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Booking Tours, Moving Things About and Getting a Lucky Break

Notes from all over . . . .

Pace Theatrical Group, which co-presents the Broadway Series at the Orange County Performing Arts Center, has been offered the chance to book “Grover’s Corners” when it goes on tour next season with Mary Martin in the starring role.

But will this new musical adaptation of Thornton Wilder’s “Our Town” get to the Center? The answer is a chin-pulling maybe. “It’s too early to tell,” says Center President Thomas R. Kendrick. “It’s a possibility. Everything is a possibility (because) there’s so little out there.”

Whether or not “Grover’s Corners” gets to the Center, it will probably come within driving distance of the county. The Long Beach Civic Light Opera helped develop the project and, says producing director Martin Wiviott, “We’re looking to put it into our schedule next season.”

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The show was created by Tom Jones (lyrics) and Harvey Schmidt (music), who also teamed to create “The Fantasticks.” A 30-week national tour has been announced and, according to Pace President Miles Wilkin, will be launched at several Pace theaters in Florida.

Meanwhile, Kendrick says, “active negotiations” have reached “the sensitive stage” for Cole Porter’s “Anything Goes,” pulled off the road last winter by its New York producers but still scheduled at the Center in September. “If anything, we’re firmer on it now than before,” he says. “The financing is there.”

The star isn’t, however. Leslie Uggams, who started out with the show’s national tour, recently replaced Patti Lupone in the New York revival. “Right now,” says Kendrick, “I’m more concerned about the quality of the production than the name of the star.”

If they ever build the smallest of the three new theaters envisaged for the Performing Arts Center in an expansion study released 2 weeks ago, will it become the primary home for South Coast Repertory (as hinted in the report) or will it operate as a transfer house for successful SCR Mainstage productions?

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“Having the capability of transfer would be nice, but it wouldn’t be practical,” says SCR artistic director Martin Benson, whose staging of “The Crucible” earlier this season picked up top honors Sunday from the Los Angeles Drama Critics Circle.

“One scenario has it that (the theater) would become our Mainstage. The Mainstage we have now would become our Second Stage. And our Second Stage would be used for more experimental work.”

The small theater suggested by the Center study would have 600 to 850 seats (SCR’s Mainstage has 507) and is projected to cost between $10 million and $12 million. Benson says he has no idea where the money would come from. In fact, after talks about “a second theater” with Center officials stalled several years ago, he says, “I thought the whole thing kind of died.”

Speaking of transfers, Thomas F. Bradac is hoping that after the Grove Shakespeare Festival presents the world premiere of Murray Schisgall’s “Songs of War” in July, the play will be picked up elsewhere.

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“I’d like it to go on to another theater, whether it’s our production or not,” says Bradac, the Grove’s artistic director. “It’s a very commercial piece. It’s funny, and it has definite Broadway potential.”

Jerome Guardino, who will direct the play, “wants to bring in a name for the lead,” says Bradac. Schisgall wrote the play with Hal Linden in mind. Unfortunately, Linden is based on the East Coast and the Grove can’t afford him. “With the kind of money we pay,” Bradac says, “we’ll have to find somebody on the West Coast who’ll do it as a labor of love.”

In the meantime, the Grove’s 10th anniversary season has been so-so at the box office. But Bradac takes consolation from the fact that his current production, Rod Serling’s “Requiem for a Heavyweight"--which was shellacked by some critics--is doing better business than any show this season except “A Child’s Christmas in Wales,” the Grove’s annual holiday play. “Requiem” continues through Sunday.

So how much will the Laguna Playhouse have to pay up front for the rights to “A Wonderful Life,” the musical adaptation of the Frank Capra movie “It’s a Wonderful Life,” which was announced last week as its Christmas show for next season?

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Not a dime.

“We’ll just pay royalties,” says Douglas Rowe, the Laguna’s artistic director. “And we’ll have an exclusive in Orange County. Nobody else will be able to do it for 2 years as a regular production or for 5 years during the Christmas holidays.”

Rowe says he has wanted to mount a non-subscription Christmas show for years, not least because a good one is virtually a guaranteed moneymaker, but had not found anything suitable. “This time we got lucky,” he adds. “It all happened because my wife, Katherine, went to dinner with Mary Jo Slater.”

Slater, a casting director at MGM, had the rights to “A Wonderful Life” but hadn’t been able to do anything with them. She saw “The Musical Comedy Murders” earlier this season at the Laguna, liked it and suggested the Sheldon Harnick-Joe Raposo adaptation of Capra’s movie.

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