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Los Angeles Spotlight: May 2008

A New Brain logo
Kevin Spirtas and Alet Taylor
in The Brain from Planet X
Los Angeles is abuzz with anticipation of the first annual Festival of New American Musicals, featuring world premiere productions, staged readings, workshops, concerts and cabarets, master classes, high school and college shows, and myriad other events, opening in May and June throughout L.A. and surrounding areas. Highlights include Bruce Kimmel's zany sci-fi tuner The Brain From Planet X (Anaheim's Chance Theatre, May 1-June 8), and My Antonia (Ventura's Rubicon Theatre, May 8-June 1), writer-director Scott Schwartz' adaptation of Willa Cather's Pulitzer-winning novel, set on the Nebraska Plains of the 1880s, with music by Scott's famous father Stephen Schwartz.

A watershed 1970s musical makes a welcome return to L.A. in the national touring production of the current Broadway revival of A Chorus Line (Ahmanson Theatre, May 21-July 6). Another blockbuster is Reprise Theatre Company's rare revival of the 1965 Kander and Ebb musical Flora the Red Menace (UCLA Freud Playhouse, May 6-18), the show that catapulted the then-teenage Liza Minnelli to stardom. Starring are Wicked's Eden Espinosa and Tony nominee Manoel Felciano (Sweeney Todd). More musical nostalgia will be on tap with FCLO Music Theatre's revisit to the perennial favorite Oliver! (Plummer Auditorium, May 9-25).

Heading the dramatic fare is an evening of two one-acts by Pulitzer winning playwright David Mamet (Culver City's Kirk Douglas Theatre, May 11-June 8). Included are the world premiere comedy, Keep Your Pantheon, about an impoverished acting company on the verge of eviction and Duck Variations, a sly meditation on the meaning of life. Both are directed by Neil Pepe. Cornerstone Theatre Company presents the world premiere of Julie Marie Myatt's Someday (Bootleg Theatre, May 29-June 22), following the stories of a disabled woman fighting to adopt an abandoned boy and a middle-class couple struggling to conceive. Pasadena Playhouse dusts off John Steinbeck's Dust Bowl classic Of Mice and Men (May 2-June 8), directed by Paul Lazarus. LA Theatre Works presents Stephen Karam's new play Speech & Debate, starring Gideon Glick, who created the role at New York's Roundabout, along with Bobby Steggert and Andrea Bowen. It's a staged reading, taped for subsequent radio broadcast, performed at Skirball Cultural Center, May 14-18.

Bill Brouchtrup (of TV's NYPD Blue) stars in Alan Ayckbourn's raucous comedy Taking Steps (Costa Mesa's South Coast Repertory, May 16-June 15). The award-winning Elephant Theatre Company offers the world premiere of Gena Acosta's left-of-center comedy Tooth & Nail (Hollywood's Lillian Theatre, May 10-June 14), about a dysfunctional family on a grandiose flight of fancy. Also premiering is Gene Franklin Smith's Boise, USA (Hollywood's Matrix Theatre, May 10-June 29), a fact-based story about a horrific witch-hunt to purge the Midwestern city of homosexuals on Halloween night. Pasadena's Theatre @ Boston Court presents the West Coast premiere of Jason Grote's 1001 (May 10-June 8), a retelling of the Arabian Nights stories in a subway tunnel. Tony winner Tonya Pinkins and Tracie Thomas (TV's Cold Case) star in the new comedy And Her Hair Went With Her (Hollywood's Fountain Theatre, April 25-June 15), a seriocomic exploration of African-American sisterhood and identity.

James Carroll Pickett's landmark 1986 solo drama Dream Man is revived by Camelot Artists (Skylight Theatre, May 10-June 1), directed by Michael Kearns, who originated the role. It charts a harrowing night in the life of a phone-sex hustler. Rebecca Gilman's dark comedy The Sweetest Swing in Baseball has its West Coast premiere courtesy of West Coast Ensemble (Hollywood's El Centro Theatre, April 29-June 8). Israel Horowitz's funny and poignant two-hander Park Your Car in Harvard Yard (Long Beach's International City Theatre, April 29-May 25) is about a face-off between an unexpected odd couple. James Stock's Blue Night in the Heart of the West (Hollywood's Open Fist Theatre, April 25-June 11) is about a Scotsman's journey to the U.S., as he discovers the American Dream is really a nightmare. Hollywood's Actors Co-op revives the Tennessee Williams favorite The Glass Menagerie (Crossley Terrace Theatre, May 2-June 8).

Family fare includes Peter Cottontail Jr., adapted and directed by Benton Jennings (NoHo London Music Hall, April 26-May 18); the new musical Imagine (Costa Mesa's South Coast Repertory, May 30-June 15), in which a young boy decides to dump his imaginary friend; and the classic fairy tale The Sleeping Beauty, adapted by Charlotte B. Chorpenning (Laguna Playhouse, May 7-18).

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