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THEATER | THEATER NOTES

Against the Odds

Classical repertory troupe finds success where others have failed.

May 08, 1997|T.H. McCULLOH | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

The legendary actress, producer and director Eva LeGallienne tried it, and so did the monumental Theatre Guild. But no one seemed to be able to make rotating classical repertory theater really work.

Paying no attention to history, Glendale's popular A Noise Within seems to have found the trick. They're solidly established, and even tour some of the productions in their rotating schedule. And this weekend, they're doing something few other theaters could manage. For a few days, they're bringing back their staging of Tennessee Williams' "The Glass Menagerie."

The group began under the Actors' Equity 99-seat Plan, but they're now in their next step up to a full Equity contract. They've elevated their seating capacity to 144 under a special agreement with the union.

"We feel very thankful for the 99-seat Plan, in terms of allowing us a couple of years to do what we knew that we could do," said artistic director Geoff Elliott. "That must be a key ingredient to long-lasting success, taking it slowly, and not becoming impatient." Providing quality and style helps too.

* "The Glass Menagerie," A Noise Within, 234 S. Brand Blvd, Glendale. Wed.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 and 7 p.m. Ends Sun. $20-$24. (818) 546-1924.

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Royal Role: David Birney was supposed to play Professor Higgins in the Theatre League production of "My Fair Lady" last year, but a television series of his was picked up, and he had to withdraw from the musical. Three weeks later the series was canceled, and as Birney says, he was "out of two jobs at the same time."

He's back with Theatre League now, as King Arthur in "Camelot." The show has played Thousand Oaks, and en route to its last two playing dates in mid- to late May in Tucson and Phoenix, it stops at Glendale's Alex Theatre this weekend. Birney likes short tours, he says, because he doesn't like to be away from his kids too long.

Birney is also an actor who sings. "Although my musical background is limited," he said, "it's limited to shows of this size and nature that have kind of a classical-size role in them. It's why I continue to work in theater. The writing is good, and it's rich. And don't underestimate the most compelling music of the spoken human voice." And don't forget that Lerner and Loewe wrote several leads especially for actors--as opposed to singers.

* "Camelot," Alex Theatre, 216 N. Brand Blvd., Glendale. Thur.-Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat., 2 and 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 and 7 p.m. Ends Sun. $32.50-$37.50. (800) 233-3123.

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