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Los Angeles Spotlight: November 2009

It's a Jolly Holiday with Mary logo
Ashley Brown, Gavin Lee and company in Mary Poppins
(© Joan Marcus)
It's taken quite a while, but Broadway's magical fair lady Mary Poppins lands in L.A. at last, complete with the show's original New York stars, Ashley Brown and Gavin Lee. The Disney-Cameron Macintosh-Thomas Schumacher blockbuster performs at the Ahmanson Theatre, November 13-February 7.

Another musical of high interest, opening after an extended preview period in West Hollywood, is Colin Escott and Floyd Mutrux' Baby, It's You! (Pasadena Playhouse, November 6-December 13). The fact-based story traces the passion and determination of New Jersey housewife Florence Greenberg, who in the early 1960s discovered the singing group The Shirelles, and built one of the most successful independent record companies, along with songwriter Luther Dixon. The score consists of evergreen song hits from the heyday of American pop-rock.

Bill Cain's acclaimed drama Equivocation, which premiered earlier this year at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival and makes its New York bow next year, comes to the Southland in a Geffen Playhouse staging (November 10-December 20), directed by David Esbjornson. Set in the early 1600's, it's about a member of King James' court and his attempts to commission a play from Shakespeare about the Gunpowder Plot, in which plans were laid to blow up Parliament. The Kirk Douglas Theatre's eclectic series, DouglasPlus, returns October 30-February 21. Included in the current roster are works by playwrights Kate Fodor and Jessica Goldberg, modern vaudevillians Geoff Sobelle and Trey Lyford, magician Steve Cuiffo, writer-lyricist Melissa James Gibson, composer Michael Friedman, and multi-disciplinary artist Lars Jan.

Holiday-themed musicals should provide welcome uplift. Meet Me in St. Louis (Musical Theatre West at Carpenter Performing Arts Center, through November 15) is a stage adaptation of the beloved Judy Garland film musical. Roger Bean's irresistible singing girl-group, the Marvelous Wonderettes, returns in the spirited sequel, Winter Wonderettes (Laguna Playhouse, November 24-December 30). The Broadway hit Dr. Seuss' How the Grinch Stole Christmas! The Musical, which originated as an annual favorite in San Diego where it continues each year, comes to Hollywood's Pantages Theatre (November 10-January 3). Starring in the cheerful tuner are John Larroquette, Stefan Karl, and Danny Gurwin. Completing the roster of musical attractions are the debuting Love in Bloom (Santa Monica Playhouse, November 7-December 13), written by Chris DeCarlo and Evelyn Rudie, called a tongue-in-cheek tribute to the Bard's heroes, heroines, wenches, and rogues; and the Tony-nominated Little Women: The Musical (Chance Theater, November 20-December 27).

A cluster of edgy, offbeat comedies are on tap. There's a return of Tom Eyen's campy romp Women Behind Bars (Celebration Theatre, November 11-December 20), starring popular drag diva Momma. Gross-out horror films are sent up in Allison's Moore's Slasher (Zephyr Theatre, through December 13), for which the tag line is "Laugh until you scream." Another chiller spoof, A Very Dark Place, by Brandon Alter, premieres at the Hayworth Theatre (through November 22). High school students and zombies share the stage in Robert Rinow's debuting Detention From the Dead (Beverly Hills Playhouse, through December 5). Ken Urban's Nibbler (Theatre of Note, November 6-December 12) is described as "a comedy about the horrors of youth."

As for drama, South Coast Repertory presents Noah Haidle's Saturn Returns (through November 22), a time-bending story exploring the life passages of an octogenarian in a nursing home. Julie Hebert's new work Tree makes its bow (EST-LA at [Inside] the Ford, November 5-December 13). It involves three generations divided by race, culture, and time, who connect when a white woman discovers some old love letters. Michael Hyman's Love Will Tear Us Apart (Hudson Guild Theatre, November 7-December 13) follows the emotional journey of a young gay man visited by the voice of a former lover. Simon Gray's Molly (Big Victory Theatre, November 6-December 20), set in 1930s London, is inspired by a true murder case, in which a love quadrangle went wrong. The African-American-based Robey Theatre Company revives Joseph A. Walker's 1974 Tony award winner The River Niger (The New LATC, November 6-December 13).

Besides the large-scale family attractions such as Mary Poppins, there's additional fare to please the moppets. Laguna Playhouse Youth Theatre presents Stuart Little: A Musical Fantasy (Laguna Playhouse, November 6-15), based on the book by E. B. White. Colleen Neuman's The Princess Plays (Eclectic Company Theatre, through November 22), consists of two comedies featuring famous fairy-tale princesses.

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