On Theater: Britain rules in NTAC's 33rd season

EntertainmentTheaterMusical TheaterBritainUnrest, Conflicts and WarWorld War II (1939-1945)Julie Andrews

The British are coming — to the Newport Theatre Arts Center next season.

Of the six productions just announced for NTAC 33rd season, four of them have their origins in what is now officially known as the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

After the first two definitely American shows — George M. Cohan's "Forty-Five Minutes From Broadway" and Neil Simon's "Biloxi Blues" — the English accents take over for the rest of the season.

"Forty-Five Minutes" launches the new season Aug. 11 with a showbiz story stitched between Cohan songs like "Give My Regards to Broadway" and "You're a Grand Old Flag." The musical plays just two weekends, through Aug. 21.

Simon's comedies have been priced out of many theaters' reach, but NTAC is biting the bullet to revive the 1985 Tony Award-winning "Biloxi Blues," one of the plays in a trilogy the playwright fashioned after his own youthful experiences (the others being "Brighton Beach Memoirs" and "Broadway Bound").

This episode finds Eugene Jerome enduring basic training and coming of age in Biloxi, Miss., during World War II. It runs from Sept. 16 to Oct. 16.

The first of the British imports is Amy Rosenthal's "Sitting Pretty," not a stage version of the old Clifton Webb movie comedy but a bittersweet play about a young woman who becomes a nude model for eccentric drawing students and their philandering teacher. The show opens Nov. 11 and will play through Dec. 11.

Next up is Hugh Whitemore's "Pack of Lies" (Jan. 27 to Feb. 26), the story of two friends torn apart when Scotland Yard invades their lives on the premise that one of them is a KGB agent. It's described as "a play about the morality of lying."

"Crown Matrimonial" is Royce Ryton's history-based account of King Edward VIII and his abdication because of his love for a divorced American woman (which paved the way for his younger brother, George VI, celebrated in "The King's Speech"). This conflict of love and duty will play out on the Newport stage from March 30 through April 29.

Wrapping up the British-flavored NTAC season will be a revival of the bouncy musical "The Boy Friend," billed as a "witty and stylish musical cartoon of the Jazz Age." The show, which introduced Julie Andrews to Broadway audiences back in 1954, will run from June 1 to July 1.

Performances will be given Thursday through Saturday evenings at 8 p.m. with Saturday and Sunday matinees at 2 p.m. at the Newport Theatre Arts Center, 2501 Cliff Drive, Newport Beach. For more information and advance reservations, call the NTAC box office at (949) 631-0288.

TOM TITUS reviews local theater for the Daily Pilot.

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