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Los Angeles Spotlight: June 2008

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Aleks Pevec in The Who's Tommy
(© Ryan Miller/Capture Imaging)
June will be busting out with tunes, as the sound of musicals will be heard throughout the L.A. vicinity. Leading the pack is a revival of the evergreen rock opera The Who's Tommy, in a very brief run (Ricardo Montalban Theatre, June 18-29). Alice Ripley (Side Show) stars as Mrs. Walker, with Jenna Leigh Green (of L.A.'s long-running edition of Wicked) as Sally Simpson and Aleks Pevec in the title role. Brian Purcell directs the production, which will feature high-definition 3-D sound, described as an audio equivalent to visual 3D projection. Also for those with a taste for eardrum shattering sounds is shAme (King King club in Hollywood, June 4-July 16), the debuting production of the Los Angeles Rock Opera Company. It's based on Nathaniel Hawthorne's classic novel The Scarlet Letter, featuring a score by Mark Governor. Janet Roston choreographs and directs.

Three world premiere musicals are slated. The Antaeus Company presents American Tales (Deaf West Theatre, June 19-August 17), two one-act tuners, based on the works of Mark Twain and Herman Melville. Ken Stone is librettist-lyricist and Jan Powell is the composer. Norman's Ark (John Anson Ford Amphitheatre, May 27-June 8), by Jerome Kass and Maria S. Schlatter, is directed by Peter Schneider, Tony-winning producer of The Lion King. It's described as a universal and uplifting piece about surviving natural disaster. In a more populist vein, A Very Brady Musical (Theatre West, June 6-July 20), should provide a bit of 1970's sitcom kitsch.

Two promising musicals make their West Coast bows. Mark Campbell's lyrics and the music of many composers highlight the solo piece Songs From an Unmade Bed (Celebration Theatre, June 5-August 10), about a gay New Yorker and his romantic joys and heartbreaks. My Old Friends (Victory Theatre, June 20-August 10), by Mel Mandel and Norman Sachs, examines life and love in a retirement hotel. And a couple of rollicking favorites will make welcome return visits: Jerry Herman and Harvey Fierstein's La Cage Aux Folles (Knightsbridge Theatre, June 7-July 13) and Stephen Sondheim's A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum (Downey Theatre, May 29-June 15).

Those with a taste for comedy should check out the L.A. premiere of Bert V. Royal's Off-Broadway hit Dog Sees God: Confessions of a Teenage Blockhead (Hudson Backstage Theatre, May 31-July 6). Featuring characters bearing more than a passable resemblance to Charles Schultz's popular comic strip, "The Peanuts," the play pushes teen angst to the limit, and is helmed by award-winning director Nick DeGruccio. Veteran filmmaker Paul Mazursky directs Adam Baum and the Jew Movie (Hayworth Theatre, June 6-July 20). Daniel Goldfarb's play is a stinging satire, set in 1946, as a planned movie about anti-Semitism goes head-to-head against the classic Gentleman's Agreement. Melinda Lopez' Alexandros (Laguna Playhouse, May 27-June 29), set in 1974 Miami, is about a birthday party in a family of Cuban refugees.

In its West Coast premiere, John C. Picardi's The Sweepers (International City Theatre, June 10-July 16), is a comic drama about Italian family life during World War II. The Geffen Playhouse is remounting an acclaimed show from last season that premiered at South Coast Repertory, reuniting the same director (Bart DeLorenzo, cast (including star Gregory Itzin), and production team: Donald Margulies' fanciful romp Shipwrecked! An Entertainment: The Amazing Adventures of Louis de Rougemont.

Dramas are likewise in plentiful supply. Stephen Belber's Finally makes its West Coast premiere at the distinguished Black Dahlia Theatre (June 3-July 6), directed by Matt Shakman. It's about a human puzzle of love, intrigue, and violence. The adventurous Cornerstone Theater Company stages the world premiere of Julie Marie Myatt's Someday (Bootleg Theatre, May 29-June 22), following the stories of a disabled woman trying to adopt an abandoned baby and a middle-class couple struggling to conceive.

The outdoors Theatricum Botanicum in Topanga Canyon kicks off its summer season with three Shakespeare classics -- As You Like It (June 1-September 28), A Midsummer Night's Dream (June 7-18 and August 7-September 1) and Macbeth (June 7-September 28) -- and Richard Brinsley Sheridan's Restoration farce The School for Scandal (June 28-September 27).

Two renowned companies that specialize in new play development offer anthologies of short works: Padua Playwrights' A Thousand Words (Art Share L.A., June 6-29) and Moving Arts' 14th annual premiere one-act festival, entitled Beginnings and Endings (Studio/Stage, June 6-29).

Family fare is highlighted by two shows at Santa Monica Playhouse having short runs before premiering in England: Wonderland, a reworking of Lewis Carroll's Alice Through the Looking Glass (June 15) and All Aboard the U.S.S. Friendship (June 21-22), a musical mystery in the high seas.

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