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Los Angeles Spotlight: January 2009

A Splashy New Year logo
Angie Schworer and Christopher Fitzgerald
in rehearsal for Minsky's
(© Joan Marcus)
Burlesque comes back to life in a big way in the splashy new musical comedy Minsky's (Ahmanson Theatre, January 21-March 1), in its world premiere run. Revolving around a story similar to the fondly remembered 1968 William Friedkin film, The Night They Raided Misnky's, the 1920s-era frolic boasts a book by Bob Martin and direction and choreography by Casey Nicholaw (the team that created The Drowsy Chaperone), with music by Charles Strouse and lyrics by Susan Birkenhead. The cast will include Christopher Fitzgerald, Rachel Dratch, Beth Leavel, Angie Schworer, and George Wendt.

Another stellar attraction from Center Theatre Group is its collaboration with Deaf West Theatre on a unique new production of Stephen Schwartz' Pippin (January 15-March 15). This vintage Broadway musical about a young man's search for meaning in life combines deaf, hard of hearing, and hearing performers to present innovative storytelling techniques, offering DWT's special brand of magic, under the helm of director-choreographer Jeff Calhoun. Cast members include Michael Arden, Sara Gettelfinger, Tyrone Giordano, and Harriet Harris. Meanwhile, Pasadena Playhouse brings us the world premiere of Stormy Weather (January 23-February 29), a bio-musical charting the life of legendary entertainer Lena Horne, played by another showbiz legend, Leslie Uggams. The music is by greats like Porter, Arlen, Mercer, Rodgers and Hart, and the piece is conceived and written by Sharleen Cooper Cohen.

Still more blockbuster musicals are on tap: Mel Brook's Broadway smash The Producers (Carpenter Performing Arts Center, January 30-February 15) has its first locally-mounted L.A. staging, courtesy of Musical Theatre West, starring Michael Kostroff, Larry Raben, and David Engel. Another show in its first local mounting is Adam Guettel's acclaimed romantic tuner The Light in the Piazza (Covina Center for the Performing Arts, January 20-February 15), starring Brooke Tansley, Christopher Callen, and Craig D'Amico. The world premiere tuner Pope Joan (Stella Adler Theatre, January 16-March 22) is about a young female scholar's rise to papacy, with book and lyrics by Christopher Moore. Hangin' Out (Macha Theatre, January 8-February 15), is conceived and directed by Robert Schrock, choreographed by Ken Roht, with musical direction by Gerald Sternbach, and original songs by a team of tunesmiths; it's billed as a look at the altogether. And in its West Coast premiere is Breaking Up is Hard to Do (January 9-18), presented by Cabrillo Music Theatre, featuring the songs of Neil Sedaka, directed and choreographed by Troy Magino.

Perhaps with California's Proposition 8 still much in the public consciousness, and with the attention afforded the current hit film Milk, it's only fitting that several gay-themed plays are making their bows. Circle X Theatre premieres Jim Leonard's Battle Hymn ([Inside] the Ford, January 15-February 21), a surrealistic time-spanning story in which a pregnant and desolate woman searches for her soldier boyfriend, only to discover that he has found a male lover of his own. Steven Fales (Confessions of a Mormon Boy) returns with a new autobiographical solo piece, Missionary Position (Celebration Theatre January 9-February 8), based on the writer/performer's journals and adventures as a Mormon missionary in Portugal. Hunter Lee Hughes' new play The Sermons of John Bradley (Lex Theatre, January 9-February 1) weighs in on gay marriage and narcissism. Acclaimed playwright Oliver Mayer premieres his latest, Dias y Flores (Company of Angels at the Alexandria Hotel, January 16-February 8) called a meditation on love -- gay, straight, and familial.

Obie winning writer-performer Danny Hoch brings his solo vehicle Taking Over (Kirk Douglas Theatre, January 23-February 22) to the West Coast, portraying diverse characters from his Brooklyn neighborhood. Martin McDonagh's multiple-award winning play A Skull in Connemara (Theatre Tribe, January 23-February 28), directed by Stuart Rogers, has its L.A. premiere. A cemetery worker called upon to disinter his own wife's bones faces rumors that he had something to do with her sudden death. Amy Freed's new work You, Nero (South Coast Repertory, January 4-25) imagines a meeting in ancient Rome between Emperor Nero and Scribonius, a put-upon playwright. In its West Coast premiere, The Bird and Mr. Banks (Road Theatre, January 16-March 21), by Keith Huff, explores the world of a noted scholar who becomes the most wanted man in America following a bizarre series of events. Arthur Schnitzer's classic La Ronde (Zephyr Theatre, January 10-February 1) offers a kaleidoscope of sexual adventures. Edward Albee's venerable classic Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (NoHo Arts Center, January 23-March 1) gets its latest local revisit. LA Theatre Works offers staged readings of Lonnie Elder III's classic Ceremonies in Dark Old Men (Skirball Cultural Center, January 14-18), to be recorded for subsequent radio broadcasts.

For family entertainment, Santa Monica Playhouse stages its perennially popular Cinderella: The Musical (January 10-December 27), which will run on Saturday and Sunday afternoons all year.


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