for the dramatic have several tantalizing choices on a menu with an international flair. On September 27, the Mark Taper Forum in downtown L.A. unveils John Kani's Nothing But the Truth, directed by Janice Honeyman, in its West Coast premiere. It's described as a gripping family drama set in post-apartheid South Africa. Beginning September 3, International City Theatre in Long Beach offers the American premiere of David Haig's My Boy Jack, inspired by Rudyard Kipling's autobiographical poem of the same name, in which the legendary Indian writer sends his son to war and rips his family apart in the process. If ancient Greek drama, transposed to modern times, suits your fancy, you'll want to check out Matthew Maguire's modern-day adaptation of Phaedra, based on the Greek myth and French play by Jean Baptiste Racine, spinning a steamy tale of sexual manipulation, greed, power, and revenge. It opens September 10 at the Century City Playhouse. We're then off to Ireland for Brinsley MacNamara's The Glorious Uncertainty, directed by Timothy Ford Hannon, a comedy about a crowd attempting to fix a local horse race. The American premiere takes place at Burbank's Victory Theatre, commencing September 10.

Two musicals -- one a classic and one a premiere -- will be presented in intimate 99-seat venues. The Actors Co-op presents Frank Loesser's 1956 operatic-styled tuner The Most Happy Fella, opening September 24. It's a flavorful seriocomic love story, set in the Napa Valley vineyards in the 1920's. Something zanier is in the offing with the September 17 premiere of Bark! at the Coast Playhouse, directed and choreographed by Kay Cole, with book, music, and lyrics by a large team of writers. This tale is related from a canine point of view, and the producers presumably hope it will have more lives than Cats.

A novelty item that will certainly attract the curious is Hollywood Hell House, which debuted August 27 at the Steve Allen Theatre in Hollywood and continues through Halloween. Using actual scripts from the Abundant Life Christian Center, the producers promise a theatre verite experience showing us what the Religious Right is up to, in a horrifying display of the alleged effects of sin. A journey through a haunted house provides a didactic lesson in the evils of adultery, homosexuality, drinking, and debauchery. It's certain to warm the heart of Rev. Jerry Farrell, who is said to have originated the project in the late 1970's. Move over, Reefer Madness!

There are several other items of sure-fire interest, including a return engagement of an acclaimed double-bill private-eye comedy, The Tangled Snarl and Murder Me Once, at Pasadena's Fremont Centre Theatre starting September 17. That same day, award-winning playwright Kirk Wood Bromley's epic verse play The Death of Griffin Hunter opens at Theatre of NOTE. Holy Moses! It sounds like an extraordinary month for theatregoers.