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Holmes Thriller May Signal a New Path for Spreckels

When Normand Kurtz, who produced Rupert Holmes’ “The Mystery of Edwin Drood” and “Accomplice” on Broadway, makes his first foray into San Diego with a production of Holmes’ latest thriller, “Solitary Confinement,” it may signal a new direction for the Spreckels Theatre.

The show, which Kurtz said is Broadway-bound, stars Stacy Keach and will play the Spreckels Jan. 9-26.

The San Diego run, an unusually long one for the Spreckels, may be a portent of things to come, according to Spreckels owner Jacquie Littlefield.

“I would love to see a lot of regional theater in the Spreckels, and I know we’re the right size for theater--1,472 seats,” Littlefield said from her office in Los Angeles.

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“Solitary Confinement” is currently having its world premiere at the Pasadena Playhouse through Dec. 29. The show travels to the Eisenhower Theatre at the Kennedy Center in late February for a six-week run. Kurtz, speaking from his New York office, said he plans to open the show on Broadway in April, 1992, depending on theater availability.

A November Times review called the play “tailor-made for the prohibitive Broadway stage.” It’s a puzzler about a poor-little-rich-boy tycoon, played by Keach as an arrogant/eccentric/supersharp/ mega-rich loner somewhere in the decidedly non-spiritual neighborhood of Donald Trump, Leona Helmsley or Howard Hughes.

The Pasadena Playhouse will co-produce the show with Kurtz, both here and in Washington (while retaining an option to share in the Broadway production as well). The Playhouse has also expressed interest in finding venues in cities like San Diego where they may establish long-term producing relationships with theaters.

While Pasadena Playhouse executive director Lars Hansen was not available for comment as to whether there will be a continuing relationship between them, Littlefield and a Pasadena Playhouse spokesperson both said, independently, that such a relationship might develop.

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“I think this is a good beginning and we’ll see how it goes,” Littlefield said.

Also possibly Broadway-bound is the La Jolla Playhouse production of “Elmer Gantry,” according to Frankie Hewitt, who owns the rights to the show along with Joseph Cates. The show closed Sunday.

Hewitt said she will meet today with producer Rocco Landesman, who has been tracking the show since it premiered at Ford’s Theatre in Washington (where Hewitt is producing director).

“We had been trying to push to get it in this season, but that’s not a viable option. I’m not sure now whether we’re talking about the fall of 1992 or the first of 1993,” Hewitt said from her office at Ford’s.

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The Broadway run, of course, is subject to theater availability (there are no open theaters right now) and whether the producers can raise sufficient money to put it on.

In the meantime, there will be changes in the show and no commitments have been made to actors yet, Hewitt said. The creative team will remain, including director Des McAnuff, artistic director of the Playhouse, and set designer Heidi Landesman (who is married to Rocco Landesman).

The Playhouse will also participate in the future of the show, receiving half a percent of the gross.

But Hewitt expects a new version of the second act by the end of January, playing up the theme of hypocrisy and playing down the love story of Gantry and Sharon Faulconer. She also said that a motion picture version and a London version is under discussion, but that any movie producer would have to invest in the Broadway version first.

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William Adams, the actor performing in the one-man adaptation of Truman Capote’s “A Christmas Memory” at the new downtown 49-seat Fritz Theatre (338 7th Ave.), will become a board member and continuning guest director of the fledgling theater.

The theater’s producing team George Lang and Bill Withers--both former students of Adams--and their partner Duane Daniels, who once performed in an Adams play, all asked him to become more involved with the theater, and Adams accepted.

“A Christmas Memory,” which plays at the Fritz through Dec. 23, is a sign of things to come, Adams said.

Adams, 69, is founder and director of the 25-year-old locally based Institute for Readers Theatre, an organization that creates theater from literature, interviews--any number of sources, except already existing play scripts.

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Adams adapted “A Christmas Memory” from Capote’s short story back in the mid-1960s when he was the associate director and resident stage director at the San Diego Opera and the artistic director and th resident stage director at Starlight Musical Theatre. Over the years it evolved from a staged reading to the current fully produced 45-minute production. He also directed his own adaptations of James Joyce’s “Ulysses,” Ray Bradbury’s “The Martian Chronicles” and a version of “The Grapes of Wrath” starring the late Carolyn Jones, John Carradine and Ed Harris back in the 1960s (not to be confused with the later Steppenwolf version, adapted by Frank Galati, that played at the La Jolla Playhouse and later on Broadway).

Adams’ version of “A Grapes of Wrath” had a national tour in the 1970s and played at the old Fox Theatre in San Diego.

“A Christmas Memory” has special meaning for Adams because the first actress he performed it with, Pat Curtis, died of cancer at the end of the first year year they did the show together.

The show is about a young boy’s remembrance of his cousin who was simple-minded.

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While he later performed the show with other actresses, Curtis remained his favorite. Luckily, he had taped his performance with Curtis and in this production he reads his part, and she hers--on tape.

“I cherish that tape,” he said.

PROGRAM NOTES: The plaidnomenally successful Old Globe production of “Forever Plaid” closes at the Old Globe Theatre on Jan. 5, only to reopen in Los Angeles. Negotiations are under way for the four-man singing sensation to resurface at the Canon Theatre in Beverly Hills somewhere around March 1, according to Steven Suskin, the show’s producer and general manager.

CRITIC’S CHOICE: SOMETHING TO SING ABOUT

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A show worth singing about: Langston Hughes’ “Black Nativity” tells the Nativity story entirely through Gospel singing at the Educational Cultural Complex. Under Floyd Gaffney’s direction, this Southeast Community Theatre production uses the real thing--local choir veterans--and elicits performances that derive their strength not just from powerful voices but from the heartfelt way these singers tell the Christmas story. Performances at 8 p.m. Fridays-Saturdays, 7 p.m. Sundays, through Dec. 22.


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