Somewhere between the good, the bad and the indifferent in Orange County theater lies the intriguing. That description covers a multitude of efforts: productions that sidestep preconceptions by putting new spins on old favorites, season lineups that seek out unusual or rarely produced scripts, or the adventure of staging new works.
The following is a sample of shows that look intriguing in the coming year. (And take into consideration that many shows have yet to be announced and some previously announced titles carry the tag, "subject to availability"):
Two upcoming world premieres at South Coast Repertory definitely qualify: "Prelude to a Kiss" by Craig Lucas, opening Jan. 15 on the Mainstage, and "V and V Only" by Jim Leonard Jr., opening March 18 on the Second Stage. Also noteworthy is Wallace Shawn's "Aunt Dan and Lemon," opening March 4 on SCR's Mainstage.
The Grove Theatre Company's production of Steve Metcalf's drama "Vikings" opens at the Gem Theatre Jan. 16. Contestants in Doris Baizley's '50s-era beauty pageant comedy "Mrs. California" will parade through Orange County for the first time at the Gem starting Feb. 27.
Perhaps the biggest hit musical of the '80s, "Cats," is booked at the Orange County Performing Arts Center May 3-8, in place of the previously announced production of "Me and My Girl," which Center officials say will be rescheduled.
At colleges and universities:
A new musical revue titled "Hot Tkts!" debuts Feb. 10 at UC Irvine with a sampler of contemporary Broadway musicals including all those hot-ticket European imports. UCI will also offer its interpretation of Euripides' tragedy "Medea," beginning April 27.
The season at Cal State Fullerton includes "Mrs. California" on the Arena Theatre stage, opening March 17, and "Cloud 9" by Caryl Churchill in the Recital Hall, opening May 13. Vintage Stephen Sondheim arrives at Fullerton College with a production of the clever and often caustic "Company," scheduled to open March 9.
There will also be a chance to look at the work being done by students in the 1 1/2-year-old Professional Actors Conservatory at Rancho Santiago College. Starting Jan. 22, the conservatory will also present "The Admirable Crichton," "The Lower Depths" and "Ladies at the Alamo."
At community theaters:
Newport Theatre Arts Center will offer a nod to one of the masters of the American musical theater--Cole Porter--in a revue titled "No Mother But Jazz," opening Jan. 15. A new revue of works by George and Ira Gershwin, tentatively titled "The Memory of All That," will start off the summer season at the Muckenthaler Cultural Center in Fullerton on June 9.
Others worth noting include "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf" opening at Garden Grove Community Theatre April 1; "Six Pieces of Black Theater," the upcoming production of the Orange County Black Actors Theatre, opening Feb. 19, and La Habra Depot Playhouse's staging of Oscar Wilde's "The Importance of Being Earnest," starting June 3.