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Los Angeles Spotlight: April 2009

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Monette Magrath and Kirsten Kollender in Mauritius
(© Ed Krieger)
Two acclaimed Broadway plays make their West Coast bows this month. Theresa Rebeck's comedy-mystery Mauritius (Pasadena Playhouse, through April 26), directed by Jessica Kubzansky, is a story about two half-sisters who vie for the rights to a valuable stamp collection, setting off a series of scams and double-crosses. Also highly anticipated is Conor McPherson's Tony-nominated The Seafarer (Geffen Playhouse, April 14-May 24), starring John Mahoney, Andrew Connolly, Tom Irwin, Paul Vincent O'Connor, and Matt Roth, in a whisky-laden tale set in the Dublin home of two brothers on Christmas Eve over a poker game with disarmingly high stakes.

Noted playwright Richard Greenberg (Tony winner for Take Me Out) renews his long association with South Coast Repertory with the world premiere of the new work, Our Mother's Brief Affair (April 3-May 3), about the surprise two siblings encounter when returning home to care for their dying mother. The cast includes Matthew Arkin, Arye Gross, Marin Hinkle, and Jenny O'Hara. Levar Burton (Star Trek, Roots) stars in Brian Alan Lane's debuting dark comedy The Caterer (Whitefire Theatre, April 10-May10), about a man who sells people "appropriate death." The venerable Justin Tanner's premiering comedy Voice Lessons (Zephyr Theatre, April 10-May 17) is about a deluded community theatre actress (Laurie Metcalf) and her romance with an overeducated vocal coach (French Stewart).

The second annual Festival of New American Musicals, which features new works, local premieres, workshops, readings, and others events, runs from April through July throughout the greater L.A. area. Among highlights this year is the developmental premiere of a Broadway-hopeful tuner, The Unauthorized Autobiography of Samantha Brown (Orange County Performing Arts Center, April 21-May 3), by Kalt Kerrigan and Brian Lowdermilk, about a young girl who has everything going for her. Or does she? Among other April Festival attractions are Douglas K. Cohen's cult musical No Way to Treat a Lady (Colony Theatre, April 15-May 17), in its L.A. premiere, starring Jack Noseworthy and Kevin Symons; the West Coast premiere of Jack Helbig and Mark Hollmann's romp through ancient Greece, The Girl, The Grouch, and the Goat (Chance Theater, April 17-May 24); and Mark Saltzman's Set Up and Punch (Blank Theatre Company at 2nd Stage Theatre, April 24-May 31), about the travails of a clever songwriting duo.

Aside from Festival fare, several other musicals will be presented this month. The venerable top-tapper Ain't Misbehavin', featuring the music of Fats Waller is revived at the Ahmanson Theatre (April 18-May 31), starring Armelia McQueen of the original Broadway cast, among other notable performers. That bubble-gum behemoth Mamma Mia! is back in town (Pantages Theatre, April 7-19), in a national tour, for dancing queens and their sundry admirers. Kathy Najimy directs and co-conceived (with Steve Gunderson), the self-explanatory Back to Bacharach and David (The Music Box @ Fonda, April 15 to May 17), a nostalgic revue, starring Diana DeGarmo, Tom Lowe, Susan Mosher, and Tressa Thomas. A gay coming-out story coupled with rock 'n' roll and the Goth lifestyle are the ingredients in the new musical Gothmas (Eclectic Company Theatre, April 10-May 17).

Dramatic fare is also plentiful this month. Octavio Solis' Lydia (Mark Taper Forum, April 2-May 17), directed by Juliette Carrillo, set in El Paso, Texas, during the 1970s, is about a Mexican-American family struggling with the aftermath of an accident. In its West Coast premiere, Lydia R. Diamond's explosive Stick Fly (Matrix Theatre, through May 31), directed by Shirley Jo Finney, opens a portal onto life in the African-American upper-middle class. Robey Theatre Company offers the new play Bronzeville (New LATC, April 15-May 17), by Tim Toyama and Aaron Woolfolk, about housing problems for African-American citizens during World War II. In a more classical vein, there's Shakespeare's Measure for Measure (Write Act Repertory Theatre, April 16-May 23) and Sarah Ruhl's liberal adaptation of Eurydice (Hayworth Theatre, April 9-May 16).

Family fare is highlighted by a stage adaptation of Leslie Bricusse and Anthony Newley's film musical of Roald Dahl's Willy Wonka (Kentwood Players, April 11 and 18) and the musical Ferdinand the Bull (Lewis Family Playhouse, April 18-May 2).


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