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What'll be Hot in 2009?

Blog alicia The theatre scene that supposedly doesn't exist in L.A.--at least according to uninformed theatre snobs-- seems pretty spry at the moment. The roster of interesting-sounding shows opening in 2009 is abundant with tantalizing fare, among the finest array in recent memory. Following are some highlights.

Let's start with the world premieres. Pulitzer-winning playwright Donald Margulies (Dinner With Friends, Collected Stories) joins forces with Tony-winning director Daniel Sullivan (Proof), in Margulies' new drama, Time Stands Still, starring Anna Gunn, Alicia Silverstone (pictured),  David Harbour, and Robin Thomas. This play, charting the difficult adjustment a team of journalist/lovers must make after returnng to the U.S. following an extended stay in the war-torn Middle East, opens February 11.

Two musical blockbusters make their debuts. Minsky's (Ahmanson Theatre, opening February 6), is a brassy 1920s-era musical set in the world of American burlesque, featuring music by Charles Strouse (Annie, Bye Bye Birdie, Applause)--who also composed songs for the 1968 William Friedkin film The Night They Raided Minsky's, lyrics by Susan Birkenhead (Triumph of Love), and a welcome reunion of The Drowsy Chaperone's creative gurus--librettist Bob Martin and director-choreographer Casey Nicolaw.

Stormy Weather (Pasadena Playhouse, opening January 20) is a musical biography of superstar entertainer Lena Horne, to be played by another entertainment legend, Leslie Uggams, who will sing great numbers from Horne's illustrious repertoire. A quirky new musical, Pope Joan (Stella Adler Theatre, opening January 17) tells the true story of a legendary female pontiff who disguised herself as a man. Yentl meets The Singing Nun? It's being produced by legendary Michael Butler (Hair).

Blog fales Among additional new works premiering: Jim Leonard's Battle Hymn (Circle X Theatre at [Inside] the Ford, opening January 17), a surreliastic epic with a touch of Brecht's Mother Courage, beginning during the Civil War and spanning 150 years; Erin Kamler's Divorce! The Musical (Hudson Mainstage Theatre, opening February 14), directed by Rick Sparks; Richard Montoya and Culture Clash's Palestine, New Mexico (Mark Taper Forum, opening December 13); Missionary Position (Celebration Theatre, opening January 9), the latest solo tell-all from Stephen Fales. pictured here (of Confesssions of a Mormon Boy); two at the Kirk Douglas Theatre: Rajiv Joseph's Iraq War drama  Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo (opening May 17), and Elizabeth Meriwether's Hedda Gabler desconstuction, Heddatron  (opening July 12), and two from Theatre@ Boston Court: Laura Schellhardt's Courting Vampires (opening May 9) and Deborah Stein's riff on Hamlet, God Save Gertrude  (opening October 10).

Boston Court also coproduces the West Coast premiere of Bruce Norris' scathing comedy of class and race, The Pain and the Itch, with the Furious Theatre Company (opening July 25 at Boston Court). On its own turf, Furious offers another sizzler in the West Coast debut of Peter Sinn Machtrieb's Hunter Gatherers (Carrie Hamilton Theatre, opening January 24), about a dinner party from hell.

Blog parade There are plenty more local premieres including: London's Donmar Warehouse production of Jason Robert Brown's Tony-winning musical masterpiece Parade (Mark Taper Forum opening October 4); Allan Knee's The Jazz Age, examining the minds of the literary world's most famous characters (Blank Theatre at the 2nd Stage, opening January 30); Douglas J, Cohen's musical thriller No Way to Treat a Lady (Colony Theatre, opening April 18); Conor McPherson's Tony-nominated drama The Seafarer (Geffen Playhouse, opening April 22); Big, The Musical (West Coast Ensemble at the El Centro Theatre, opening TBA), based on the Tom Hanks film comedy; the Tony-nominated powerhouse Frost/Nixon (Ahmanson, opening March 12).

Among popular musicals being remounted locally: Mel Brooks' The Producers (Musical Theatre West at the Carpenter Performing Arts Center, opening January 30); Dames at Sea (Downey Civic Light Opera, opening February 19); The Full Monty (Civic Light Opera of South Bay Cities, opening February 11); Chess (Reprise at UCLA Freud Playhouse, opening May 5); Cats (Cabrillo Music Theatre, opening July 24); two from FCLO Music Theatre: Roger Bean's The Andrews Brothers (opening July 10) and Irving Berlin's White Christmas (opening October 16); and three concert stagings  from the venerable Musical Theatre Guild at the Alex Theatre: Finian's Rainbow (February 23); Kiss of the Spider Woman (April 20), and Violet (June 15). The Deaf West Theatre and the Mark Taper Forum offer a highly anticipated reinvention of the Stephen Schwartz musical Pippin (opening January 25).

Also, there are classics and revivals aplenty: Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (Rubicon Theatre, opening January 31) and another Albee great, Three Tall Women (WCE at the El Centro Theatre, opening TBA); Lillian Hellman's The Little Foxes (Pasadena Playhouse, opening May 22); Brecht's Threepenny Opera (International City Theatre, opening February 20); King Lear (South Coast Repertory, opening May 15), and three at A Noise Within in Glendale: Taming of the Shrew (opening March 7), Ibsen's Ghosts (opening March 21), and Anouilh's The Rehearsal (opening April 18).

Blog poppins To cap off this recap, how could we forget the L.A. unveiling of the Disney-Macintosh musical sugar-plum Mary Poppins, coming to the Ahamanson in November? Nothing like a spoonful of sugar to bring the theatre year to a felicitous close

Not much opening this year, huh? The above are just a partial list of the highlights we know of at this point. New shows are always announced all year long. See you soon at the theatre in this non-theatre berg!

--Les Spindle

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