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Theater Fans Count Their Lucky Stars

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Patti LuPone will make her debut at the Orange County Performing Arts Center in February, ushering in what promises to be a year of theatrical wealth. Luck too.

LuPone’s appearance at the center in “Patti LuPone on Broadway” (Feb. 18-23) is a late replacement for “Funny Girl,” starring Debbie Gibson, which had been scheduled for the same slot in the center’s Broadway Series but was canceled by its producers. The center announced the change Monday.

LuPone is regarded as one of Broadway’s great musical actors and is most famous for originating the title role of “Evita,” which won her a Tony Award in 1980, and for originating the role of Norma Desmond in “Sunset Boulevard,” which earned her an Olivier Award nomination in London in 1994.

Her show will include a musical tribute to Irving Berlin and Cole Porter (she was Reno Sweeney in a smash Broadway revival of Porter’s “Anything Goes”), as well as songs from Andrew Lloyd Webber’s musicals and, lest we forget, “Les Miserables” (she originated the role of Fantine in the London premiere).

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The new year will usher in a season for new plays at South Coast Repertory in Costa Mesa, beginning on the Mainstage with David Henry Hwang’s “Golden Child,” fresh from its New York premiere. Beginning previews on Friday, “Golden Child” opens Jan. 10 and runs through Feb. 9. It tells the resonant, multigenerational story of a Chinese family seen in retrospect through the refracting prism of cultural and religious change. New York critics have called “Golden Child” Hwang’s best work since “M. Butterfly,” the play that made him deservedly famous.

Other new plays at SCR include:

* Tom Strelich’s “BAFO” (Jan. 21-Feb. 23) and Richard Greenberg’s “Three Days of Rain” (March 4-April 6), both on the Second Stage. In “BAFO,” an acronym for “best and final offer,” a small Southern California defense contractor downsizes and a disgruntled former employee goes on a rampage. In “Three Days of Rain,” a famous architect has died, and his children find a journal he kept, which may or may not explain why he left the family house to someone not related to them.

The year also promises a variety of theater classics from different centuries and in different styles:

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* Marivaux’s “The Triumph of Love” (Feb. 14-March 23) and Arthur Miller’s “Death of a Salesman” (March 28-May 11), both on the SCR Mainstage; Harold Pinter’s “Old Times” (April 15-May 18) on the SCR Second Stage; Shakespeare’s “The Winter’s Tale” (March 14) in A Noise Within production at the Irvine Barclay Theatre; Ibsen’s “Hedda Gabler” (April 25-May 24) and George Bernard Shaw’s “Mrs. Warren’s Profession” (Aug. 15-Sept. 13), both at the Vanguard Theatre Ensemble.

There will be plenty of comedies in 1997 too.

* Marc Camoletti’s “Don’t Dress for Dinner,” a sex farce about marital infidelity on a French country estate (at the Moulton Theater in Laguna Beach from Jan. 7-Feb. 2), may not have a lot of door-slamming, but Laguna Playhouse director Andrew Barnicle, who has a penchant for farce, is likely to compensate with plenty of sight gags. And for pathos, the Laguna Playhouse also has Catherine Butterfield’s “Joined at the Head” scheduled for the Moulton (March 4-30). The premise is this: A best-selling author meets and likes cancer-stricken wife of her high school boyfriend.

Oh, a “Sunset Boulevard” comes to the center at last, Aug. 23-Sept. 22. And for those Dolly-deprived theatergoers--or those who missed Carol Channing’s star turn in “Hello, Dolly!"--she’ll be back where she belongs again, this time at the Cerritos Center for the Performing Arts (Jan. 21-26).

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