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Los Angeles Spotlight: December 2006
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Coast to Coast

By New York City
Brían F. O'Byrne in The Coast of Utopia(© Paul Kolnik)
Brían F. O'Byrne in The Coast of Utopia
(© Paul Kolnik)
Hey, all you fans of Tom Stoppard and/or Russian intellectuals of the 19th century: You've probably already seen Voyage, the first part of Stoppard's epic three-part drama The Coast of Utopia at Lincoln Center's Vivian Beaumont Theater. This month brings the second play in the trilogy, Shipwreck (previews begin December 5), which follows radical theorist and editor Alexander Herzen (Brían F. O'Byrne), novelist Ivan Turgenev (Jason Butler Harner), literary critic Vissarion Belinsky (Billy Crudup), and aristocrat-turned-anarchist Michael Bakunin (Ethan Hawke) into exile to Paris, Dresden, and Nice.

December also marks the official Broadway openings of two new musicals, High Fidelity (December 7), Spring Awakening (December 10), and a revival of The Apple Tree starring Kristin Chenoweth, Brian d'Arcy James, and Marc Kudisch (December 14).

Now playing Off-Broadway is Gutenberg! The Musical! A hit at the 2006 New York Musical Theatre Festival, the show has transferred to 59E59 Theaters for a run that will continue through December 31. In it, two writers (played by Jeremy Shamos and Christopher Fitzgerald) perform a backers' audition of their new project, a large-scale tuner about printing press inventor Johann Gutenberg. Hilarity ensues as they attempt to sing all the songs and play all the parts in their epic, using only baseball caps to differentiate between the show's 30 characters.

Kaos, opening December 4 at the New York Theatre Workshop, was conceived, directed, and choreographed by Martha Clarke. This dance-oriented piece is based on parts of four Luigi Pirandello stories that were featured in the Taviani Brothers' 1984 film of the same title. Performed with Italian surtitles, it is set in Sicily at the dawn of the 20th century; the characters include a lonely mother desperately trying to make contact with her children in America, a bride who learns that her new husband goes mad with each full moon, and a clan of peasants fighting for the right to have a cemetery on the land they have cultivated for generations. Meanwhile, you'll find a return engagement (through January 7) of A Very Merry Unauthorized Children's Scientology Pageant at New York Theatre Workshop's Fourth Street Theatre. In this Obie Award-winning show, grade school-age children portray Tom Cruise, Kirstie Alley, John Travolta, et al. as they bring the controversial Church of Scientology and founder L. Ron Hubbard to life in story and song.

That Time of the Year (York Theatre Company, through December 24), a new musical revue that celebrates both Christmas and Hanukkah with songs running the gamut from Broadway-style show tunes to rock, blues, and jazz. Another offering that seems calculated to have broad appeal is Steve Solomon's My Mother's Italian, My Father's Jewish & I'm in Therapy! (Little Shubert, December 8-January 28), described as "one part lasagna, one part kreplach and two parts prozac."

If you're looking for family fare, consider Meet Me in St. Louis (Irish Repertory Theatre, December 6-January 28), a stage adaptation of the classic 1944 film that starred Judy Garland and Margaret O'Brien. It features "The Boy Next Door," "The Trolley Song," "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas," and other songs from the movie. And if you've never seen a stage production of Annie, now's your chance to rectify that situation: The beloved musical is playing December 6-31 at the Theater at Madison Square Garden. Starring as Miss Hannigan is former TV morning show fixture Kathie Lee Gifford, who lately has turned to writing musicals herself. Should be fun!


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