News Column

Classic musical favorites are heading to theaters this 2013/14 season

July 22, 2013

YellowBrix

July 22--Since the early 1900s, musical theater has told stories through music and a gamut of emotions -- from humor to pathos.

Stories are told on stages throughout the world, captivating audiences with music, song and dance in every culture.

Although stories are told principally with spoken dialogue, actors are known periodically to burst into song or dance.

This season, theaters in Southern California are presenting Broadway mega hits, trendy shows, and revivals, but overwhelmingly, the tried and true favorites.

The 2013-14 season, which leans heavily on standards, seems to reaffirm that the proven, popular shows will always make the marquee, especially in an economy that competes

for entertainment dollars.

At Redlands' prestigious Theatre Festival, now in its 41st year, founding producing director Cliff Cabanilla said the musical "Hairspray" is on this season's bill of fare because it is the "Grease" of today.

In "Hairspray," a girl achieves her dream of performing on a TV dance show in 1960s Baltimore -- and works to integrate the show in the process.

"It's popular with young audiences," Cabanilla said. "The music is charming, the cast is huge which gives a lot of people the chance to participate, and also the show's a challenge."

The Theatre Festival's five plays are presented in repertory and include a Broadway musical, a classic work, a new piece (premiere), a contemporary work and a jukebox musical.

Broadway and literary icon "Les Miserables" is trending this year, making the rounds at the California Theatre of the Performing Arts in San Bernardino; the Gardiner W. Spring Auditorium in Ontario; and the La Mirada Theatre for the Performing Arts.

Adapted from the 1862 Victor Hugo novel, "Les Miserables" is set in post-revolutionary France and centers around unjustly imprisoned Jean Valjean who agrees to care for factory worker Fantina's daughter, Cosette.

Joseph Henson, producer for Theatrical Arts International at the historic California Theatre of the Performing Arts in San Bernardino, is presenting "Les Miz" for both the California Theatre and the Gardiner Spring Auditorium.

He believes in offering Los Angeles-caliber productions to Inland area audiences so they won't have to battle freeway traffic getting to L.A.

"'Les Miz' itself is considered the biggest musical in the world, and it's gotten even bigger after the film with all the Academy Award nominations," says Henson, who has produced shows all over the country.

"To get it is a dream come true -- it's absolutely

hands-down my favorite musical," Henson said.

The show, which has a huge cast, is mounted in Los Angeles.

If you're looking for the perennial favorites this year, there is a diverse range to choose from: "Porgy and Bess," the story of African Americans living in the slums of Charleston, South Carolina, set to music by George and Ira Gershwin, at the Ahmanson; "The Wizard of Oz," the story of Dorothy who's not in Kansas anymore, and "Evita," the life of Eva Peron, at the Pantages in Los Angeles; "Seven Brides for Seven Brothers," set in 1850 Oregon, the story of seven disorderly brothers a-courtin' seven women, at Claremont's Candlelight Pavilion and LifeHouse Theater in Redlands; "The Producers," in which a producer and an accountant scheme to put on the world's worst show, at the Norris Center for the Performing Arts in Rolling Hills Estates; and "Little Shop of Horrors," where a nerdish florist enlists the help of a giant man-eating plant to make him successful, at the Long Beach Playhouse.

"Little Shop of Horrors" and "Fiddler on the Roof," about a Jewish milkman who tries to maintain his family's traditions, are being produce by not one, not two, but three different theaters including the Kentwood Players at the Westchester Playhouse, Whittier Community Theatre at The Centre Theatre, and Citrus Musical Theatre Workshop at the Haugh Performing Arts Center.

"Roald Dahl's Willy Wonka," the story of a poor young boy who wins a golden ticket to see the chocolate factory of the eccentric Willy Wonka by the Torrance Theatre Co.; the high-energy "Hairspray" at the Redlands Theatre Festival; "Sunset Boulevard" with the faded silent film star Norma Desmond by Musical Theatre West in Long Beach; and "The Sound of Music," the true story of the irrepressible nun Maria who leaves the convent in Austria to become the governess of Capt. Von Trapp's seven children, at the Redlands Bowl are samplings of the popular offerings this season,

Worldwide Theatricals Producer Jesse Dinkel is presenting "Rent," also at the California Theatre.

"'Rent' was workshoped 20 years ago and this is an anniversary kind of thing," he said. "The first time anyone saw it on stage it opened off-Broadway before moving to Broadway. Some things we do because we love them and it's our passion and our art; some things we do because other people love them and they sell tickets; and some things -- like the classics and new works -- because they are part of the creative process."

michel.nolan@inlandnewspapers.com

@MichelNolan on Twitter

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(c)2013 the San Bernardino County Sun (San Bernardino, Calif.)

Visit the San Bernardino County Sun (San Bernardino, Calif.) at www.sbsun.com

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