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Los Angeles Spotlight: September 2010

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Brooke Shields and Raul Esparza at rehearsal
for Leap of Faith
(© Craig Schwartz)
A Broadway-bound musical based on the popular Steve Martin film, Leap of Faith, premieres at the Ahmanson Theatre (September 11-October 24). Raul Esparza and Brooke Shields co-star in the show, featuring a new score by eight-time Oscar winning composer Alan Menken and librettist-lyricist Glenn Slater. Co-librettist is Janus Cercone. There's a touch of The Music Man in this heartwarming seriocomic story, which also features Nicholas Barasch, Jarrod Emick, Kendra Kassebaum, Kecia Lewis-Evans, and Leslie Odom, Jr.

Center Theatre Group offers a second blockbuster, at the Mark Taper Forum, where the Long Wharf Theatre production of Tennessee Williams' autobiographical classic The Glass Menagerie, comes to L.A. (September 1-October 17). Tony winner Judith Ivey stars as Amanda Wingfield, with Patch Darragh as Tom, Keira Keeley as Laura, and Ben McKenzie as Jim O'Connor, the Gentleman Caller.

Star power will also be evident when Jason Alexander and Stephanie J. Block head the cast of Reprise Theatre Company's revisit to the quintessentially late-1970s musical, They're Playing Our Song (book by Neil Simon; music by Marvin Hamlisch, lyrics by Carole Bayer Sager), inspired by the songwriting team's real-life relationship. Lonny Price directs the show, playing at the UCLA Freud Playhouse (September 28-October 10).

Additional high-profile fare is on tap. An award-winning cast -- Annie Purcell, Olympia Dukakis, Pamela Reed, Manoel Felciano -- will grace the Getty Villa's outdoor staging of the Sophocles classic Elektra, at the Barbara and Lawrence Fleischman Theater (September 9-October 2). Carey Perloff directs this new translation by Timberlake Wertenbaker. Meanwhile, The Geffen Playhouse has teamed with Seattle's Intiman Theatre to offer director Kate Whoriskey's production of Lynn Nottage's drama Ruined (September 7-October 17), reuniting the stars and design team of the award-winning New York production in this piece about the triumph of the human spirit in a war-torn country.

Heading a list of promising dramas is the West Coast premiere of Joe Tracz's Phenomenon of Decline (Son of Semele, September 3-12), directed by Caitlin S. Hart. It's about a man living in a cabin that he built, existing in a vigil of grief and guilt until the arrival of his three sisters. Southern California Shakespeare Festival presents Hamlet (Studio Theatre at Cal Poly Pomona, September 11-October 3), described as a contemporary interpretation with a minimalist staging approach.

Frequently honored actress Loretta Devine stars in Pieces of Me (Stage 52, September 11-October 3), an evening of her original poetry and songs. Richard Kalinoski's Beast on the Moon (Marilyn Monroe Theatre, September 11-October 17), set in 1920s Milwaukee, is about a young Armenian photographer and his mail-order bride, two exiles in a foreign land.

The Attic Theatre and Film Center presents its 19th annual Denise Ragan Wiesenmeyer One-Act Play Festival (September 3-19), including world-premiere plays by Lee Blessing and Wendy McLeod. The oft-acclaimed Asian-American-focused company East West Players offers the L.A. premiere of Mysterious Skin (David Henry Hwang Theatre, September 9-October 10), Prince Gumolvilas' play, based on the novel by Scott Hein, about a boy who believes he was once abducted by aliens. Richard Greenberg's Tony-winning Take Me Out (Celebration Theatre, September 22-October 31), directed by Michael Matthews, is about the coming-out announcement of a gay baseball player, which leads to tragic consequences.

Comedy is on the roster as well, highlighted by a literary classic, George Bernard Shaw's Misalliance (South Coast Repertory, September 10-October 10), starring Dakin Matthews, directed by Martin Benson. In a broader comic vein is Of Grapes and Nuts, a wild sendup of John Steinbeck's American classics The Grapes of Wrath and Of Mice and Men, co-authored by Doug Armstrong, Keith Cooper, and Tom Willmorth, directed by Paul Stroili. In a category by itself is Susan Claassen's one-woman vehicle, A Conversation With Edith Head (El Portal Theatre, September 23-October 24), based on the book Edith Head's Hollywood by Head and Paddy Calistro. It's described as a feast of behind-the-scenes dish on Hollywood's greatest stars, as well as an intimate portrait of legendary costume designer Head.

Two additional musicals will be offered during this busy month: the West Coast premiere of Craig Costanza and Tim Murner's contemporary Biblical tuner, David: The Musical (Hayworth Theatre, September 10-October 17); and the rocking 1960's girl-group revue Beehive (Civic Light Opera of South Bay Cities at Redondo Beach Performing Arts Center, September 15-October 3).

Family audiences might want to catch one of the concluding performances of Sierra Madre Playhouse's summer repertory of children's theatre, Fairy Tale Theatre, presented on Saturdays at 11: a.m. and 2 p.m. Included are Sleeping Beauty (September 4) The Tale of the Frog Prince (September 11), Treasure Island (September 18), and Dorothy and the Wizard of Oz (September 25).

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