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THEATER NOTES : Looking Ahead : A new season is already planned for Music Theatre of Ventura County, despite this year’s setbacks.

SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

WAIT ‘TIL NEXT YEAR: The Santa Barbara Civic Light Opera unwittingly picked a fine time to launch its Music Theatre of Ventura County. The July 28 train wreck at Seacliff kept Santa Barbara patrons from trekking down the Pacific Coast Highway to see “Cabaret,” the group’s second of three 1991 productions. And unforeseen licensing problems caused the last-minute cancellation of “Guys and Dolls,” scheduled to end the season last month.

A production of “Side by Side by Sondheim” was assembled in an effort to satisfy season subscribers (whose tickets were non-refundable), some changes were made in administrative personnel and the Santa Barbarans are looking bravely toward Season Two, next year.

“The board of directors has decided to go forward in preparation for next season,” the group’s director of public relations, Karyl Lynn Burns, told Theater Notes, “and a fund-raising committee has been formed.”

The length and content of next year’s season is still under discussion, Burns said, adding that an audience survey is in the works, which will solicit comments and suggestions from patrons of this season’s “The Sound of Music,” “Cabaret” and “Side by Side by Sondheim.”

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Questionnaires filled out during the plays have produced some insights already. The average age of Music Theatre of Ventura County patrons, 47, turned out to be 10 years younger than the Santa Barbara Civic Light Opera’s typical audience. And it might be even younger, Burns said, “because people under 21 tend not to fill out the forms.” Burns noted that statistics provided by the National Alliance of Musical Theater Producers indicate that the Ventura audience is 10 years younger than most musical theater audiences across the country.

The Ventura County audience might be a bit more adventuresome than the Santa Barbarans had expected. Ticket sales for “Cabaret” are said to have averaged 200 or more each night than for “South Pacific.”

The Music Theatre of Ventura County had generated slightly more than 2,500 season subscriptions, Burns said, 10 times the Santa Barbara group’s initial base of 250 subscriptions seven years ago. (The Santa Barbara Civic Light Opera currently has 13,000 season ticket-holders).

GOTTA SING, GOTTA DANCE, GOTTA ACT: With nearly four months left in 1991, several local theater companies are already announcing their plans for 1992.

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So far, the surprise celebrity authors for next year’s season are Mark Twain--two Ventura County companies have scheduled adaptations of his works--and John Patrick, whose 1945 anti-war drama “The Hasty Heart” is due for revival in Ventura and Simi Valley.

It’s not just in the public interest, but with hopes that advance notice will cut down on conflicting dates and duplication of material among local theater companies that Theater Notes is pleased to give you a preview.

The Conejo Players, which operate out of their own theater in Thousand Oaks, seem particularly attracted to the letter B . Their regular season of Thursday-Saturday night performances includes Tom Griffin’s comedy-drama about the developmentally disabled, “The Boys Next Door,” in January; the recently revived 1962 musical “Bye, Bye Birdie” in April, and the baseball-oriented “Bleacher Bums” in June. “Broadway Bound,” the concluding installment in Neil Simon’s autobiographical trilogy, opens in August, and Roger Miller’s and William Hauptman’s 1985 retelling of the “Huckleberry Finn” saga, “Big River,” plays in October.

The Conejo group’s season of Sunday matinee-only performances is scheduled to include D. L. Coburn’s “The Gin Game” in February; Anthony Newley and Leslie Bricusse’s musical “Stop the World--I Want to Get Off” in late June; and Noel Coward’s “Private Lives” in September. For further information, call 495-3715.

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The Cabrillo Music Theater, which usually performs at Oxnard Civic Auditorium, has scheduled Andrew Lloyd Webber’s and Tim Rice’s “Jesus Christ, Superstar” in March; “Gypsy,” from Stephen Sondheim, Jule Styne and Arthur Laurents, in June; “The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas,” from Larry L. King, Peter Masterson and Carol Hall, in September; and James M. Barrie’s “Peter Pan” (with lyrics by Carolyn Leigh, Betty Comden and Adolph Green and music by Jule Styne and Moose Charlap) in November. For further information, call 483-8859.

The Moorpark Melodrama’s schedule of largely original (though highly derivative) musical comedies includes--would you believe?--"Get Smart” (premiering on New Year’s Eve and continuing through Jan. 10); “A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court” in February; “Beauty and the Beast--Really” in April; “Virtue Victorious” in June; “Dracula” in August; and the Hope-Crosby homage, “The Road to Paradise,” in October. The box office number is 529-1212.

Around the corner from the Moorpark Melodrama, the California Shakespeare Company has so far announced “Hamlet” for January and “Macbeth” in April. Call 498-3354.

The Young Artists’ Ensemble of Thousand Oaks will produce “Deadwood Dick (or The Game of Gold)” in March and “Alice in Wonderland” in May. The information number is 499-4355.

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Simi Valley’s Santa Susana Repertory Company has scheduled Frederick Knott’s “Wait Until Dark” for February and its own version of “The Hasty Heart” for May and early June.

Call 582-9000 for reservations or subscriptions to these plays plus Larry Shue’s “The Foreigner” and a stage adaptation of “A Christmas Carol,” which fill out this year’s Santa Susana Rep schedule.

No word yet on the Ojai Shakespeare Festival, though there are rumors that the company may mount two productions--a comedy and a history--next summer.

Plaza Players’ artistic director Michael Maynez is still firming up next year’s season, though Ketti Frings’ 1957 adaptation of Thomas Wolfe’s “Look Homeward, Angel” and Bruce Graham’s “Early One Evening at the Rainbow Bar & Grille” are likely to appear on the schedule.

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