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STAGE WATCH

George Schaefer to Direct Musical Comedy L.A.; Budgetary Constraints Slash Taper Rep Season

March 05, 1987|SYLVIE DRAKE | Times Theater Writer

While Broadway musicals become scarcer and scarcer, the rest of the country is not waiting around for things to change. Certainly not Los Angeles.

Nothing will replace the Broadway blockbuster and we're still counting on the Shuberts and Nederlanders to bring us those. But in the absence of anything newer than star-name revivals (the Los Angeles Civic Light Opera is giving us Mickey Rooney in "A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum" and Joel Grey in "Cabaret"), what's wrong with some local competition? Not a thing.

Consider: The stylish "Three Postcards" recently closed at South Coast Repertory in Costa Mesa; the Mark Taper will be doing "Roza," directed by Hal Prince, April 30; the California Music Theatre is claiming its piece of the musical comedy pie in Pasadena; so's the Long Beach Civic Light Opera in Long Beach; even the Pasadena Playhouse is into mini-musicals, with "Three Guys Naked from the Waist Down" (March 17) and "Mail" (July 14). And now?

Now UCLA has announced that the chairman of its Theater, Film and Television Dept., director George Schaefer, will serve as artistic director of Musical Comedy L.A., a new, professional musical theater company. On the agenda: rotating repertory productions of "Leave It to Jane" (which Schaefer will stage) and "The Boys from Syracuse," starting July 10 for six weeks at the Doolittle Theatre. Why musicals?

FOR THE RECORD
Los Angeles Times Saturday March 7, 1987 Home Edition Calendar Part 6 Page 10 Column 2 Entertainment Desk 2 inches; 44 words Type of Material: Correction
Robert Fryer, artistic director of the Center Theatre Group at the Ahmanson, will not retire from that post at the end of the 1986-87 season as stated in Thursday's Calendar. Fryer will remain at the Ahmanson through the 1987-88 season, when he will be joined by director Martin Manulis, who was selected to succeed him.

"Because I love them and I've done less musical comedy than I would have liked to in my career," Schaefer said Tuesday. "We also wanted to establish the UCLA ownership of this theater and take advantage of its size for intimate musicals in the old spirit--without miking, with a 12-piece orchestra and singers who can sing."

Plans call for a professional company of about 30. This will mean a few prominent actors in key roles and, where possible, students and faculty in peripheral ones.

"The money will lure no one," Schaefer asserted. "The only standard will be: 'Are they exactly right?' These shows are not star vehicles. They're company shows."

"Leave It to Jane," with book and lyrics by Guy Bolton and P. G. Wodehouse and music by Jerome Kern, celebrates the 70th anniversary of its Broadway opening this year. "The Boys from Syracuse," based on Shakespeare's "Comedy of Errors" (book by George Abbott, music and lyrics by Lorenz Hart and Richard Rodgers) is one year shy of its 50th. The Megaw did a production of it in 1983, but "Leave It to Jane" hasn't been touched since Burbank's Golden Mall Playhouse gave it a spin in 1977.

"It's a delicious show," Schaefer emphasized. "Very American."

REP MINOR: It's been a painful decision, but budgetary constraints have forced Taper artistic director Gordon Davidson to slash back his seventh Taper Rep. Instead of the three major shows he had hoped to do at the Doolittle Theatre, Davidson will do two smaller contemporary ones at the Taper, "mainly because I'm determined," he said. "It will be very modest. The emphasis will be on the power of combining plays. It won't be real company work (true rep). It won't be Shakespeare or Moliere."

Or Racine. Or Calderon.

Originally, Davidson had planned productions of "Phaedra," "The Winter's Tale" and "The Mayor of Zalamea." Elaborate, demanding and expensive stuff. Instead, he's doing two Joe Orton plays: "Entertaining Mr. Sloane" and "Loot," both to be directed by John Tillinger (who staged them in New York in 1981 and '86, respectively, winning a Tony nomination for "Loot"). Previews begin June 28, with openings July 11 and 12.

Ironically, "This is a very successful season," Davidson said. "We're right on budget, both expenses and income." But the rep requires extra funds and this year's accommodation is a small fire "to keep the long-range plans alive."

HONORS: Scott Kelman of Pipeline, the Taper's Davidson and Robert Fryer of the Ahmanson have been selected to receive special honors at the 18th Los Angeles Drama Critics' Circle Awards.

Kelman will receive the Circle's Margaret Harford Award, named after the late Times theater critic and columnist who actively championed smaller Los Angeles theaters. It goes to Kelman, who founded Pipeline Productions in 1982 which operates out of two downtown spaces--the Wallenboyd and Boyd St. Theaters--for his theater of social concern and his respect for the personal visions of performance artists.

Davidson is being honored with a special award in recognition of his 20 years of stewardship at the Music Center's most adventurous theater. And Fryer, who retires as artistic director of the Center Theatre Group-Ahmanson at the end of the current season, will be the Circle's guest of honor. At retirement, he will have steered the Ahmanson for 16 years.

The awards ceremony begins at 8 p.m. on April 6 in The Times' Harry Chandler Auditorium, preceded by a cocktail reception at 6:30 p.m. (213) 465-0070).

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