Morlan Higgins, Lovensky Jean-Baptiste, and Tinashe Kajese
in Victory
(© Ed Krieger)
Morlan Higgins, Lovensky Jean-Baptiste, and Tinashe Kajese
in Victory
(© Ed Krieger)
A relatively brief but richly varied bill of fare ushers in a new year of Angelino theater. The biggest news is the U.S. premiere of Athol Fugard's Victory (Fountain Theatre, opening January 17), which examines life in post-apartheid South Africa, as a gang of corrupt youngsters attempt to vandalize the home of an elderly man, leading to a savage confrontation.

Two other shows seem especially enticing. A new musical, Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson bows at Culver City's Kirk Douglas Theatre (January 13-February 27), with book and direction by Obie winner Alex Timbers and score by Obie winner Michael Friedman. From a darkly funny point of view, it spins the historically accurate story of ex-president Andrew Jackson's rise from a humble frontier background to a warrior battling multiple nations.

And there will be plenty of eyes on Hollywood's Celebration Theatre, as a guest production there, Paul Oakley Stovall's As Much As You Can (January 3-27), stars the inimitable Tony winner Tonya Pinkins. It's a guess-who's-coming-to-dinner tale about a young man who returns to Chicago for his brother's wedding with his Swedish boyfriend in tow.

Several dramas should be of high interest. First and foremost is the Pasadena Playhouse's staging of Austin Pendelton's Orson's Shadow (January 11-February 17), which imagines a fictional meeting between Laurence Olivier and Orson Welles in 1960. Sharon Lawrence, Scott Lowell, Bruce McGill, and Charles Shaughnessy head the cast. Dee Jae Cox's new play Prove It On Me (Hollywood's Stella Adler Theatre, opening January 19), featuring bluesy original music by Michelle Weiss, tells of sultry lovers who embark on a forbidden affair on a hot summer's night in 1929. Horton Foote's Harrison, Texas (Hollywood's Lost Studio, January 11-February 17), directed by Scott Paul, and co-produced by Hallie Foote (daughter of the playwright), follows eclectic characters in a small Texan town. The award-winning Road Theatre Company in North Hollywood offers the West Coast premiere of Joel Drake Johnson's The End of the Tour (opening January 18), about a Midwest family which grapples with myriad emotional issues during a time of crisis.

Mary Zimmerman's epic Metamorphoses, based on the book of Ovid, juxtaposing ancient myth with contemporary themes, is directed by Adam Riggs (at Hollywood's The Complex, opening January 3). Two suspense dramas promise edge-of-the-seat chills: Neal Bell's descriptively titled Spatter Pattern, Or How I Got Away With It (Ark Theatre, opening January 12), directed by Derek Charles Livingston; and Laguna Playhouse's world premiere staging of Bob Clyman's Tranced (opening January 1), directed by Jessica Kubzansky. Clyman's better-known work Secret Order will be staged by L.A. Theatre Works (January 16-20) with TV and stage favorites Edward Asner and Richard Schiff.

The remaining offerings include two musicals and a spate of comedies. Ain't Misbehavin' (Cabrillo Music Theatre at Thousand Oaks' Fred Kavli Theatre, opening January 4) is the Tony-winning Fats Waller revue, filled with jazzy, toe-tapping vintage 1920s tunes. On a much more serious note is Thrill Me (Hudson Backstage, January 25-March 2), a chamber musical about the notorious Chicago murderers Leopold and Loeb.

A.R. Gurney's Post Mortem (Silverlake's Lyric Hyperion Theatre Café, opening January 11) is about a secretly liberal lecturer and her adoring grad student at a faith-based college. Venice's much-renowned ensemble company Pacific Resident Theatre offers a rarely revived early-1900s comedy by J.M. Barrie, of Peter Pan fame: Alice Sit-By-the-Fire (through February 10) , about the difficulty adults face when "raising" their parents. Finally, Costa Mesa's South Coast Repertory brings us the West Coast premiere of Sarah Treems' A Feminine Ending (January 6-27), a life-affirming story about a young oboist who has put her music career on hold while dealing with innumerable personal issues.