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Ahmanson Adds 'Woods,' 'Allergist's Wife' to Season

Theater * Revival of Sondheim musical and Charles Busch's latest join Disney's 'Aida' and Bourne's 'Car Man.'

April 24, 2001|DON SHIRLEY | TIMES THEATER WRITER

"Into the Woods" creators Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine will mount a revival of their Brothers Grimm-inspired musical at the Ahmanson Theatre in February--part of a season that also will include Charles Busch's comedy "The Tale of the Allergist's Wife" and two previously announced shows: Disney's musical "Aida" and Matthew Bourne's dance theater production "The Car Man: An Auto-Erotic Thriller."

Today's announcement of the Ahmanson season also reveals that a touring production of Michael Frayn's Tony-winning drama "Copenhagen" will open in November at the Wilshire Theatre in Beverly Hills. Ahmanson subscribers will be able to purchase tickets to "Copenhagen" as a bonus.

The first national tour of "Into the Woods" played the Ahmanson in 1989. "Those were the Andrew Lloyd Webber years of bigger productions," said Lapine, who wrote the book of the original "Into the Woods," directed it and will stage the new version. This time, he said, he wants a simpler look. Bob Crowley, who previously designed a revival of the show in London, will do the sets.

Sondheim may include songs that were previously cut or songs that he wrote for an as-yet-unfilmed film version, Lapine said. And a different ending may be tried. "There are three or four different endings of the second act. One of them intrigued me at the time, but it wasn't refined, and I chickened out. It required a certain amount of head-scratching to figure it out."

Although currently booked only in L.A., the revival has Broadway in mind--it will be produced by Broadway powerhouse Dodger Theatricals in association with Center Theatre Group. The show's Los Angeles dates are Feb. 4-March 24.

"The Tale of the Allergist's Wife" is a comedy about a Manhattan woman's midlife crisis. Linda Lavin created the role at the off-Broadway Manhattan Theatre Club and on Broadway. Casting for the tour isn't set yet, but Manhattan Theatre Club artistic director Lynne Meadow will direct. It will play the Ahmanson July 17-Sept. 1, 2002.

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The season will open Sept. 12-Oct. 28 with Bourne's "The Car Man," which uses Bizet's score for "Carmen" and "Carmen"-inspired music by Terry Davies and Rodion Shchedrin but drops the rest of the opera. Bourne's narrative, told through dance, is about a stranger who arrives in a small Midwestern town and sets off a sexually charged and ultimately tragic scenario. Inspired by "The Postman Always Rings Twice," the piece has a character named Lana in homage to Lana Turner, star of the first "Postman" movie. But Bourne's story also goes off on its own, with some influences from the Italian movie "Ossessione," he said.

Center Theatre Group invested some seed money in "The Car Man" in London, where it premiered last year. Gordon Davidson, the Ahmanson's artistic director/producer, and Bourne said they would like to do the world premiere of one of his productions at the Ahmanson or, Bourne said, at the Taper--if the production is on a smaller scale. However, unlike Bourne's "Swan Lake" and "Cinderella," "The Car Man" will not receive its U.S. premiere in L.A. It's part of a tour that will open in Minneapolis.

So is "Aida," which opened in Minneapolis on April 6 and will play the Ahmanson from Nov. 11 to Jan. 6.

Conspicuous by its absence on the Ahmanson list is another round of Shakespeare from director Peter Hall, who staged three of the Bard's plays there in the last two years. As recently as February, Davidson mentioned a plan to do another play in the Hall Shakespeare series next season--and since 1999, there has been talk that the series was building up to "King Lear," starring Christopher Plummer.

Shakespeare will return to the Ahmanson, Davidson now says, but not necessarily directed by Hall. "There is a lot of strain in his schedule," Davidson said. "It's very hard for him to spend much time away from his home in England," where he is the father of a young child. Hall's Shakespeare productions received only mixed reviews in Los Angeles.

An April slot on the next season is still to be filled. Davidson expects a home-grown production of a nonmusical play, which Davidson himself may direct.

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