Christine Andreas and Elena Shaddow
in The Light in the Piazza
(© Joan Marcus)
Christine Andreas and Elena Shaddow
in The Light in the Piazza
(© Joan Marcus)
If you can't make it to Italy this holiday season, the next best thing arrives with the national tour of Craig Lucas and Adam Guettel's Broadway musical The Light in the Piazza (Ahmanson Theatre, through December 10), the winner of six Tony Awards, including Best Score. Christine Andreas, Elena Shaddow, and David Burnham head the cast.

There are several other musicals on the roster, headed by the return of Disney's extravaganza The Lion King (Pantages Theatre, November 16-January 7) in its first L.A. appearance in five years. Evelyn Rudie, who has run the venerable Santa Monica Playhouse with her husband Chris DeCarlo for almost 30 years, premieres her autobiographical Audition! The Musical there (November 5-January 28). Open at the Top Productions brings us a unique take on the Gilbert and Sullivan operetta The Pirates of Penzance (NoHo Arts Center, through December 10), by setting it in Coney Island during the 1930s.

Laguna Playhouse invites one and all to A Marvelous Party (November 14-December 17), which includes songs, dances, and scenes from the works of the immortal Noel Coward. The all but-forgotten 1960s chestnut It's a Bird...It's a Plane...It's Superman, with songs by Charles Strouse and Lee Adams, will be presented on November 20 in a concert staging by Musical Theatre Guild at Glendale's Alex Theatre. The nutty nuns are back and the often nuttier Sally Struthers is on hand for Nuncrackers, The Nunsense Christmas Musical (Valley Musical Theatre at the El Portal Theatre in North Hollywood, November 19-December 3). The San Gabriel Valley Music Theatre makes its debut with The Sound of Music (San Gabriel Civic Auditorium, November 3-5).

Those with a taste for comedies and dramas have plenty of options. Heading the list is Carrie Fisher's solo vehicle Wishful Drinking (Geffen Playhouse, November 7-December 24), which chronicles her unusual childhood as the daughter of Debbie Reynolds and Eddie Fisher, her addictions, and her sundry showbiz adventures. The award-winning In the Continuum (Kirk Douglas Theatre, November 12-December 10), written and performed by Daniel Gurira and Nikkole Salter, examines the devastating problem of AIDS among African and African-American women. Also, this month marks the starts of Suzan Lori-Parks year-long 365 Days/365 Plays (various venues, beginning November 15).

Other noteworthy offerings include L.A. Theatre Works' production of Stephen Adly Guirgis' Jesus Hopped the 'A' Train (Skirball Cultural Center, November 8-12; Cornerstone Theatre Company's Farewell to Manzanar (Japanese American National Museum, November 15-December 3), which dramatizes the concentration camp memories of Japanese-Americans; Neil Simon's vintage dramedy The Gingerbread Lady (Hudson Mainstage Theatre, November 10-December 7); and Rockers (Theatre West, November 10-December 10), a new comedy set in a retirement home from veteran TV writer Sherwood Schwartz.

In addition, there's Finegan Kruckemeyer's new translation of Bertolt Brecht's World War I drama Drums in the Night (The Actors' Gang Theatre, November 11-January 27); Keith Reddin's All the Rage! (Attic Theatre & Film Center, November 10-December 16), described as a "neurotically dark, romantically hetero/gay comedy"; Best/Worst (Electric Lodge, November 3-December 9), a drama by Patricia Cotter about midlife crisis and a weekend from hell; and Horton Foote's The Roads to Home (Lost Studio, November. 11-December 17), three one-acts with overlapping characters that are set in 1920s Houston.

Two classic tales by Roald Dahl highlight the family entertainment scene. At Cerritos Center for the Performing Arts, the Kennedy Center Imagination Celebration on Tour presents Roald Dahl's Willy Wonka (November 24-26), with music and lyrics by Leslie Bricusse and Anthony Newley, based on Dahl's book Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. while South Coast Repertory in Costa Mesa offers David Wood's adaptation of Dahl's James and the Giant Peach (November 3-19).