YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollections

COMPANY B : With Many Stars Out, GroveShakespeare's Annual Benefit Makes Best of Midsummer's Eve

August 06, 1992|JAN HERMAN | Jan Herman covers theater for The Times Orange County Edition.

When GroveShakespeare sent out invitations to Monday's "A Midsummer Night's Eve III," it was billed as "a star-studded benefit performance" to raise money for the classical theater company in Garden Grove.

The stars announced for the show read like an A-list from the Tony Awards.

But now, only a few days before the event at the outdoor Festival Amphitheatre, the celebrity lineup has changed so radically that the producer's motto might be: "Yes, we have no (top) bananas."

Stacy Keach has sent his regrets. F. Murray Abraham canceled. Edward James Olmos begged off. Tyne Daly won't be there as promised. Nor will Des McAnuff. Ditto for Robert Guillaume. Even David Birney and Joan Van Ark, currently starring in GroveShakespeare's "Macbeth," can't make it. Maryann Plunkett and Jay Saunders are no-shows. And George Hearn is a maybe.

"We lost a lot of our big guns to all kinds of projects (of their own)," Grove artistic director W. Stuart McDowell, who is staging the show, said earlier this week.

So who's left?

Well, there's Sally Kirkland. And Donna McKechnie. Loretta Swit is reported to be coming, as well as Jonelle Allen, Michael Learned, Susan Watson, Harris Yulin, John Vickery, Alan Mandell, Gary Armagnac, Charles Carroll, Alan Feinstein, Chuck Estes, Lee Merriwether and Marshall Boren.

Pending any last-minute changes, of course.

McDowell has planned the show as a tribute to the late Joseph Papp, producer of the New York Shakespeare Festival who also helped develop such Broadway musicals as "A Chorus Line," "Hair," "Two Gentlemen From Verona" and "The Mystery of Edwin Drood."

Initially, McDowell hoped to cast only performers who had a direct link to Papp, many of whom have migrated to Southern California. But that has changed as well. While several in the show do have some connection with Papp, more do not. Nevertheless, the evening will be rich with reminiscences, McDowell said. Feinstein will read a narration of Papp's life. And performers who knew Papp will relate personal anecdotes, in addition to doing songs and/or scenes from productions he cast them in. Several of the absentees are also expected to send telegrams detailing their own associations with Papp.

"If I can keep the stories in line we'll get out before breakfast," McDowell said. "What I can't tell you are the names of two surprise guests who are almost certainly going to be there. They're two big names in the business."

Elements of the evening's entertainment that McDowell said he was certain of include:

* Allen singing tunes from "Two Gentlemen" and "Hair," McKechnie performing several songs from "A Chorus Line" and Swit doing songs from "Drood."

* Kirkland, "our honorary featured guest," playing scenes from "Largo Desolato" and "That Championship Season" (both produced by Papp), among other theater works.

* Mandell doing dramatic excerpts from "The Merchant of Venice," "The Tempest" and (possibly) several Beckett plays.

* Armagnac doing an excerpt from his one-man show about Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf, "The Briefing," which was described as "a contemporary interpretation of Shakespeare in military dress."

McDowell said he did not know how much it will cost to produce the benefit but that the Grove expects to raise between $10,000 and $12,000. Tickets are $25 for the show, or $100 for the show and dinner with an open bar.

What: " A Midsummer Night's Eve III."

When: Monday, Aug. 10, at 8:30 p.m (for the show) or at 5:30 p.m. (for pre-show cocktails and dinner).

Where: Festival Amphitheatre, 12852 Main St., Garden Grove.

Whereabouts: From the Garden Grove (22) Freeway, exit at Euclid Avenue and go north. Follow to Garden Grove Boulevard east, then turn right on Main Street.

Wherewithal: $25 for the show; $100 for the show and dinner.

Where to call: (714) 636-7213.

Los Angeles Times Articles