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<p>John Lithgow. Photo by Nigel Perry</p>
John Lithgow. Photo by Nigel Perry

AND THE BIG HOUSE TRUMPETING BEGINS…Center Theatre Group Artistic Director Michael Ritchie revealed the bill of fare for 2011 at CTG’s Mark Taper Forum, highlighted by the board-trodding efforts of such noted thesps as Jane Fonda, John Lithgow and Olympia Dukakis, featured in new works by Moisés Kaufman, Lithgow and Morris Panych, respectively, plus reprises of works by Lanford Wilson and Theresa Rebeck. Starting things off is Lithgow’s one-hander, Stories by Heart, a theatrical memoir featuring works of P.G. Wodehouse and Ring Lardner, opening Jan. 5…Next door to CTG, REDCAT’S Theater season is shorter but more far-reaching, including:  In the Solitude of Cotton Fields by Polish-based Radoslaw Rychcik/Stefan Zeromski Theatre (Sep. 23); from Manhattan, Reverend Billy and the Life After Shopping Gospel Choir, featuring the anti-consumerism antics of Billy Talen (Oct. 21); Venlo, by the Dutch theater ensemble Wunderbaum (Nov. 17); a multimedia staging of Tennessee WilliamsVieux Carre, by New York-based The Wooster Group (Dec. 1) and Betontanc and Show Your Face, a modern-day Everyman tale, a collaboration between the Slovenian dance-theater company Betontanc and the Latvian puppet theater company Umka LV (Jan. 19)…and in Hollywood, Broadway/LA at the Pantages road show guide of touring tuners includes The Phantom of the Opera (Sept. 23), West Side Story (Nov. 30), Hair (Jan. 5), Traces (at the Ricardo Montalban Theatre, Jan. 11), Spring Awakening (Feb. 8), Rock of Ages (Feb. 15), Avenue Q (Mar. 1), Disney’s Beauty and the Beast (March 9), Rain – A Tribute to the Beatles (Apr. 2) Burn the Floor (Apr. 26) and Shrek the Musical (July 12)…

<p>Placido Domingo. Photo by Richard Haughton</p>
Placido Domingo. Photo by Richard Haughton

THE MUSIC GOES ROUND AND ROUND…LA stages are enjoying a tuneful early fall. The Beat Project brings Dear Harvey to the Lee Strasberg Theatre, based on the writings and civil rights activity of Harvey Milk. Penned by Patricia Loughrey, with original music by Thomas Hodges, musical direction and orchestrations by Wayne Moore, directed by Anthony Frisina, this LA premiere tuner opens Oct. 10 at the Strasberg in Hollywood…On Sept. 10, Placido Domingo is holding a press conference at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion to introduce the creative team behind the premiere of Il Postino, including Daniel Catán (composer), Ron Daniels (director) Grant Gershon (conductor), David Bridel (choreography), based on the book Ardiente Paciencia by Antonio Skarmeta and the film Il Postino by Michael Radford. This contemporary opera debuts Sept. 28 at DCP, featuring Domingo in the role of Chilean poet Pablo Neruda…Updating biblical times, David: The Musical, a modern day retelling of the life of King David of Bethlehem, wrought by Craig Constanza (book & lyrics), Tim Murner (music), Rich Lyle (additional book & lyrics), Michelle Holmes (stage adaptation) and Adam T. Rosencrance (director) premieres at the Hayworth Theatre (Sept. 10)…Not to be outdone, Stiltz: The Musical, focusing on a young woman who is willing to risk everything to save her loser of a father, opens Sept. 24 at NoHo’s Actors Forum Theatre. Creative team includes Deborah Johnson (music & lyrics), Paula Miller (additional lyrics), Wayland Pickard & Doug Engalla (directors) and Michelle Bernath (choreography)… And for one night only (also Sept. 10), Troupe Vertigo holds forth at Ford Amphitheatre, releasing a mash-up of theater, dance, music and acrobatics, with the band Nightmare & the Cat, Mongolian contortionist Gana Ganchimeg, trapeze artist Kerren McDeeman and more, under the direction of Rex Camphius and Aloysia Gavre…On a final, more traditional note, Hollywood-based Actors Co-op is reviving Stephen Sondheim‘s Merrily We Roll Along, Sept. 19 at the Crossley Theatre…

NEW LEGIT FARE…Needtheater is premiering the action thriller The Web at Art/Works Theater in Hollywood. Scripted by Cornerstone Artistic Director Michael John Garces, directed by Alyson Roux, produced by Ilona Piotrowska, Rachel Stoll and Matt Wells, production opens Sept. 17…the multi NAACP Theatre Award nominated Robey Theatre Company is preeming The Reckoning by Kimba Henderson at the Los Angeles Theatre Center, Sept. 25…And the inseparable writing/performing duo of Renee Taylor & Joseph Bologna (Lovers and Other Strangers) is debuting their latest two-hander, Sort of a Love Story, at NoHo’s El Portal Theatre, Oct. 14…

<p>Stephanie J. Block</p>
Stephanie J. Block

THIS AND THAT…Reprising their Long Wharf Theatre roles, Judith Ivey, Patch Darragh and Keira Keeley, will usher Amanda Wakefield, Tom and Laura, respectively, onto the Mark Taper Forum stage (Sept. 12), in the CTG production of Tennessee Williams’ The Glass Menagerie. They are joined by Ben McKenzie as the illusive Gentleman Caller. Long Wharf Artistic Director Gordon Edelstein guides the action…The ever-prolific Del Shores is enjoying great success with his latest legiter, Yellow (Ovation Recommended, LA Times Critics Choice, LA Weekly GO!, Backstage Critics Pick), now extended through Oct. 17 at the Coast Playhouse in West Hollywood…a stellar lineup of Broadway stars including Sutton Foster, Adam Pascal, Anthony Rapp, Kerry Butler, Stephanie J. Block and Stephen Tewksberry are lending their talents to the Orange County-based Broadway Knights tuner extravaganza Broadway Memories, a fundraiser concert to benefit Alzheimer’s Association and Capistrano Center for the Arts, at the OC Pavilion in Santa Ana, Oct. 2…

<p>Alice Wellman and William Schallert. Photo by George Boroff.</p>
Alice Wellman and William Schallert. Photo by George Boroff.

INSIDE LA STAGE HISTORY…In June 1945, seven advanced drama students (Ilyana Yankovich, Margie True, Jerry Epstein, Marilyn Clark, Patricia Englund, Dan Matthews, Julian Ludwig) from UCLA set out to form a theatre of their own, calling their venture the Circle Players. By January 1947, they found permanent residence at a former drugstore-turned-garage at 800 N. El Centro Ave. in Hollywood. By then, the troupe had grown to include former classmates Kathleen Freeman, William Schallert, John Crawford and a Tinseltown offspring contingent (Sydney Chaplin, Charles Chaplin Jr., Edward G. Robinson Jr., Robert Burns Jr.) that often included the directorial services of the Chaplin boys’ dad Charlie. A Circle Theatre production highlight was the Oct. 1948 staging of Rain by John Colton and Clemence Dane. June Havoc (the real Baby June fictionalized in Gypsy) starred as Sadie Thompson with a cast that featured Schallert, Freeman, Crawford, Sydney Chaplin and Alice Wellman, helmed by Terry Kilburn. By the end of 1949, a contingent of company members that included Freeman, Crawford and Larry Salters ventured off to form The Players Ring at a new space located at 8351 Santa Monica Blvd. (destroyed by fired in June, 1964)…

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Julio Martinez

Julio Martinez

Julio pens the weekly LA STAGE Insider column for @ This Stage Magazine, as well as the monthly LA STAGE History column. He is a recurring contributor to Written By (the monthly publication of the Writer’s Guild of America) and is the TeleVision columnist for Latin Heat Entertainment. On air, he hosts the weekly Arts in Review program for KPFK 90.7 FM. An active journalist for over 30 years, Julio’s articles and reviews have appeared in Los Angeles Times Magazine, Daily Variety, The Hollywood Reporter, L.A. Weekly, Stage Raw, Backstage West, Westways Magazine, and Drama-Logue Magazine, among others.