Marc Kudisch
(Photo © Joseph Marzullo)
Marc Kudisch
(Photo © Joseph Marzullo)
The buoyant sound of a bouzouki will be heard in a much anticipated kickoff to the City of Angel's May theater roster. The first of three big musicals this month is Kander and Ebb's earthy musical drama Zorba, presented by Reprise! Broadway's Best at the UCLA Freud Playhouse (May 3). This underrated treasure is based on Michael Cacoyannis' film and Nikos Kanantzakis' novel, both called Zorba the Greek. Broadway stars Marc Kudisch, Judy Kaye, and Camille Saviola head the cast.

Another potential hit tuner is premiering at Hollywood's Matrix Theatre: Little Egypt (May 6), with book by Lynn Siefert, music and lyrics by Gregg Lee Henry, and direction by Lisa James, is being described as a strange and comic love story that unfolds in the ragged edges of a small Midwestern town. Headlining the cast are TV favorites French Stewart and Sara Rue. Those with a taste for the tried and true can't go wrong with Hairspray (Hollywood's Pantages Theatre, May 23), L.A.'s first return engagement of the rocking-and-rolling bubble-gum blockbuster from Broadway.

Among other promising prospects is a remount of playwright-director Del Shores' award-winning 2003 tragicomedy The Trials and Tribulations of a Trailer Trash Housewife (Hollywood's Zephyr Theatre, May 6). The original cast -- Beth Grant, Dale Dickey, Octavia Spencer, David Steen, and Debby Holiday -- returns in this often funny but ultimately sobering portrait of spousal abuse in small-town America. The always-reliable Road Theatre Company in North Hollywood offers the world premiere of Jim Henry's Backwards in High Heels (May 26), about the ups and downs of a married couple over a span of several years.

Those with a taste for classic mystery fare will be interested in catching Pasadena Playhouse's staging of Steven Dietz' Sherlock Holmes: The Final Adventure (May 9), based on the original 1899 play by William Gillette and Arthur Conan Doyle. Fans of grass-roots, gritty theatre should pay heed to Mary Schultzman's Upset!, sponsored by California Institute of the Arts/Plaza de La Raza Theatre Program, featuring school-age teenagers in a project devised to expose the participants and their audience to complex and cataclysmic issues. The youthful cast enacts dual stories, charting the 1992 L.A. riots and the infamous Rodney King beating, as well as the events surrounding forgotten civil rights pioneer Claudette Colvin. It runs in two downtown venues: May 5-13 at Plaza de La Raza, then moves to CalArt's REDCAT Theatre on May 26 and 27.

A couple of new comedies sound quite appealing. The L.A. small-theatre scene might never be the same again after Sy Rosen's dark satire The L.A. Weekly Loves Us! opens at North Hollywood's Whitmore-Lindley Theatre on May 12. A group of Angelino actors will do just about anything to be noticed. Unfortunately, they can't seem to get reviewed. When one of the prime movers of the company winds up dead, the plot thickens.

Yucks should also be in evidence at the American premiere of Crispin Whittel's Darwin in Malibu (Burbank's Falcon Theatre, May 5), which is being produced in association with Bay Street Theatre in Sag Harbor, New York. Robert Foxworth, Rebecca Brookshe, Corey Brill, and Granville Van Dusen star in this tale of a man peacefully residing in the afterlife until two old friends come to visit.

Family fare this month includes the new musical The Empress and Her New Clothes (continuing through May 28 at Burbank's Falcon Theatre), set in the world of fashion design, and involving an empress who goes undercover, finding that a pushy girl has a sneaky trick up her sleeve. Finally, Burbank's Media City Ballet presents Hansel and Gretel (Glendale's Alex Theatre, May 13 & 14), based on the classic Brothers Grimm fairy tale, and set to the music of Richard Strauss and others.