Pia Zadora in "Funny Girl." Tommy Tune and Ann Reinking in "Bye Bye Birdie." Dixie Carter and Sally Struthers in "Pal Joey."
Wielding those names and titles, Long Beach Civic Light Opera's new producer Barry Brown has revamped three-fourths of the Long Beach Civic Light Opera season, canceling upcoming productions of "Purlie" and "The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas" and filling the slot that had been vacated by "Meet Me in St. Louis."
Brown started his tenure after a season planned by the group's previous producer Martin Wiviott had already been announced and sold to subscribers. "I inherited a season that didn't have anything of me in it," he said.
He had been recruited after Wiviott and his Long Beach associate Keith Stava moved to Los Angeles Civic Light Opera. That move coincided with the decision of the producers of "Meet Me in St. Louis" to open their national tour at the Pantages in Hollywood as part of the Los Angeles season--though it already had been announced as the centerpiece of the Long Beach season.
So Brown's first task was to find a replacement for "St. Louis," the departure of which caused 300 Long Beach subscribers to cancel their subscriptions.
"Bye Bye Birdie" will replace "St. Louis." The casting of Tune and Reinking is derived from a production that opened at the Municipal Theatre Assn. of St. Louis in July and later played in Rochester and Detroit. However, producers Fran and Barry Weissler obtained the rights for the national tour of "Birdie," and they plan to use a new director and new sets and costumes.
The tour will open in Long Beach, May 9-26, and will later play Orange County Performing Arts Center, said the tour's general manager Alecia Parker, who added that Pace Theatrical--which books musicals for the Orange County center--will probably co-produce the tour. San Diego is also a possibility, said Parker.
A statement from OCPAC president Tom Kendrick said "we have no plans" for "Birdie" "at this time."
Before "Birdie" flies in, Long Beach will see Zadora in "Funny Girl," Feb. 28-March 17, replacing "Purlie." And "Birdie" will be followed by "Pal Joey" with Carter and Struthers (Joey himself is not yet cast), July 11-28, replacing "Best Little Whorehouse." Brown said he doesn't like "Purlie," and while "Whorehouse" is "a good audience show," "Joey" is "something I've always wanted to do."
The first show of the season, "Chess," was not changed. It opens next week.
GOULD AS 'FREUD': Harold Gould will bring Lynn Roth's "Freud" to the 240-seat Comedy Store Playhouse, Oct. 11-Nov. 4. It will be the second play at the former Hollywood Playhouse since Comedy Store owner Mitzi Shore bought the theater and renamed it. Gould has performed in "Freud" in brief runs at several Los Angeles venues, but this will be his first extended run in the city.
BELLS ARE RINGING: "Hi, I'm John Larroquette," said the deep voice on the answering machine. "And the next time I'm appearing in a play, you're going to hear about it. Because Theatre LA and 688-ARTS is bringing you the most comprehensive and up-to-the-minute news about the performing arts in our area."
Thus began our adventures in (213) 688-ARTS, a new touch-tone reference service offered to prospective theatergoers by Theatre LA, the theater service organization. Originally used to dispense festival information during the L.A. and Open festivals, it now carries listings of regularly scheduled local events.
A woman's voice offered still more greetings after Larroquette left the line. Finally we were asked if we wanted information about theater, music or dance. We chose theater.
Plays, musicals or children's theater? If plays, dramas or comedies? (Producers decide which categories describe their plays, or they may choose to be listed in both). In the Westside, Downtown/Mid-Wilshire/Crenshaw, Hollywood-West Hollywood, the San Fernando Valley, the San Gabriel Valley, or other areas?
We selected San Fernando Valley comedies. Oops--"at this time, we have no listings for comedies playing in the San Fernando Valley." Time to return to the main menu, from which we could punch our way back to another selection.
Plenty of punches later, we had learned of 10 dramas on the Westside and seven in Hollywood-West Hollywood, four comedies in the downtown district, and five musicals in the entire area.
The service has potential, but so far it's not as "comprehensive" or as "up-to-the-minute" as billed.
Only one children's production is currently listed. Four out of 13 Los Angeles-area shows that were listed in The Times' "Critics' Choice" box Sunday were not on 688-ARTS Wednesday.
In the San Fernando Valley, such shows as "Uptown" at the Gnu and "A Streetcar Named Desire" at Los Angeles Art Theatre aren't listed, but the musical revue "You're Gonna Love Tomorrow"--which closed Sunday--was still on the line Tuesday. By Wednesday, though, it had been removed.
Theatre West was listed on the Westside menu, though the theater is located in between the San Fernando Valley and the Hollywood-West Hollywood areas. While most of the listings included show days and times, for "Quartermaine's Terms" (listed as a drama, though the show's press releases call it a comedy) we were told to call Theatix for the information. We also were told that "Terms" runs indefinitely; it closes tonight.
Venturing outside Stage Watch turf, we asked for music information and were told to choose among orchestral, chamber or solo music. Apparently you're out of luck if you want opera data.
Listings are free of charge to Theatre LA members. But other producers must pay fees ranging from $25 to $75 a week, depending on the size of the theater. The project is supported by funding from the James Irvine Foundation and the Los Angeles Department of Cultural Affairs.
A short cut through the palaver at the beginning of each call is to push "1" firmly, twice, as soon as Larroquette starts to speak. Later in your call, if you have a specific show or theater in mind, you can skip across some of the menus by punching in the first three letters of the title or name--but this may yield silence, indicating your choice isn't listed.
A selection that offers news about day-of-performance discounts could be very helpful, but when that option was pushed Tuesday and Wednesday, there was no such news to report.