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Lythgoe Family Productions betting on panto

Kris Lythgoe — whose father is "American Idol" and “So You Think You Can Dance” producer, Nigel Lythgoe — and his wife, Becky, have a flair for theatrics. The couple staged a murder mystery-themed wedding last April and they're both enthusiastic members of Hollywood's Magic Castle.

Their Lythgoe Family Productions, which puts on interactive, Broadway-style musicals for kids, is becoming something of a force in live, family-friendly entertainment. Lythgoe shows reinterpret panto — the British Christmas tradition dating to the 1700s of musical comedy that mixes classic fairy tales with modern pop songs.

Their latest, “Princess and Pirates Sing-a-Long Concert,” in partnership with the Pasadena Playhouse, is at the Kirk Douglas Theatre on weekends through Aug. 10. It features cast members from the TV shows “Glee” and, not surprisingly, “So You Think You Can Dance” as well as from Broadway's “Next to Normal” and the national tour of “Wicked.” It’s directed and choreographed by “So You Think...

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George Lucas picks architects for his museum in Chicago

George Lucas has chosen the architectural team that will work on his planned museum in Chicago, selecting blue-chip talent both local and international. The team includes Beijing-based Ma Yansong, the founder of China's MAD Architects, and Chicago-based architect and former MacArthur fellow Jeanne Gang.

The "Star Wars" director made the announcement Monday, saying in a release that "we are bringing together some of the top architects in the world to ensure that our museum experience begins long before a visitor ever enters the building."

Leaders said that the design for the Lucas Museum of Narrative Art will be released in late 2014. No completion date for the museum has been officially announced, but Lucas has previously said that he hopes it will open in 2018.

Ma -- who is a relatively young architect, still in his 30s -- will be responsible for the design and overall concept of the museum building, which will be located on Chicago's lakefront museum campus near the ...

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Ford Amphitheatre to close next summer for $19.7-million makeover

The rumble of construction machinery and the thwack of carpentry will be the summer sounds for 2015 at the John Anson Ford Amphitheatre, which is closing for renovations for at least a year and a half after its current season ends in mid-September.

While the $19.7-million makeover is underway, the dancers and musicians who usually hold sway at the 1,196-seat county-owned outdoor theater in Hollywood will fan out to other, as yet undetermined venues around Los Angeles County.

“We will be taking the Ford on the road,” said Laura Zucker, director of the Los Angeles County Arts Commission, the government agency that operates the amphitheater.

When the troupes return to the Ford in spring 2016, they and their audiences will enjoy a new sound-and-lighting system and a new stage that’s expected to be much less punishing for dance groups -- some of which Zucker said have avoided the Ford because it’s so unforgiving to dancers’ ankles and knees.

The stage’s current elevated back tier is...

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Presidential historian Doris Kearns Goodwin on Robert Schenkkan's LBJ

Before attending the world premiere of Robert Schenkkan’s “The Great Society” at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, Times theater critic Charles McNulty asked presidential historian and biographer Doris Kearns Goodwin for her appraisal of “All the Way,” the Tony-winning play that began this two-part dramatic study of Lyndon B. Johnson’s presidency.

I’m curious to know what you thought of “All the Way” and whether Bryan Cranston, who won a Tony for his performance as LBJ, lived up to the memory of the man you once worked for.

I was blown away by “All the Way.” It captured my interest and emotions from start to finish, even as it presented an extraordinarily layered account of the different factions in both the civil rights movement and the Congress. And Bryan Cranston was the man I knew when I was in my twenties -- a veritable force of nature. Moving perpetually around the stage, his voice shifting from soft to loud, Cranston exuded LBJ’s volcanic energy, crudeness, brilliance, self-pity,...

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Cabrillo Music Theatre in Thousand Oaks faces uncertain future

The Cabrillo Music Theatre in Thousand Oaks is facing an uncertain future if it fails to meet a short-term fundraising goal in two weeks' time.

Company leaders are looking to raise a total of $250,000 by early August through individual donations and a series of benefits in Los Angeles and New York.

If the goal isn't met, the Cabrillo will consider canceling its already announced 2014-15 seaon, which is scheduled to begin in November at the company's home at the Thousand Oaks Civic Arts Plaza.

Lewis Wilkenfeld, the company's artistic director, said in an interview that the theater is aiming to raise 80% of the goal by Aug. 1, with the remainder to be raised through benefit concerts and other fundraising events.

Wilkenfield said the company recently recovered from $300,000 of debt but is contending with a shortfall in fundraising and continued weakness in season subscriptions. He also said rent for its theater space is rising.

"It didn't feel responsible going forward," he said,...

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Where is the love? Hit show 'Passing Strange' still hasn't played L.A.

“Hey, Mr. L.A., I know a place that you can stay.” Thus begins the hypnotic number “Keys” from “Passing Strange,” the critically acclaimed 2008 Broadway musical by Stew and Heidi Rodewald (created in collaboration with Annie Dorsen) about the coming-of-age of an L.A. musician who refuses to be imprisoned by limiting racial and artistic expectations.

The narrator, portrayed originally by Stew, the founder and leader of the cult pop-rock combo the Negro Problem, picks up the song about the warm welcome he received as an arty yet still unformed American wanderer in Amsterdam with the following stanza: “Now in Beverly Hills, they gave him chills. / And South Central put his soul in the deep freeze. / But she gave him her keys.”

Who would have thought that these lyrics would have proved prophetic for the show, which unbelievably has yet to have its L.A. premiere?

The question of this musical's conspicuous absence from L.A. was taken up by James Taylor in The Times shortly after the Spike...

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Lou Moore departs as head of Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts

The Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts in Beverly Hills, which only recently completed its inaugural season, confirmed Thursday that Executive Director Lou Moore has left the fledgling arts organization.

Moore, who spent more than a decade raising money to construct the new center and then led its 2013 opening and first season, left the organization on Tuesday.

Company leaders declined to explain the circumstances surrounding her departure, except to say that there were multiple reasons.

Moore said that her departure was due to a difference in the overall vision for programming at the Wallis.

In an interview, the center's board chairman Jerry Magnin said that "Lou did a fantastic job of getting us to where we are." He later added that running the center after its opening required "totally different responsibilities. The pressures on both sides change." 

Leadership shifts "like this are difficult. And you want to get all your pieces in place," he said.

When reached for...

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'Shakespeare in Love' opens in London to mostly raves

"Shakespeare in Love" -- the Oscar-winning 1998 movie that imagined the Bard's romance with a young woman who was secretly aspiring to become an actor -- is the latest film to be reborn as a major stage production.

The new play, adapted from the movie by Lee Hall, opened this week at the Noel Coward Theatre on London's West End. "Shakespeare" stars Lucy Briggs-Owen in the role originated on screen by Gwyneth Paltrow, and Tom Bateman in the title role that was played in the movie by Joseph Fiennes.

Hall had success at adapting another popular movie for the stage -- "Billy Elliot," which went on to become a hit on Broadway.

"Shakespeare," which is a joint production from Disney Theatrical and Sonia Friedman, boasts a pedigreed creative team in the form of director Declan Donnellan and desiger Nick Ormerod, who are from Cheek by Jowl, the British theater company known for its innovative productions of Shakespeare's plays.

The 1998 Miramax movie won seven Oscars, including awards for best...

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Dudamel conducts 'Cav' and 'Pag' at the Hollywood Bowl

When Cornell musicologist Donald Jay Grout wrote his 850-page “A Short History of Opera” in 1947, the textbook, which introduced generations of undergraduate music students to opera, made short shrift of Pietro Mascagni’s “Cavalleria Rusticana” and Ruggiero Leoncavallo’s “Pagliacci.”

But the two one-act operas -- which are commonly joined on a double bill, as they will be Sunday night at the Hollywood Bowl in Los Angeles Philharmonic performances conducted by Gustavo Dudamel -- cannot be ignored by history. Written respectively in 1880 and 1882, they ushered in what became known as verismo opera, opera based on realistic, everyday, melodramatic events.

Grout groused that Mascagni and Leoncavallo drowned out more reserved and aristocratic Italian music with “the bellow of verismo.”

“Verismo is to naturalism what the ‘shocker’ is to the realistic novel,” he wrote. And Grout gloated that just as these short operas about sexual infidelity and murder “burn out with a fierce and unnatural...

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Lord Rothschild to receive second annual J. Paul Getty Medal

Lord Jacob Rothschild -- a member of the prominent British banking family -- has been selected to receive the second annual J. Paul Getty Medal in recognition of his broad contributions to museology, philanthropy, conservation and art historical research.

The award, announced Thursday by James Cuno, chief executive of the Getty, will be given at a ceremony in Los Angeles on Nov. 9. 

The Getty first awarded the medal last year to Harold M. Williams and Nancy Englander for their leadership and contributions in creating the Getty.

Lord Rothschild has served terms as the chairman of the National Gallery of Art in Britain and the National Heritage Memorial Fund. He has also served as chairman of the Pritzker Prize for Architecture and has been actively involved with the State Hermitage Museum of St. Petersburg, the Qatar Museums Authority and other cultural organizations.

Cuno said in an interview that the award doesn't come with a monetary prize. The recipient is decided in a process that...

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L.A. theater openings, July 27-Aug. 3: 'Taming of the Shrew' and more

Independent Shakespeare Co. is livin' la dolce vita with its new staging of "The Taming of the Shrew" in Griffith Park. Plus, Neil Simon's “Broadway Bound” is bound for the Odyssey Theare in a new revival directed by Jason Alexander, and an all-star production of "Hair" takes over the Hollywood Bowl.

HYPERBOLE: bard Rogue Artists Ensemble celebrates all things Shakespeare in this family-friendly show; tickets at UC Irvine, Gateway Commons, next to Aldrich Park, Irvine. Sun., next Sun., 5 p.m.; ends Aug. 24. $20.

Summer Playwrights Festival The Road Theatre Company presents new works by emerging and established artists. Lankershim Arts Center, 5108 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood. Today, 7 p.m.; Mon.-Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat.-next Sun., 2 and 8 p.m.; ends Aug. 4. Also, the Road on Magnolia at the NoHo Senior Arts Colony, 10747 Magnolia Blvd., North Hollywood. Tue.-Fri., 8 p.m. $15 suggested donation. (866) 506-1248.

Ghost: The Musical Stage adaptation of the hit...

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'Bullets Over Broadway' to close in New York on Aug. 24

"Bullets Over Broadway," the first stage musical based on one of Woody Allen's movies, is a comedy about the difficulties of mounting a stage production in New York. It's a challenge that the musical's producers may know well given the show's own difficulties in attracting audiences in recent weeks.

On Tuesday, producers of "Bullets" announced that the show will close on Aug. 24 following 156 regular performances at the St. James Theatre in New York. The musical, which opened on April 10, was adapted by Allen from his movie and was directed by Susan Stroman.

In recent weeks, "Bullets" has seen its attendance drop off significantly, playing to houses that were between half and two-thirds full.  The show, which was one of the most anticipated of the recent Broadway season, received mediocre to negative reviews and failed to win any Tony Awards in June.

Spokesmen for the musical didn't respond to questions about the show's finances. The New York Times reported on Tuesday that the show...

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