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Los Angeles Spotlight: December 2007

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Jeannette Bayardelle and LaToya London
in The Color Purple
(© Paul Kolnik)
Two eagerly anticipated musicals are the highlights of L.A.'s holiday season offerings this year. The national tour of the Broadway hit The Color Purple, based on Alice Walker's Pulitzer-winning novel and Steven Spielberg's wonderful film, makes its L.A. debut as the national tour lands at the Ahmanson Theatre (December 13-March 9).

Also of high interest is the world premiere of Atlanta (Westwood's Geffen Playhouse, through January 6), with book by Marcus Hammon and Adrian Pasdar (a star of NBC's Heroes) and music by Hammon. It's a love story set against the background of the Civil War.

Two musicals with wide appeal for the teenage crowd are on tap. A touring production of Disney's High School Musical (Hollywood's Kodak Theatre, December 12-23), brings this adaptation of the first film in Disney Channel's hugely popular romantic frolic to L.A. for the first time. It's back to school again in another TV-to-stage transfer in Schoolhouse Rock Live! (Greenway Court Theatre, December 1-February 24), based on ABC's long-running cult hit, combining cartoon animation with bouncy pop songs.

Several other tuners promise to brighten holiday spirits. The touring Danny Kaye bio-musical The Kid From Brooklyn (North Hollywood's El Portal Theatre, December 7-January 13) makes its L.A. debut. The book is by Mark Childers, while the score consists of numbers performed by the celebrated comedian. Brian Childers stars as Kaye and Karin Leone plays his wife, Sylvia Fine.

The stage adaptation of Rodgers and Hammerstein's only musical written for television, Cinderella (Redondo Beach Performing Arts Center, through December 16) stars Nicole Werner, Heather Lee, and Tracy Lore. A debuting production company, Musical Theatre of Los Angeles, promises razzle-dazzle in its staging of Chicago (Hudson Backstage Theatre, through December 16), said to be a hybrid version drawing from the 1975 Broadway original, the long-running revival, and the Oscar-winning 2002 film. Another big tuner making an unusual appearance in an intimate theatre is the underrated gem The Full Monty (Theatre/Theater, through December 16). A self-explanatory Vegas-styles revue The Rat Pack: Live at the Sands makes its L.A. debut (Beverly Hills' Wilshire Theatre, December 4-16).

Leading the holiday-themed fare is the latest rock music spoof from the Troubadour Theatre Company, A Charlie James Brown Christmas (Falcon Theatre, December 12-January 20). The uproarious comedy about Midwestern conservatism gone amuck, Bob's Holiday Office Party (Hollywood's Lounge Theatre, November 29-December 12) by Joe Keyes and Rob Elk makes its welcome 13th annual appearance. Hollywood's Celebration Theatre offers a gay twist to A Christmas Carol, with old Ebenezer as the proprietor of an S&M clothing factory (December 6-23). Also obviously twisted will be A Christmas Twist (Ark Theatre, Nov. 30-Jan. 5), lampooning not only Dickens' chestnut but Annie Warbucks as well.

Amongst the notable comedies and dramas are L.A. Theatre Works' staged reading of George Bernard Shaw's classic Major Barbara (Skirball Cultural Center, December 12-16), starring Kate Burton and Roger Rees, and directed by Dakin Matthews; Mark Troy's slapstick romp Paging Dr. Chutzpah (Toluca Lake's Sidewalk Studio Theatre, December 14-January 26), which brings together a Park Avenue psychiatrist, his nephew, a neurotic secretary, a stripper, and a cat; acclaimed playwright Timothy McNeil's latest drama Anything (Lillian Theatre, through January 13), about a grief-stricken widower from Mississippi who meets a charismatic transvestite; and Maurice Maeterlinck's once-banned and still controversial Monna Vanna, written in 1903 (Stella Adler Theatre, through December 16).

Two family shows should have wide appeal: Yo Ho Ho! A Pirate's Christmas (No Ho Arts Center, through-December 30) by James J. Mellon and Scott DeTurk; and Santa Monica Playhouse's new musical Alias Santa Claus (December 1-21).

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