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The Ahmanson Takes a More Adventurous Path : Theater: New season has U.S. premiere of a David Hare play, a new musical, an adaptation of 'The Woman Warrior,' a Neil Simon hit and 'Miss Saigon.'

March 24, 1994|DON SHIRLEY | TIMES STAFF WRITER

After a year of presenting only established Broadway shows, the Ahmanson Theatre's 1994-95 season will take a more adventurous approach.

The American premiere of a David Hare play, a new musical revue devoted to the work of Los Angeles-based songwriters Leiber and Stoller, and a stage adaptation of Maxine Hong Kingston's "The Woman Warrior" will join Neil Simon's latest Broadway hit and the already announced "Miss Saigon."

The first production on the list, Hare's 1990 play "Racing Demon," is being offered as a preseason bonus for three weeks only, Oct. 5-23, as part of a citywide UK/LA Festival. The production is from the Royal National Theatre Company, directed by Richard Eyre, and will feature Oliver Ford Davies and Michael Bryant, who won Olivier Awards for their performances in London. The play examines tensions between a skeptical vicar and an evangelical young curate in an urban parish of the Church of England.

"A Celebration of the Songs of Leiber and Stoller" will arrive at the Doolittle for a Nov. 10-Jan. 22 run, following its premiere in Chicago. The focus of the tribute, songwriters Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller, are known for such hits as "Spanish Harlem," "Jailhouse Rock," "Is That All There Is?" and "Stand by Me." Otis Sallid conceived and will direct and choreograph the show.

Except for "Miss Saigon," all of the shows will be presented at the Doolittle Theatre in Hollywood instead of the Ahmanson itself. The Ahmanson is currently being refurbished and won't reopen until the Jan. 17 preview of "Miss Saigon." The show officially opens Jan. 25 and continues through Oct. 25, 1995.

Twice during the mid-'80s, the Ahmanson's sister theater, the Mark Taper Forum, announced an adaptation of two Kingston books, "The Woman Warrior" and "China Men," under the title "The Woman Warrior." The project was twice set aside because of adaptation problems, Center Theatre Group producing director Gordon Davidson said. Last December, a new adaptation by Deborah Rogin was workshopped at the Taper's New Work Festival, and Rogin has licked the script's previous problems, Davidson said.

"Woman Warrior" will be a co-production with Martin Rosen, Berkeley Repertory Theatre and Huntington Theatre in Boston. Because director Sharon Ott is staging it first for the proscenium stage at Berkeley Rep, where she is the artistic director (followed by the Huntington), Davidson has changed his previous plan to present it on the Taper's thrust stage and moved it to the Doolittle's proscenium stage for a Feb. 16-April 23 run.

The season will conclude with Simon's Broadway hit about an early TV comedy series, "Laughter on the 23rd Floor," May 4-July 9, 1995.

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