By Steve ZALL and Sid FISH
It’s time again to celebrate the start of summer as well as our nation’s independence with backyard barbecues, gatherings with family and friends and, of course, taking in a fireworks show – but don’t forget to also spend time catching a couple of these great live shows playing in our local theaters!
COVID protocols continue to be dictated by each individual venue, so bring a facemask to wear during the show in case the venue requires it. It’s a good idea to check with the theater before you attend a show to find out what is their current policy.
The information presented in this column is the latest available at the time of printing; however, it should be verified with the theater before definite plans are mad.
Here are the shows that have announced opening dates for this month, or are already running:
“The Pitch” Tom Allen is a widower, raising his 15-year-old daughter as a single dad. Desperate for money, he grabs at a job in a boiler-room set-up, selling machine parts over the phone. He soon discovers that his job requires him to make ethical compromises, occasionally misrepresenting the products he sells. He finds himself in competition with his co-workers. His tension builds as he discerns that his boss may be under investigation by the authorities, endangering the job that Tom needs so much. Life at home is getting complicated as well as Tom becomes aware that boys notice that his daughter Michelle is becoming a woman. He faces disappointment as he discovers that his dreams for Michelle’s future do not match the aspirations that Michelle has for herself. How many compromises can Tom make if he wishes to remain a moral man and a good dad?
Written by Tom Alper and directed by Louie Liberti, it runs through July 23 at the Madnani Theatre in Hollywood. For tickets, visit www.events.thestagecrafts.com/projects/10014.
“2 Pianos 4 Hands” Get ready for an interlude of laughter and music as two men, or “4 hands,” take us on a journey about their would-be careers as concert pianists. The talented duo trade stories about piano lessons, pushy parents and eccentric teachers while playing everything from Bach to Billy Joel. Both hilarious and touching, the musical comedy captures the humor that comes with the path to becoming a pianist, as well as the sense of loss attached with eventually learning to let go of your wildest dreams.
Written by Ted Dykstra and Richard Greenblatt, and directed by Tom Frey, it runs through July 23 at the Laguna Playhouse in Laguna Beach. For tickets, call (949) 497-2787 or visit www.lagunaplayhouse.com.
“Festival of Arts Pageant of the Masters” Watch art come to life right before your eyes in a star-lit amphitheater. There’s nothing else like it. The Pageant of the Masters is a 90-minute theatrical performance where famous works of art are brought to life onstage. A live narrator guides the audience through the story of each piece, complete with music by a full orchestra. In 2023 the Pageant of the Masters celebrates the 90th anniversary of the first presentation of “living pictures” at the Festival of Arts with “Art Colony: In the Company of Artists” which acknowledges the deep connections of the Festival and Pageant to the early artists who settled in Laguna Beach. It will also feature other memorable stories of artists assisting one another through cooperation and fellowship in vastly different eras and circumstances around the world. Each night under the stars in the Pageant of the Masters’ outdoor amphitheater famous works of art are re-created with real people posing in elaborate sets. Be amazed by the Pageant’s intoxicating blend of original music, storytelling and stage illusions. Don’t miss this one-of-a-kind, must-see summer tradition!
Directed by Diane Challis Davy, it runs July 7 through Sept. 1 at the Festival of Arts in Laguna Beach. For tickets, call (800) 487-3378 or visit www.foapom.com.
“Garden of Alla” The 1920s was the time of flappers, flamboyance and the face of Alla Nazimova. This summer Nazimova – Jewish immigrant from Tsarist Russia, Broadway and silent film superstar, visionary Hollywood director and producer, and LGBTQIA trailblazer – makes her triumphant return to Hollywood when Theatre West presents playwright and performer Romy Nordlinger in the West Coast premiere of “Garden of Alla: The Alla Nazimova Story.” Using immersive video and original music to invoke the Roaring ’20s and create a panoramic, live silent film, Nordlinger brings the life and times of this groundbreaking iconoclast to vivid life.
Written by Romy Nordlinger and directed by Lorca Peress, it runs July 7 through July 23 at the Theatre West in Los Angeles. For tickets, call (323) 851-7977 or visit www.TheatreWest.org.
“The Wizard of Oz” Full of brains, heart, courage and special effects – including monkeys that really fly – MTW’s “The Wizard of Oz” is sure to be an instant fan favorite. Step into the world of Oz as MTW brings to life the beloved characters of Dorothy, Scarecrow, Tin Man and the Cowardly Lion in a visually stunning production filled with captivating music, stunning choreography and mesmerizing set designs. Ticket holders will be transported along the yellow brick road encountering enchanting landscapes, meeting unforgettable characters and rediscovering the power of courage, friendship, and the pursuit of dreams.
Written by L. Frank Baum with music by Harold Arlen and E.Y. Harburg, and directed by Paige Price, it runs July 7 through July 23 at Musical Theatre West at the Carpenter Performing Arts Center in Long Beach. For tickets, call (562) 856-1999 or visit www.musical.org.
“In The Heights” For Vanessa, home is something to run away from. For Usnavi, a first generation Dominican-American corner bodega owner, home is this idealized Dominican Republic that he’s barely been to as a baby. Then there’s Nina, who was always going to get out and sort of comes home with her tail between her legs. “In the Heights” tells the universal story of a vibrant community in New York’s Washington Heights neighborhood – a place where the coffee from the corner bodega is light and sweet, the windows are always open, and the breeze carries the rhythm of three generations of music. Much like today, Usnavi and his friends and family are dealing with the pressures of rising rents and closing neighborhood businesses. In Washington Heights, community is everything and we see how each of these individuals struggles to survive and how these same individuals come together as a community to mourn their losses and rejoice in their triumphs. It’s a community on the brink of change, full of hopes, dreams and pressures, where the biggest struggles can be deciding which traditions you take with you and which ones you leave behind.
Written by Quiara Alegria Hude, with music by Lin-Manuel Miranda, and directed by Ariella Salinas Fiore, it runs July 8 through July 30 at the Morgan-Wixson Theatre in Santa Monica. For tickets, call (310) 828-7519 or visit www.morgan-wixson.org.
“Stew” Mama’s in the kitchen early preparing her famous stew for a big event, but even as her daughters and granddaughter help, she still feels like time is running out. Soon these three generations of Black women begin to feel their past and present closing in. A finalist for the 2021 Pulitzer Prize for drama, Zora Howard’s hilarious, haunting and taut 90-minute drama has a lot more cooking underneath the surface.
Written by Zora Howard and directed by Tyler Thomas, it runs July 12 through Aug. 6 at the Pasadena Playhouse in Pasadena. For tickets, call (626) 356-7529 or visit www.pasadenaplayhouse.org.
“Final Interview” The stress of a job interview is cranked up to 10 when a gun is thrown in the mix. If the interview goes poorly, someone dies. In a claustrophobic game of cat and mouse, both interviewer and interviewee desperately try to escape a high-rise office with their lives. “Final Interview” exposes the corruption behind corporate greed and the ability to right the wrongs of one’s past.
Written by Gabriel Oliva and directed by Katierose Donahue-Enriquez, it runs July 14 through July 23 at the Pico Playhouse in Los Angeles. For tickets, visit www.goldstar.com/events/los-angeles-ca/final-interview-tickets,.
“Ironbound” At a bus stop in a run-down New Jersey town, Darja, a Polish immigrant cleaning lady, is done talking about feelings; it’s time to talk money. Over the course of 20 years, three relationships and three presidencies, Darja negotiates for her future with men who can offer her love or security, but never both. A darkly funny, heartbreaking portrait of a woman for who love is a luxury – and a liability – as she fights to survive in America.
Written by Martyna Majok and directed by Susan Leslie, it runs July 14 through July 16 at the Broadwater Second Stage in Hollywood. For tickets, visit www.ironboundla.com.
“Penthesilea” For the hearth – for the horde! “Penthesilea” is the story of the Amazon warriors who went to the Trojan War to protect their way of life and left a legend in their wake.
Written by Danielle Ozymandias and directed by Bree Pavey and Danielle Ozymandias, it runs July 14 through Aug. 6 at the Loft Ensemble in North Hollywood. For tickets, call (818) 452-3153 or visit www.loftensemble.org.
“Rogers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella” The timeless enchantment of a magical fairy tale is reborn with the Rodgers & Hammerstein hallmarks of originality, charm and elegance. Originally presented on television in 1957 starring Julie Andrews, Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Cinderella was the most widely viewed program in the history of the medium. Its recreation in 1965 starring Lesley Ann Warren was no less successful in transporting a new generation to the miraculous kingdom of dreams-come-true, and so was a second remake in 1997, which starred Brandy as Cinderella and Whitney Houston as her Fairy Godmother.
Written by Carter Beane, original book by Oscar Hammerstein, II, with music by Richard Rodgers, lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein, II, and directed by Yvette Lawrence, it runs July 14 through July 23 at the Kavli Theatre at the Bank of America Performing Arts Center in Thousand Oaks. For tickets, call (800) 745-3000 or visit www.5startheatricals.com.
“The Turn of the Screw” Based on the provocative tale of suspense, horror and repressed sexuality, this adaptation gives the famous story yet another turn of its own. A young governess journeys to a lonely English manor house to care for two recently orphaned children. But she is not their first governess. Her predecessor, Miss Jessel, drowned herself when she became pregnant by the sadistic valet Peter Quint, who was himself found dead soon after under mysterious circumstances. Now the new governess has begun to see the specters of Quint and Jessel haunting the children, and she must find a way to stop the fiends before it is too late. But one frightening question tortures the would-be heroine: Are the ghosts real or are they the product of her own fevered imagination?
Written by Jeffrey Hatcher, based on the novella by Henry James, and directed by Jeramiah Peay, it runs July 14 through July 30 at the Sierra Madre Playhouse in Sierra Madre. For tickets, call (626) 355-4318 or visit www.sierramadreplayhouse.org.
“Crabs in a Bucket” is an outrageous, smart and very funny satire about the impact of “crab mentality” on oppressed communities whose members work against one another instead of together. Amargo and Pootz are two bitter crabs living in a shucking bucket. They spend their days talking chit about the crabs that got out, the ones who couldn’t take it and the losers who still live among them. When a new crab arrives filled with optimism and hope for change, can it help them achieve their life-long dream of getting the shuck out?
Written by Bernardo Cubría and directed by Alana Dietze, it runs July 15 through Aug. 21 at the Echo Theater Company in the Atwater Village Theatre in Atwater Village. For tickets, call (310) 307-3753 or visit www.EchoTheaterCompany.com.
“La Havana Madrid” tells the story of Chicago’s legendary nightclub that served in the 1960s as the social hub for the city’s Cuban, Colombian and Puerto Rican communities. What began as a chapter of the Cuban American society in the middle 1950s became a must-stop for all the popular Latin musicians of that era. Step back to the 1960s as the Mission transforms into La Havana Madrid, Chicago’s legendary nightclub where newly arrived Latino immigrants dine, dance and find community. As the glorious rhythms of mambo and salsa form the heartbeat of an ever-changing city, we learn the stories of Cuban, Puerto Rican and Colombian settlers seeking refuge in a strange new place, discovering their destinies and falling madly in love. At La Havana Madrid, it doesn’t matter where you come from – music means home, and everyone is welcome!
Written by Sandra Delgado and directed by Cheryl Lynn Bruce, it runs July 15 through Aug. 4 at the Mission San Juan Capistrano in San Juan Capistrano. For tickets, call (714) 708-5555 or visit www.scr.org.
“A Perfect Ganesh” Theatricum’s wooded stage takes us from teeming Mumbai to the Chittaurgahr Pass, Jodhpur, the Ganges, the burning ghats of Varanasi and the Taj Mahal, as two upper-middle class friends from Connecticut travel to India with heavy baggage in tow, reeling from loss and personal demons. Manifest in their fellow travelers, the benevolent, elephant-headed Hindu god Ganesha is everyone and everywhere. Fluid in his power to assume any guise, at peace with all things, Ganesha – God of wisdom, prudence, acceptance, love and “remover of obstacles” – is the spiritual center around which the play spins, drawing upon the tragic and the comic, the beautiful and the deplorable, until a breathtaking release arrives for both women at his hands.
Written by Terrence McNally and directed by Mary Jo DuPrey, it runs July 15 through Oct. 7 at the Will Geer Theatricum Botanicum in Topanga. For tickets, call (310) 455-3723 or visit www.theatricum.com.
“Dorothy’s Adventures in Oz” In this joyous, vibrant musical comedy we follow a grown-up Dorothy on a quest to return to Oz to save her family farm, a perfect theatre outing for anyone between the age of 2 and 102, with plenty of reflection on our current social climate to keep things engaging (and humorous) for adults. This magical, engaging musical allows young people of all ages to discover some valuable lessons about the importance of truth, honor and self-esteem, with some tips on how to be good citizens of the world as they follow the escapades of Dorothy and her companions along the windy road to that mystical place where dreams really do come true and nothing is as it seems. Along the way, they will do battle with the vain but glorious Queen Coo-ee-oh, join forces with a vagabond princess who is revolting (although she doesn’t look it), meet a Patchwork Girl, a Rainbow Maiden, face such looming monsters as war, drought and mortgages, learn a great deal about the world around them, and even a little bit about themselves.
Written by L. Frank Baum and directed by Chris DeCarlo, it runs July 16 through Aug. 27 at the Santa Monica Playhouse in Santa Monica. For tickets, call (310) 394-9779 or visit www.santamonicaplayhouse.com/dorothy-in-oz.
“Doris and Ivy in the Home” Retired prison guard Doris Mooney has just moved to Paradise Village, a retirement home in Canmore, Alberta. She quickly befriends Ivy Hoffbauer, a former world champion skier who’s taken aback by Doris’ brash cheerfulness. Rounding out the trio is dapper Arthur Beech, who has designs on Ivy. Love, gossip and sex behind the compost heap, this is Norm Foster at his hilarious best.
Written by Norm Foster and directed by Warren Davis, it runs July 20 through Aug. 23 at the Theatre Forty in Beverly Hills. For tickets, call (310) 364-0535 or visit www.theatre40.org.
“Moon Over Buffalo” This uproarious backstage comedy centers on George and Charlotte Hay, fading stars of the 1950s. At the moment, they are playing “Cyrano de Bergerac” and “Private Lives” in rep in Buffalo, New York with five actors. On the brink of their break-up caused by George’s dalliance with the young ingenue, they receive news that Frank Capra, the famous Hollywood director, is coming to town to see their matinee; and if he likes what he sees, he might cast them in his movie remake of “The Scarlet Pimpernel.” Unfortunately for George and Charlotte, everything that could go wrong does go wrong, including a visit from their daughter’s clueless fiancé and hilarious uncertainty about which show they are actually performing, caused by Charlotte’s deaf, old stage manager mother who hates every bone in George’s body. Hilarity ensues with numerous mistaken identities, much slapstick humor and sexual innuendo filling their back-and-forth backstage banter!
Written by Ken Ludwig and directed by Gail Bernardi, it runs July 21 through Aug. 12 at the Westchester Playhouse in Los Angeles. For tickets, call (310) 645-5156 or visit www.kentwoodplayers.org.
“One Moment of Freedom” is the little-known story of Bet, a courageous enslaved woman who sued her enslaver in court in 1780 for the basic human right to be free, ultimately leading to the abolition of slavery in Massachusetts.
Written by Marion J. Zola and directed by Linda Alznauer, it runs July 27 through Aug. 27 at the Theatre Forty in the Mary Levin Cutler Theatre at Beverly Hills High School in Beverly Hills. For tickets, call (310) 364-3606 or visit www.theatre40.org.
Remember, it is an honor to have the freedom to enjoy the arts as you wish to, so please help to protect that choice by supporting live theater whenever you can.
Steve Zall, Publisher
Sid Fish, Co-Publisher and Editor