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STAGE NOTES : Design Mix-Up to Delay 'Songs of War' Opening

June 24, 1989|JAN HERMAN | Times Staff Writer

The crew at the Grove Shakespeare Festival is working feverishly to redesign the set of Murray Schisgal's "The Songs of War," which is slated for its world premiere at the Gem Theatre in Garden Grove as the festival's second offering of the season.

The radical redesign, ordered by the playwright, has forced the postponement of the show's opening date from July 7 to July 12, a festival official said Friday. Previews will not be affected, however; they will run July 5-9 as previously scheduled. "Romeo and Juliet" opened last night as the season's first offering, at the Festival Amphitheatre.

Apparently, the "Songs of War" set was designed to look like the back stage of a theater, under the Grove's misconception that the work is a backstage play. In fact, Schisgal's strongly autobiographical play does revolve around a theater performer, and the playwright does want all the props to be visible to the audience even when they're not being used. But Schisgal intends the work to take place virtually on an empty stage, as though the central character has invited an audience to hear the story of his life at a rented theater somewhat gone to seed and didn't want to go to any expense to dress up the place.

'KING' CONSIDERED--At the Orange County Performing Arts Center in Costa Mesa, officials have added "The King and I"--with Rudolf Nureyev--to the list of musical revivals being considered for next season's Broadway Series.

The Rodgers and Hammerstein classic, which won the 1952 Tony award, will begin a world tour this fall with Nureyev in the role that Yul Brynner once made his personal possession.

Other possibilities for the season, reported in The Times in April, are "Les Miserables," "Chess" and "Starlight Express" and, more distantly, "Jerome Robbins' Broadway."

In April, Center President Thomas F. Kendrick said that "Chess" was "not necessarily a show we would want" and that "Starlight Express" was "not at the top of our list." However, Broadway tour offerings have provided slim pickings. The great irony is that next season, Broadway has so many musicals in the offing that it doesn't have enough theaters to accommodate them.

"Les Miz" closes July 23 in Los Angeles after 13 months at the Shubert Theatre and goes to San Francisco in mid-October for an open-ended run. "Chess," which has a pseudo-rock music score, played London and New York to mixed notices. It has been revised and will begin touring in November.

"Starlight Express" also goes on tour in November. Despite negative notices, it ran for two years on Broadway and closed in January. "Jerome Robbins' Broadway" is scheduled to begin an open-ended run at the Shubert Theatre in Los Angeles. The longer it plays there, the more distant the possibility of its coming to the Center.

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