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1987 ARTS IN REVIEW : THEATER / Herman Wong : SCR and Segerstrom Hall Openings, 'Quilters' Tops

December 29, 1987|HERMAN WONG

The opening of a $1.6-million South Coast Repertory annex, a national award to the Laguna Playhouse and the opening of Segerstrom Hall as a showplace for musicals topped Orange County's theatrical organization scene in 1987.

The bottom, so to speak, was the flop generated by the Jan. 13 opening of the Freedman Forum's very own, much-heralded production of the "42nd Street" musical. (The opening also had uninvited guests outside: pickets from the stage workers' union seeking to win recognition from the Freedman.)

But "42nd Street," which starred Peter Marshall and Constance Towers, folded after only 27 days, poor reviews and sparse attendance. The Freedman itself shut down, dashing developer Leo Freedman's hopes that the 2,300-seat Anaheim theater-in-the-round would become an important venue for long-running Broadway musicals. (The facility reopened in July as a pop concert hall under the Celebrity Theatre aegis.)

Otherwise, the county's other major operators reported good box office:

-- South Coast Repertory's "Misalliance" this fall drew 3,000 customers in a 51-performance run at SCR's 507-seat Mainstage in Costa Mesa, the largest attendance for any subscription production at SCR.

It was the frosting on an SCR year that already saw the opening in June of the 11,000-square-foot Artists Center as the new home for SCR's offices, technical and rehearsal spaces and new-play development projects.

-- The newest and most formidable entry in the theatrical field--the Orange County Performing Arts Center--reported solid turnouts for musicals staged at its 3,000-seat Segerstrom Hall in Costa Mesa.

These shows included Opera Pacific's "West Side Story" as well as the Center's own presentations of "Stop the World--I Want to Get Off" (with Anthony Newley), "Cabaret" (Joel Grey), "My One and Only" (Tommy Tune and Stephanie Zimbalist) and "Big River."

-- The Grove Theatre Company's "A Child's Christmas in Wales," which just ended a 5 1/2-week run at the 178-seat Gem Theatre in Garden Grove, was one of the company's biggest hits, producing sold-out houses during the final two weeks. The Grove also reported its highest overall membership yet--1,507 subscribers.

-- Laguna Playhouse's 3 1/2-week run of "Quilters" in February not only was a box office success at the 418-seat Moulton Theatre in Laguna Beach, but the musical production also took first place in the national finals held last June by the American Assn. of Community Theatres.

-- The Orange County Black Actors Theatre recorded a first when it staged "For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide/When the Rainbow Is Enuf" at SCR's 161-seat Second Stage. It was the first time another stage organization has used an SCR theater for a multi-performance run.

-- The Stop-Gap drama-therapy group, which received its second Arts Award from the Orange County Business Committee for the Arts, was the first in the county to premiere stage works on AIDS. One was John Weston's "Listen to the Dreaming" last October at Laguna Forum Theatre. The other was "My Brother's Keeper," a short work by Robert Knapp and Stop-Gap's latest touring project for college, high school and junior high school audiences.

-- The Alternative Repertory Theatre made its debut last month in a renovated Santa Ana industrial building. True to its promise of staging provocative plays, the debut work was Jean-Paul Sartre's "No Exit."

-- Another debut was made in September by the Orange Repertory Theatre, whose opener at the Cypress Cultural Arts Center was Clifford Odets' "Golden Boy."

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