Productions inspired by films, a movie made of a theatrical event, revivals of classics and world premieres promise an inspiring fall theater season.
On screen, as part of the Culture Vulture film series at Laemmle Playhouse 7, Kenneth Branagh directs a swoon-worthy “Romeo & Juliet” with the couple who played his fairytale lovers in 2015 film “Cinderella”: Richard Madden and Lily James. Set in the 1950s, this cinematic presentation of the British stage production, filmed in black and white, screens Sept. 19-20.
On stage, A Noise Within brings dysfunctional relationships to the forefront, its season beginning with Tom Stoppard’s science-related work, “Arcadia,” running from Sept. 4 to Nov. 20. Here, the action splits between two time periods as the mystery of a math-minded hermit is unraveled to reveal a romantic tragedy. ANW’s next playbill features Jean Genet’s “The Maids,” running Sept 18 to Nov. 12, in which two maids enact sadomasochistic rituals as they imagine murdering. Finally, Moliere’s “The Imaginary Invalid” (Oct. 9 to Nov. 19) lightens things up a bit with a hilarious romantic romp in which the titular hypochondriac hopes to economize by marrying his daughter to a physician.
Across town at the Pasadena Playhouse, Harvey Schmidt and Tom Jones’ “The Fantasticks,” about how two lovers separated by a wall learn to differentiate between dreams and what true love really means, runs from Sept. 6 to Oct. 2. Next up, a more mysterious coupling between a diplomat and a Peking Opera performer explores the problems and prejudices between East and West in David Henry Hwang’s Tony Award-winning “M. Butterfly” (Oct. 25 to Nov. 20).
Boston Court takes on the topic of terrorism in its rolling world premiere of Idris Goodwin’s “Bars and Measures” (Sept. 15 to Oct. 23). As the story goes, two musician brothers are divided by their art and faith, with the jazz-playing Muslim brother being charged with terrorism and the Christian classical pianist sibling struggling to discern the truth.
If you can’t always handle the truth, to paraphrase Jack Nicholson, Wicked Lit is back at Mountain View Mausoleum and Cemetery with three new haunting tales making their world premieres: H.P. Lovecraft’s “From Beyond,” about a scientist who is seeing strange things; “Anansi and the Demons,” featuring a tricky storyteller who summons demons; and “The Shadowy Third,” the story of a shy girl, an insane mother and a doctor. Wicked Lit’s Halloween season begins on Oct. 1 and ends Nov. 12.
Glendale’s Alex Theater looks at an old tragedy in a new musical, “I Am Alive.” Presented by Well Orchestrated Madness and Armenians of Colorado, the story revolves around two survivors who lose their families during the Armenian Genocide (Sept. 10-11). For one-day only (Sept. 25), Musical Theatre Guild presents the Tony Award-winning “Promises, Promises,” based on the Academy Award-winning film “The Apartment,” which explains what you get when you fall in love in this Neil Simon (book), Hal David (lyrics) and Burt Bacharach (music) classic about an ambitious young man who allows executives to use his apartment for their extramarital hanky-panky. The guild also stages a concert version of James Valcq and Fred Alley’s “The Spitfire Grill,” in which the eatery is being raffled off and offers hope and opportunity (Nov. 13).
At the Pasadena Civic Auditorium, British comedians John Cleese and Eric Idle will mix hopefully naughty bits with musical numbers and improvised storytelling in “Together Again at Last and For the Very First Time” on Nov. 11. On Nov. 15, American humorist and author David Sedaris will share his witty observations during “An Evening with David Sedaris.”
“Simple Gifts” brings the music of Vivaldi, Strauss, Beethoven and Copland together with the Cashmore Marionettes for scenes of everyday life at Caltech’s Ramo Auditorium (Oct. 14-15).
The Distinguished Speakers series brings Gen. David Petraeus, once commander of Allied forces in Iraq and Afghanistan and CIA director, to the Ambassador Auditorium on Oct. 26. And on Nov. 9 Diana Nyad tells of what it took to swim from Cuba to Florida.
At the David Henry Hwang Theatre, the East West Players use traditional instruments to tell the tale of Dojoji — an obsessive and supernatural love story, in “Road to Kumano” (Sept. 15-25), a collaboration by the players with the lead female performer of the taiko group Kodo and the Japanese TAIKOPROJECT. From Nov. 11 to Dec. 11, a tale of two sisters, “Kentucky,” makes its West Coast premiere. Here, one sister is determined to break up the wedding plans of the other during a weekend in the Bluegrass State.
Shakespeare’s “Macbeth,” in operatic form via Giuseppe Verdi, is at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion from Sept. 17 to Oct. 16. The LA Opera will follow that with Philip Glass’ story of Egyptian Pharaoh “Akhenaten” and his bride Nefertiti.
The Ahmanson Theatre brings the 2016 Tony Award-winning revival of Arthur Miller’s “A View from the Bridge,” the story of how a longshoreman’s obsessive love for his niece explodes when she falls in love with an immigrant. This production, running from Sept. 7 to Oct. 16, follows sold-out runs in London’s West End, on Broadway and at the Music Center. If you were enchanted by the Oscar-nominated movie “Amélie,” then “Amélie, A New Musical” is a must-see. The production premiered in San Francisco to good reviews and is the Ahmanson’s holiday show from Dec. 4 to Jan. 15.
Another musical stage production is sure to charm: August Wilson’s “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom,” from Sept. 1 to Oct. 16 at the Mark Taper Forum. Tony Award-winner Phylicia Rashad directs this tale about ambition, art and the business of the blues during the Roaring ’20s, inspired by the real Mother of the Blues, Gertrude “Ma” Rainy.
REDCAT offers some innovative productions that stretch our understanding of theater. “Tammy/Lisa: From Misery and Meaning” (Sept. 29 to Oct. 2) is a live musical production with Lauren Weedman as Tammy Lisa in a cabaret form with funny and dark songs of heartbreak, gay boys, straight boys, volatile love, side-splitting comedy, and bliss. In opera form, Ted Hearne and Daniel Fish look at “The Source,” US Army Private, Chelsea (formerly Bradley) Manning, who leaked classified documents to WikiLeaks (Oct. 19- 23). On Oct. 28, artist Miwa Matreyek, Ohio poet David Baker and LA’s River Song Quintet join in a double bill that features dream-like multimedia animation with live shadow play, and music combined with spoken word. Lastly, Tony and Obie Award-winning writer and composer Mark Stewart (known best by his stage name Stew) with long-time collaborator Heidi Rodewald delve into the rich legacy of James Baldwin in a new musical event, “Notes of a Native Song,” Dec. 14-17.
For one short weekend, Nov. 11-13 at Staples Center, visitors can enter the prequel world of James Cameron’s “Avatar” as imagined by Cirque du Soleil in “Toruk — The First Flight.” Narrated by a Na’vi storyteller, the performance takes you into the world of Pandora thousands of years before humans set foot on there.
Local Christmas offerings include A Noise Within’s adaptation of “A Christmas Carol” (Dec. 2-23) while the Pasadena Playhouse provides a fairytale for the family, “A Cinderella Christmas” (Dec. 8 to Jan. 8). Not to be outdone, the Sierra Madre Playhouse goes to a little house on the prairie from Nov. 18 to Dec. 23 with “A Little House Christmas,” adapted from stories by Laura Ingalls Wilder
A Noise Within
3352 E. Foothill Blvd., Pasadena
(626) 356-3100 | anoisewithin.org
The Alex Theatre
216 N. Brand Blvd., Glendale
(818) 243-ALEX (2539) | alextheatre.org
70 N. Mentor Ave., Pasadena
(626) 683-6883 | bostoncourt.com/the-theatre-at-boston-court
1200 E. California Blvd., Pasadena
(626) 395-4652 | email@example.com
Cirque du Soleil
The David Henry Hwang Theater
120 Judge John Aiso St., Los Angeles
(213) 625-7000 | eastwestplayers.org
Distinguished Speakers Series
(310) 546-6222 | speakersla.com
The Dorothy Chandler Pavilion (at the Music Center)