The months ahead promise a world of classics at the county's prime theatrical venues, with appearances by everyone from Moliere's Alceste and Celimene to the Gershwins' Porgy and Bess.
Of course, no self-respecting season could possibly get by without Dolly Levi, Tevye or the Phantom. All will be showing up with bells on.
If they don't slake the county's thirst for characters of every stripe, there's plenty more where they come from.
Are you ready for Les and Bess, Adam and Eve, Penn and Teller? How about Lopakhin and Madame Ranevsky, Dorothy and the Wizard, Petruchio and Katherine, Joseph and his amazing coat?
Richard, Duke of Gloucester, is also standing in the wings, along with Willy Loman, Bottom and his ragtag crew, contortionists and aerialists, even a fire-eater.
Whether they do their stuff on college campuses or Storefront Row-- a figurative place of brave little theaters in commercial malls and basements-- in a big-top tent, a palace of the performing arts, a professional or community theater, rest assured they'll be coming your way.
All you have to do is show up and buy tickets. The performers (most of the time) will do the rest.
Later this month, the globe-trotting Cirque du Soleil opens in Costa Mesa with its new production, "Alegria," a stellar, back-to-basics edition that celebrates the company's roots. The title, meaning "joy" in Spanish, may be slightly misleading because the show does not shrink from striking darker chords.
But, as ever, you'll see spectacular acts and splashy performers. You'll hear a new musical score (this time it's folksy). And you'll witness the bizarre human grace that has made Cirque's worldwide reputation.
Local impresarios also have booked some famous performers for lovers of Broadway chestnuts.
Theodore Bikel will stop at the Cerritos Center for the Performing Arts in March to reprise his frequent role as Tevye, the milkman, in "Fiddler on the Roof." Though he did not originate Tevye--the late Zero Mostel did--Bikel is more closely associated than anyone else these days with this legendary 1964 musical.
Carol Channing will be stopping at the Orange County Performing Arts Center in June to reprise her 1964 Tony Award-winning role in "Hello, Dolly!" In case you're one of the few people on the planet who doesn't remember, she plays Dolly Levi, the most famous marriage broker to grace the musical stage. And Channing gets to keep that old "half-a-millionaire," Horace Vandergelder, for herself. As Dolly always puts it: "I meddle."
On another level entirely, the Houston Grand Opera will be coming to OCPAC, also in June, with its latest staging of "Porgy and Bess." The casting hasn't been announced, but all of Catfish Row will be there. You'll meet tragic Porgy, a legless cripple who is desperately in love with Crown's woman Bess; city slicker Sportin' Life, a cynical drug dealer who wants Bess for himself, and beautiful Bess, who succumbs to Sportin' Life's seduction despite her love for Porgy.
Meanwhile, the future is already with us.
On Thursday, the Laguna Playhouse launched the Southland premiere of Lee Kalcheim's comedy, "Breakfast With Les and Bess," at the Moulton Theatre. These two radio hosts have spent too many years broadcasting their morning show from the living room of their posh Manhattan apartment. On this particular morning, however, their lives change.
Tonight, just north of the county line, "The Wizard of Oz" premieres at the La Mirada Theatre, with Cathy Rigby reprising her 1981 theatrical debut as Dorothy.
Also tonight, A. R. Gurney's "Love Letters" opens at the Vanguard Theatre Ensemble without interchangeable pairs of celebrity performers, a gimmick that put this show on the theatrical map. (It's essentially a staged reading.) The storefront production features "famous pairings from the Vanguard's past," a tongue-in-cheek reminder not to expect household names.
Over at South Coast Repertory, the county's only professional resident company, an updated version of Moliere's 17th-Century comedy "The Misanthrope" will have its premiere Jan. 13. (The show begins previews tonight on the SCR Mainstage.) As usual, the great French satirist pokes fun at flatterers, hypocrites, idealists and lovers.
But count on director David Chambers to spring a surprise. Whether it's the concept, the agenda or the style, he generally has something up his sleeve. Whatever he does to drive home his point, he has the advantage of using Richard Wilbur's scintillating translation. It's the best English-language version--faithful to the spirit of Moliere and brilliant at re-creating the flavor of his rhymed couplets.
Margaret Edson's "Wit," a new work by a first-time playwright, opens later this month on the SCR Second Stage. The theater describes it in a press release as a drama about a respected language scholar confronted by a life-threatening illness: "She fights back with the most effective weapons in her arsenal, wisdom and wit." (I'd guess that means she doesn't get better.)