Published in Theatremania October 2000
Monty, Millie and the Mummy. What’s going and coming on San Diego stages this fall? A stripper, a flapper and a deer.
Fresh from its knockout, sellout world premiere at the Old Globe, the musical version of “The Full Monty” bares all on Broadway in October. Meanwhile, the next local Broadway-bound project is a new musical comedy premiering at La Jolla Playhouse, “Thoroughly Modern Millie.” And speaking of comebacks, Luis Valdez (“Zoot Suit” and the film, “La Bamba”) picked the San Diego Repertory Theatre to premiere his first new play in 14 years, a semi-autobiographical family history called “the Mummified Deer.”
As the Globe Turns
The Old Globe is crossing its fingers for Monty, while bringing back the Grinch. The mean, green Dr. Seuss character makes his third annual appearance in the highly child-friendly musical (score by Mel Marvin, book and lyrics by Timothy Mason), 11/19-12/31. Before he arrives, the Globe is mounting a new adaptation (by local professor/Greek scholar/philanthropist Marianne McDonald) of Euripides’ “The Trojan Women,” directed by Seret Scott, who’s wowed Globe audiences before with her gut-wrenching productions of “The Old Settler” and “Blues for an Alabama Sky.” This timeless anti-war story should translate into a beautiful and stimulating outdoor performance (9/9-10/14).
Another returning director is Roger Rees, who won a Best Actor Tony on Broadway for his tenderhearted portrayal of the title character in “The Life and Adventures of Nicholas Nickleby” (which originated at the Royal Shakespeare Company). TV-watchers know him as the ruthless Robin Colcord on “Cheers.” But Globe audiences remember last year’s madcap “Merry Wives of Windsor,” set in Windsor, Ontario. Now Rees is back to turn Shakespeare on his ear once again, directing “Love’s Labours Lost,” a comedy of the sexes that promises to be another wild roller-coaster ride (9/23-10/28).
When it comes to star turns and stadium-sized egos, nothing equals the cast of characters in actor Austin Pendleton’s new play, “Orson’s Shadow.” How about cramming Orson Welles, Laurence Olivier, Vivien Leigh and Joan Plowright onto one little stage, lumped in with the self-promoting masochist who brought them all together in the first place — renowned theater critic Kenneth Tynan. Recreating a legendary moment in theater history, the play was a hit last winter when it premiered at Chicago’s celebrated Steppenwolf Theatre, of which Pendleton is a long-time member. Witty and incisive, this West coast premiere will be an eye-opening evening for theater-lovers (9/16-10/21).
Thanks a Millie
The big fall news from the La Jolla Playhouse (aside from the resignation of one-year artistic director Anne Hamburger and the temporary? return of Des McAnuff to plan next season) is “Thoroughly Modern Millie,” which boasts a megawatt creative team: award-winning Broadway director Michael Mayer, hot young composer Jeanine Tesori, author Richard Morris (who wrote the original story and screenplay for the hit 1967 movie), co-lyricist/co-author Dick Scanlan and legendary orchestrator Ralph Burns. The new stage musical stars Erin Dilly and Tonya Pinkins, whose fabulous voice local audiences will remember from “Play On” (at the Globe). The costumes alone should knock your socks off (10/15-11/12).
Before Millie arrives, the Playhouse will be “Going to St. Ives.” This new play by Lee Blessing (who premiered “A Walk in the Woods” and “Fortinbras” at the Playhouse) is directed by Maria Mileaf, a UCSD directing alum. The thought-provoking piece focuses on the convergence and conflict of two powerful women: an English eye surgeon and the mother of a brutal African dictator (9/17-10/15).
Nothin’, Deer, but Bucky and the Blues
Two reprises kick off the season at the San Diego Repertory Theatre: “R. Buckminster Fuller: The History (and Mystery) of the Universe,” a twice-extended sellout last season, and “It Ain’t Nothin’ But the Blues,” the most successful musical in the Rep’s 25-year history. The heady, intelligent one-man show about inventor/philosopher/cosmologist Bucky Fuller, developed and directed by Rep co-founder Douglas Jacobs, stars (in his most magically reined-in performance) the immensely talented but usually-antic Ron Campbell (9/17-10/8). “Blues,” a history/revue of the musical genre, went from San Diego to Broadway last year, and garnered a Tony nomination (9/16-10/22). Also back this year, for the 25th time, is “A Christmas Carol,” destined to be a comic circus, since it’s directed by Joan Schirle (who helmed last year’s feverish “Waiting for Godot” and “Picasso at the Lapin Agile”) (11/25-12/24).
The major new attraction is Luis Valdez, currently in the midst of a two-year residency at the San Diego Rep. His “Mummified Deer” (10/20-11/19) is surreal, spiritual, mysterious.. and matriarchal. For the first time in a Valdez play, all the lead characters are women…. and a ceremonial Yacqui deer-dancer runs through it.
Playing to Playgoers
The San Diego Playgoers Series of national touring productions welcomes the newly revised Broadway musical version of “The Scarlet Pimpernel” (11/28-12/3), and that magnificent Irving Berlin beauty, “Annie Get Your Gun” (12/12-17), starring Marilu Henner and Tom Wopat. And snap-tap-rap-clap, “Stomp” is back (11/14-19).
Also worth singing about…
For two weeks only, a high-powered UCSD reunion of sorts takes place at Sledgehammer Theatre. Director Matthew Wilder teams up with incendiary actor Bruce McKenzie for a brace of Beckett: “Krapp’s Last Tape” and “Play.” Provocative and enlightening, if not cheerful and sprightly. 9/7-17.
Sledgehammer also heralds the premiere of a funky, jazz/rock-opera-musical “Alice in Modernland,” a sex, drugs, R&R (and R&B) riff on the Lewis Carroll classic. Directed by Sledge’s adored and adorned artistic director, Kirsten Brandt, written by Canadian playwright Kirsten Nash. Remember what the Doormouse said: “Feed your head…” (10/29-11/26)
On a more serious note, North Coast Repertory Theatre is featuring “The African Company Presents Richard III.” The drama, by New York playwright Carlyle Brown, concerns the first black theatrical troupe in the country which, in 1820, becomes so popular it’s a threat to white theater groups, especially when they’re both trying to stage the same hump-backed Shakespearean history. (9/30-11/5)
Next up at North Coast Rep is “First Night,” a sweet little holiday comedy ´ deux, which was a big hit for the theater in 1987. 11/18-12/31
Diversionary Theatre has scored a major coup with the local premiere of “Mineola Twins,” by Pulitzer Prize-winner Paula Vogel. The almost-identical Myrna and Myra slog through several of America’s most trenchant decades (from Eisenhower to Bush), fighting all the way — over politics, purity and prurient interests.
Bloody but unbowed…. Lamb’s Players Theatre presents a new adaptation of “Dracula,” re-conceived by artistic director Robert Smyth and writer-in-residence (“Boomers,” “American Rhythm”) Kerry Meads. It will be a dark and stormy night… (10/13-11/19), followed by Lamb’s trio of Christmas offerings.
Viva Voltaire! It’s hardly the best of all possible worlds (as Dr. Pangloss would put it) in “Candide,” Leonard Bernstein’s legendary adaptation of the anti-optimism classic, but the score is delicious. At San Diego Comic Opera, 9/15-24.
See you on the quad…. Big doin’s at SDSU this semester, with a tribute to Yip Harbug, the late, great lyricist, librettist and composer, who’s best known, perhaps for “Brother, Can You Spare a Dime.” SDSU presents a musical revue, “Follow the Yellow Brick Road: Yip Harburg’s America” (11/10-19), a staged reading of Harburg’s 1961 musical, “The Happiest Girl in the World” (10/24), and a Yip Harburg Symposium (11/11).
TAKE A ONE-NIGHT STAND
October 22 — Tony Award-winner and darling of musical theater, Audra McDonald, pays a much-awaited visit, with a cabaret-style tribute to Jerome Kern, Irving Berlin and Leonard Bernstein. At the California Center for the Arts, Escondido.
November 18 – Bravo San Diego, a uniquely outrageous convergence of the arts, business and civic communities, featuring fabulous food and the best of San Diego’s visual and performing arts. This unparalleled spectacle is brought to us, for the second time, by the San Diego Performing Arts League and the Westgate Hotel. Don’t miss it!
And, in the Shameless Plug Department, don’t forget to tune in to KPBS on October 30 (KPBS radio) and November 2 (KPBS-TV), to get a sneak-peek at lots of the shows mentioned above, on “Center Stage,” a live-audience, live performance variety show devoted exclusively to live theater, and hosted by yours truly. A great way to put a little drama in your life…..
©2000 Patté Productions Inc.