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Summer Splash

Theater / Critic's Pick

May 22, 1997|LAURIE WINER

Forget the Three Tenors, ignore the Three Sopranos, this is the summer of the Three Big Openings. Each one contains its own holy trinity of the theater: Money, National Attention, Talent. In chronological order, they are:

"Ragtime," June 15: Los Angeles will be the first U.S. city to experience this New American Musical, which wears its title proudly. Terrence McNally adapted the E.L. Doctorow bestseller, in which the story of one archetypal middle-class family at the beginning of the century is intertwined with the stories of the great and the famous, characters whose names will be instrumental in defining the American century. Whatever the flaws in its Toronto opening last year, "Ragtime" offered so much artistry and heart that expectation for this production coming to the Shubert is very high.

"Rent," July 13: You've heard about it. Perhaps you've heard it (DreamWorks put out the CD). Now, see it for yourself. Those lovable, drug-addicted kids from New York's Alphabet City make their way to the very antithesis of Avenue A: La Jolla. As he did on Broadway, La Jolla Playhouse artistic director Michael Greif directs this loose homage to "La Boheme." Composer-lyricist Jonathan Larson might have corrected some of the show's bumpy passages had he lived to see "Rent" performed a few times before an audience. But his score has the unmistakable lift of rare talent. If you don't care to drive to La Jolla, "Rent" comes to the Ahmanson on Sept. 28.

"Proposals," July 16: For the sixth time, the Ahmanson will present a Neil Simon premiere. Described as a romantic comedy, "Proposals" will be directed by Joe Mantello (who directed "Love! Valour! Compassion!" on Broadway and at the Geffen Playhouse). A generation removed from Simon, Mantello may bring an interesting edge to the project. The play sounds autumnal--a man has a heart attack and recuperates at a summer cottage in the Pocono Mountains. There he is visited by his ex-wife, his grown daughter and his longtime housekeeper's meandering husband. Plans are to take "Proposals" to Broadway in the fall.

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