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STAGE WATCH

CTG Seasons: From Sondheim to Robert Penn Warren : The Doolittle: 'Jerome Robbins' Broadway' at the Shubert is the first Ahmanson subscription entry. Then it's 'Heidi,' Noel, Steve and Alan in Hollywood.

June 14, 1990|DON SHIRLEY | TIMES STAFF WRITER

R evivals of Stephen Sondheim's "A Little Night Music," with Lee Remick , and Noel Coward's "The Vortex" will play the Doolittle Theatre next year, joining three previously reported shows--"Jerome Robbins' Broadway," "The Heidi Chronicles" and "Henceforward . . . "--to make up the Center Theatre Group's 1990-91 Ahmanson-at-the-Doolittle season.

Meanwhile, the CTG's other wing, the Mark Taper Forum, will open its season in September with "Hope of the Heart"--a dramatization of Chapter Four of Robert Penn Warren's "All the King's Men." And Taper subscribers also will be offered priority tickets to "The Dragons' Trilogy," an import from Quebec's Theatre Repere, which will play UCLA'S Freud Theatre as part of the Los Angeles Festival.

The Ahmanson season was announced by producing director Gordon Davidson. But Davidson, who doubles as artistic director/producer of the Taper, declined to comment on the Taper shows, citing an official announcement of the Taper season he plans to make next week. The Taper information was obtained from sources available to Taper subscribers and confirmed by some of the people involved in the shows.

Most of the Ahmanson season will again take place at the Doolittle Theatre in Hollywood, while the Ahmanson itself is occupied by "The Phantom of the Opera."

But the first entry in the Ahmanson season, "Jerome Robbins' Broadway," is the one show that will not be at the Doolittle. It will open at the Shubert Theatre in Century City Oct. 7 and play through Feb. 23 or 24 (the exact closing date depends on the logistics of the show's move to its next stop, Japan, said co-producer Roger Berlind). "Broadway" was initially announced to open here last November, as part of the current Ahmanson season. Then it was postponed until May, 1991--and the tour was scheduled to open in Boston this October. Now Los Angeles has replaced Boston as the first stop on the tour.

Davidson said he applied pressure on the "Broadway" producers to set a Los Angeles date--"I didn't want to tell the subscribers 'maybe' "--but not necessarily to move Los Angeles ahead of Boston on the itinerary. But he's happy that "we'll get a fresh, first-class production which won't go through the pains of being cut down for touring." There will be "a few (less) people" in this production than in New York, where the show closes Sept. 1, "but not many."

("Broadway" dislodged "City of Angels" from an October date at the Shubert, but "City" is now tentatively expected at the Shubert following "Broadway"--"depending on ('City' director) Michael Blakemore's availability, which depends on a movie he's making," said Berlind, a co-producer of both shows. Davidson said Ahmanson subscribers would also "have first crack" at "City of Angels" tickets--either as a bonus for this season or as a regular part of next season's package, depending on when the show opens.)

Wendy Wasserstein's "The Heidi Chronicles" will play the Doolittle Oct. 11-Dec. 23. This is a switch from a previously reported spring date for the comedy about the effects of the women's movement on an art history professor. Davidson said Los Angeles was moved from the "back end" to the beginning of the Tony- and Pulitzer-winning play's national tour.

In his 1924 play "The Vortex," about the twin addictions of a high-society mother and son, Noel Coward became "the hottest theatrical property in town," according to critic Sheridan Morley. At a London revival last year, Davidson was "knocked out by its physical beauty and its extreme contemporaneousness," and he has scheduled a Doolittle production for Jan. 17-March 31. Robert Allan Ackerman will direct, and the show will use Philip Prowse's design, prepared for the British production Davidson saw. The British producers will share the production credit, but the show will be cast here.

Davidson will direct "A Little Night Music" at the Doolittle for an April 18-June 30 run. "It's my piece de resistance, I hope," said Davidson. "The music will be great in the Doolittle, unamplified." Sondheim will advise, but no rewrites are planned.

Alan Ayckbourn's "Henceforward . . ." had been scheduled for the current season, but Davidson postponed it in February, saying he couldn't get the (unnamed) actor he wanted. It's been moved to the end of next season, though Davidson is still not sure he'll get his man--"it's so far away, I won't get a reasonable commitment" until around "the first of the year," he said. "I would try not to postpone it again." Davidson was going to direct "Henceforward . . . " but now isn't sure, because of the consecutive scheduling of "Night Music" and the Ayckbourn play. "I doubt if I'll do two in a row."

Davidson also discussed a few shows that won't be at the Doolittle. "The (Doolittle's) thousand seats are a little too small, economically, for booked shows, as opposed to the ones we produce ourselves. And the orchestra (seating) is so small. With 1,200 seats and a slightly larger orchestra, we could swing shows like 'Sarafina,' 'M. Butterfly' and 'Largely New York.' "

The producers of these shows wanted to bring them to the Doolittle, said Davidson--and he wanted them to come. But ultimately the potential returns on the investments were deemed too low.

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