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On Theater: Newport plans five 'imports' for 2016-17 season

The Newport Theatre Arts Center, fast approaching its 40th birthday, has unveiled a varied 2016-17 lineup of comedies, dramas, mysteries and musicals that share a common thread. All five productions trace their roots to the other side of the Atlantic Ocean.

Opening the new season will be a golden anniversary of sorts — the two-character, 1966 musical "I Do! I Do!" Based on the play by Holland's Jan de Hartog, "The Fourposter," the show was a successful follow-up to another hugely successful musical by Tom Jones and Harvey Schmidt, "The Fantasticks."

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A showcase for many performing couples following the originators, Mary Martin and Robert Preston, the Newport version is scheduled to run from Sept. 9 through Oct.9. Larry Watts will be directing.

A few years ago, the arts center scored with "Art," by French playwright Yasmina Reza. This season the theater is calling on Reza again for her compelling drama "God of Carnage," in case you missed its recent staging by the Costa Mesa Playhouse.

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The tension between two couples, whose children have become embroiled in a schoolyard fight, forms the backdrop for the revelations about their own characters. Phyllis Gitlin will direct the drama, which will be on stage from Nov. 11 through Dec. 11.

England's Agatha Christie published her 50th mystery book, "A Murder is Announced," in 1950, and it has become a staple of crime fiction, often hailed as the best of all her Miss Marple novels.

The whodunit will unfold on the Newport stage from Jan. 27 through Feb. 26 under the direction of Sharyn Case.

"How the Other Half Loves" is one of the most notable comedies from the fertile mind of Alan Ayckbourn, England's version of Neil Simon. Here, two couples — one upper class, the other cockney — interact interchangeably on the same stage, oblivious to one another.

Director Gigi Fusco Meese is charged with keeping things from getting overly confused as a third pair join the fun later in the show. "Other Half" will take the center's stage from March 31 through April 30.

Sticking with Brits to close out the season, the Newport Theatre Arts Center has scheduled "Calendar Girls" to run from June 2 to July 2. It's based on the true story of 11 middle-aged British women who posed for a risque calendar to raise money for a local hospital.

The 2003 comedy from Tim Firth and Juliette Towhidi was adapted for the screen in 2008 and starred Helen Mirren and Julie Walters. Bob Fetes will direct the Newport production.

The Newport Theatre Arts Center overlooks the ocean at 2501 Cliff Drive in Newport Beach. Reservations may be secured by calling (949) 631-0288 or by visiting ntaconline.com.

TOM TITUS reviews local theater.

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