Theaters Attempt to Balance Appeal With Challenge in Offerings

T he community theater season in the county began in earnest this week, -- and with it, the latest installment in the perennial battle against the mediocrity suggested by that “community theater” moniker.

In the schedules that follow, local theatergoers can expect few surprises as area groups try to juggle commerciality and feasibility with one hand, and theatrical challenge and family suitability with the other. It is refreshing to note that few of these slates are free of risks for their respective production companies, which will offer new properties if not experimental ones.

But college theaters, usually the first to throw caution to the Santa Ana winds in their plans, are demonstrating an increasing respect for the bottom line with a clump of sure-fire seat fillers.

Here’s the works:



The Laguna Playhouse’s season has started off with the yuppified possibilities of “How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying” (through Oct.2); it will be followed by a mystery-and-show-business spoof, “The Musical Comedy Murders of 1940,” Oct. 27 through Nov. 20. “Legends,” a theatrical cat fight, will run Jan. 19 through Feb. 12; a production to be named will run March 16 through April 9, and a new musical based on the life and work of Manet, “Call the Cops,” will complete the season, May 18 through June 11.

The Fullerton Civic Light Opera will offer “Oklahoma!” Oct. 21 through Nov. 6, will launch “Show Boat” Feb. 17 through March 5 and will offer “Peter Pan” May 19 through June 4.

The Yorba Linda Civic Light Opera will stage “Guys and Dolls” Sept. 30 through Oct. 16, will sail “HMS Pinafore” Feb. 24 through March 12 and will offer “Hello, Dolly!” June 2-18.


In smaller houses:

The Newport Theatre Arts Center is keeping Sondheim’s “Company” Sept. 23 through Oct. 23, followed by the mysterious “Nightwatch” Nov. 18 through Dec. 18, “Lil’ Abner” Feb. 3-26, a down-hometown comedy called “LuAnn Hampton Laverty Oberlander” April 7-30 and “Zorba” June 2-25.

The La Habra Depot Playhouse will look for romance with “The Fourposter” Sept. 23 through Oct. 15, followed by “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat” Nov. 18 through Dec.10, “The Glass Menagerie” April 7-29 and Coward’s “Hay Fever” June 2-24.

Garden Grove Community Theatre will take the covers off the farce “Stand by Your Beds, Boys” Sept. 23 through Oct. 15 , then will offer “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum” Feb. 3-25 and the whodunit “Rehearsal for Murder” May 31 through April 22, before finishing with the earthy “Picnic” July 7-29.


More farce can be found at the Cabrillo Playhouse, where “No Sex Please, We’re British” plays until Oct. 1, to be followed by “Born Yesterday” Oct. 27 through Nov. 19, “Exit the Body” (another farce) Jan. 5-28, “Bullshot Crummond” ( another farce) Feb. 23 through March 18, “Don’t Drink the Water” April 13 through May 6 and finally the musical revue, “Oh, Coward.”

The Orange County Black Actors Theatre has scheduled “To Be Young, Gifted and Black” Feb. 4-26, “Same Time, Next Year” April 29 through May 21 and the musical “Raisin” July 7 through Aug. 13.

South Coast Musical Theatre will offer “Tintypes” Oct. 7-30.

The Ana-Modjeska Players will offer “The Matchmaker” Sept. 23 through Oct. 8.


On the boards at the Brea Theatre League will be productions of “The Pirates of Penzance” Oct. 6-22, “Noises Off” Feb. 23 through March 11 and “The Foreigner” June 8-24.

The Buena Park Civic Theatre will open with “Wait Until Dark” (Oct. 7-29), followed by “Grease” and “The Mystery of Edwin Drood” (dates to be announced).

Stanton Community Theatre’s “Born Yesterday” will run through Sept. 17, with “Barefoot in the Park” scheduled Feb. 3-18.

“Ten Little Indians” is at the Cypress Civic Theatre through Sept. 24; “Chekhov in Yalta” is scheduled Jan. 12-28, “The Odd Couple” March 2-18 and the nine-inning comedy “Bleacher Bums” May 11-22.


Westminster Community Theatre will serve up another dollop of “Grease” today through Oct. 8; coming attractions include “See How They Run” Nov. 4 through Dec. 3, another production of “Ten Little Indians” Jan. 6 through Feb. 4, another production of “Tintypes” March 10 through April 8 and the provocative “The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie” May 12 through June 10.

Another “Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum” is at the Costa Mesa Civic Playhouse through Oct. 1, with “The Monday After the Miracle,” a continuation of the Helen Keller-Anne Sullivan story begun in “The Miracle Worker,” scheduled for Nov. 3-26; “God’s Favorite,” Neil Simon’s version of the book of Job, is planned Jan. 19 through Feb. 11, the comic “Gemini” April 13 through May 6 and another “Wait Until Dark” wrapping things up June 1-24.

The Irvine Community Theatre promises nothing but county premieres, starting with “Large Window on a Small World” Oct. 7-29, then “Magic Time” Feb. 17 through March 11, “My Husband’s Wild Desires Almost Drove Me Mad” April 14 through May 6 and Jules Feiffer’s “Grown Ups” Aug. 4-26. Huntington Beach Playhouse will deal “The Gin Game” Oct. 21 through Nov. 19, followed by “Rehearsal for Murder” Jan. 6 through Feb. 4, “Of Mice and Men” March 3 through April 1, “Vanities” May 5 through June 3 and “They’re Playing Our Song” July 14 through Aug. 19.



Cal State Fullerton has planned a versatile season that will include the bawdy backwoods musical “The Robber Bridegroom” Sept. 30 through Oct. 16, the equally bawdy urban drama “The Hot L Baltimore” Oct. 28 through Nov. 6, O’Neill’s “A Moon for the Misbegotten” Dec. 2-11, Brecht’s epic parable “The Good Woman of Setzuan” March 3-12, the operetta “The Merry Widow” April 7-16 and the time-traveling comedy “On the Verge” May 11-21.

Fullerton College will offer Shakespeare’s “A Comedy of Errors” Oct. 5-16; “Smokin’ Women,” an original play about the ladies who frequent a porno palace, Nov. 10-20; “The Mystery of Edwin Drood” March 8-12 and the demanding “Tracers” May 4-14.

Cypress College is tuning up for an all-musical season on its mainstage with the feisty “Evita” Oct. 7-16, followed by the tamer “Peter Pan” Dec. 2-11 and “Oliver!” May 5-14.

Rancho Santiago College has scheduled an original musical, “Hold On,” Oct. 7-16, and “Cinders,” which gives a political twist to the Cinderella story, Nov. 18-27. “Evita,” “Charley’s Aunt” and “The Oldest Living Graduate” complete the slate, on dates to be announced.


Orange Coast College will offer Neil Simon’s “Biloxi Blues” Sept. 22-Oct. 2, followed by “Macbeth” Nov. 3-13, the memories-or-truth drama “Come Back to the Five and Dime Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean” Feb. 23 to March 5 and the grandpappy of courtroom dramas, “Inherit the Wind,” May 4-14.

“Biloxi Blues” will also be the opening play in Golden West College’s season, Sept. 30 to Oct. 9, followed by “A Christmas Carol” Dec. 2-11, the in-the-dark farce “Black Comedy” March 3-11 and “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum” May 5-14.

UC Irvine will usher in Sondheim’s “Follies” Nov. 10-20; “King Lear” will storm the heath Jan. 26 to Feb. 4; “Cloud Nine,” with its musical chairs of sexual role-playing, will strut its stuff March 9-18 and “The Hot L Baltimore” will play May 4-13.

Saddleback College will run the gamut from spoofy (“Dames at Sea,” Oct. 14-30) to eccentric (“The House of Blue Leaves,” Nov. 4-13) to hammy (“The Dresser” Dec. 2-18) to spectacular (“Evita” again, Feb. 10-19) to homespun (“Bus Stop,” April 7-16).


Coastline Community College will land Ray Bradbury’s “The Martian Chronicles” Dec. 2-17.


The Grand Dinner Theatre will continue “Social Security” through Sept. 25; “South Pacific” will take over Sept. 27 through Nov. 27 and “Kiss Me Kate” Nov. 29 through the holidays.

“The Whole Truth” is scheduled at the Harlequin Dinner Playhouse Sept. 13 to Oct. 30, to be followed by “Guys and Dolls” Nov. 1 through Jan. 22 and the grand old gal “Mame” Jan. 25 through March 10.


“My Fair Lady” will continue at Elizabeth Howard’s Curtain Call until Feb. 5.

Professional theater schedules for the upcoming season will appear in Sunday Calendar.

Children’s theater season. See Page 24.