Published in In Theater

San Diego is still trying to catch its breath since “Rent” took the city by storm. Now, the high-voltage West Coast cast moves from the La Jolla Playhouse (home to director Michael Greif) to L.A., with its two hottest talents:   TV heartthrobs Neil Patrick Harris (the actor formerly known as Doogie Howzer, M.D.) and Wilson Cruz (Ricky from “My So Called Life”).

Broadway interest is mounting for the La Jolla Playhouse world premiere of “Harmony,” with music by Barry Manilow, book and lyrics by Bruce Sussman, directed by David Warren (October   7-November 23). The musical drama was inspired by the Comedian Harmonists, a Jewish-gentile group of comic street musicians in 1920’s Germany who became world-famous — until they clashed with the Nazi party. The cast includes Danny Burstein and Rebecca Luker.   “Harmony” closes the Playhouse’s anniversary season — 50 years since its founding (by Gregory Peck, Dorothy McGuire and Mel Ferrer), and 15 years since its revival.

Meanwhile, at the Old Globe, two West Coast premieres:   “The Mask of Moriarty,” Hugh Leonard’s funny/silly spoof of every Sherlock Holmes mystery ever written (through October 25), hilariously pairing Old Globe Associate Artists Tom Lacy and Paxton Whitehead (who originated the Holmes role in Williamstown).   And (through October 11), “Miracles,” former San Diegan Frank Higgins’ intense drama of an autistic girl and the controversial “cure” that seduces and damages her family. Come spring, the Globe will stage the world premiere of A.R. Gurney’s “Labor Day,” a sequel to that paean to WASP America, “The Cocktail Hour.”   Jack O’Brien directs.  

The San Diego Repertory Theatre scored big with the rights to “Zoot Suit,” the 1978 groundbreaker that playwright Luis Valdez hasn’t released for 18 years. Original composer Lalo Guerrero and Luis’ brother, Danny Valdez (who appeared in the stage and film versions) will participate in the Rep production (October 3-26), which is followed by “Radio San Diego,” a riff on the local community by the uproarious comic trio, Culture Clash. Last year’s outrageous “Radio Mambo” skewered every chunk of Miami society.

…..Also newsworthy is the new Equity agreement worked out by San Diego Actors Alliance and a consortium of six smaller theatres, which will now be able to hire Union actors. The San Diego Producer’s Code is unique among Equity contracts.

…..And a recent report by the San Diego Arts & Culture Coalition shows that last year, more people attended arts and culture events than visited Sea World, Qualcomm Stadium or the world-famous Zoo. That’s 4.7 million people spending $66 million. Not a bad year at the theater.

©1997 Patté Productions Inc.