The Ahmanson: All-Star Stage

1967-68: U.S. premiere of Eugene O’Neill’s “More Stately Mansions,” starring Ingrid Bergman, opens as first Center Theatre Group/Ahmanson production (the theater opened in April 1967 with L.A. Civic Light Opera’s “Man of La Mancha”). The rest of the season includes new musicals hardly heard from since-- Kander & Ebb’s “The Happy Time” and “Catch My Soul"--and the Royal Shakespeare Company in “As You Like It” and “The Taming of the Shrew.” Elliot Martin is artistic director.

1968-69: Greer Garson in Shaw. A new Maltby/Shire musical, “Love Match.” More Royal Shakespeare Company. “Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead.”

1969-70: Stratford National Company of Canada in “Hadrian VII.” Brock Peters in “The Great White Hope.” National Theatre Company of Great Britain in “The Beaux’ Strategem” and “Three Sisters,” the latter staged by Laurence Olivier. Jack Lemmon in “Idiot’s Delight.”

1970-71: Premiere of Mart Crowley’s “Remote Asylum.” Maggie Smith in “Design for Living.”


1971-72: Robert Fryer takes over as artistic director. Phil Silvers in “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum.” Henry Fonda directs Hume Cronyn in “The Caine Mutiny Court-Martial.” Richard Chamberlain as “Richard II.”

1972-73: Charlton Heston in “The Crucible.” Peter Brook’s legendary “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.” Jon Voight and Faye Dunaway in “A Streetcar Named Desire.”

1973-74: “Cyrano de Bergerac” with Richard Chamberlain.

1974-75: Maggie Smith, below, in “Private Lives.” Jason Robards and Colleen Dewhurst in “A Moon for the Misbegotten.” Charlton Heston and Vanessa Redgrave as the Macbeths.


1975-76: U.S. premiere of Alan Ayckbourn’s “The Norman Conquests.” Premiere of Neil Simon’s “California Suite.”

1976-77: Katharine Hepburn in “A Matter of Gravity.” Maggie Smith and Brian Bedford in “The Guardsman.” Deborah Kerr and Charlton Heston in “Long Day’s Journey Into Night.”

1977-78: Premiere of Neil Simon’s “Chapter Two.” Rex Harrison in “The Devil’s Disciple.” Eve Arden and Stockard Channing in “Absurd Person Singular.” Lena Horne in “Pal Joey ’78.”

1978-79: Premiere of the Neil Simon/Marvin Hamlisch musical “They’re Playing Our Song.”


1979-80: U.S. premiere of Terence Rattigan’s “Cause Celebre.” Julie Harris and Charles Durning in “On Golden Pond.” “The Elephant Man.”

1980-81: Sally Kellerman and Kevin Kline in “Holiday.” Premiere of Ernest Thompson’s “The West Side Waltz,” with Katharine Hepburn. Jack O’Brien directs “Mary Stuart” with Michael Learned.

1981-82: Elizabeth Taylor in Lillian Hellman’s “The Little Foxes.” More Hellman in “Another Part of the Forest.” “The Hasty Heart” with Gregory Harrison moves from Hollywood’s small Cast Theatre.

1982-83: U.S. premiere of Jay Presson Allen’s “A Little Family Business.” Premiere of Neil Simon’s “Brighton Beach Memoirs.” Beth Henley’s “Crimes of the Heart.”


1983-84: U.S. premiere of Peter Ustinov’s “Beethoven’s Tenth.” Premiere of Ernest Thompson’s “A Sense of Humor,” with Jack Lemmon.

1984-85: Alan Bates in “A Patriot for Me.” Premiere of Neil Simon’s “Biloxi Blues,” which later wins Tony for best play. “Noises Off.” Rita Moreno and Sally Struthers in the female “The Odd Couple.”

1985-86: Jessica Tandy and Hume Cronyn in “Foxfire.” Premiere of “Legends!,” with Carol Channing and Mary Martin. “Picnic,” with Gregory Harrison and Jennifer Jason Leigh, staged by Marshall Mason. The Royal Shakespeare Company in the epic two-part “Nicholas Nickleby.”

1986-87: Ian McKellen in “Wild Honey.” Lauren Bacall in “Sweet Bird of Youth.” Peter Falk in “Light Up the Sky.”


1987-88: Christopher Reeve in Marshall Mason staging of “Summer and Smoke.” Neil Simon’s “Broadway Bound” (not a premiere). Martin Manulis is named to replace Fryer as artistic director and co-direct Fryer’s last season, but Manulis exits before the season ends.

1988-89: Marshall Mason is “guest artistic director,” but Fryer stays to help out."Les Liaisons Dangereuses” with Frank Langella and Lynn Redgrave. “Into the Woods” with Cleo Laine. Because of an extended run of “The Phantom of the Opera” opening at the Ahmanson, with Michael Crawford and Dale Kristien, other programming moves to the Doolittle Theatre, starting with U.S. premiere of Tom Stoppard’s “Hapgood.”

1989-90: While “Phantom” stalks the Ahmanson (with Robert Guillaume taking over the title role for much of 1990), the subscription season continues under Gordon Davidson’s guidance at the Doolittle with U.S. premiere of “Byron--Mad, Bad and Dangerous to Know” with Derek Jacobi; Glenda Jackson and John Lithgow in “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?”; Charles Dutton in August Wilson’s “The Piano Lesson” (which went on to win the Pulitzer Prize), Jack O’Brien’s staging of “The Cocktail Hour” and “Rumors.”

1990-91: Davis Gaines becomes the Phantom, and the musical continues to bring in revenue for CTG as its landlord. Less emphasis on stars in the Doolittle programming: “The Heidi Chronicles” with Amy Irving, “The Vortex,” Davidson’s staging of “A Little Night Music” and “Sarafina!”


1991-92: Even fewer stars: “The Most Happy Fella,” “Two Trains Running,” “It’s Only a Play” and “Lost in Yonkers”

1992-93: “Six Degrees of Separation,” U.S. premiere of David Williamson’s “Money and Friends,” Alan Alda in “Jake’s Women,” “Five Guys Named Moe.”

1993-94: “Phantom of the Opera” closes after 1,772 performances, and the Ahmanson begins to undergo a $17-million renovation designed to enhance intimacy and acoustics and to make the seating capacity flexible. Programming continues at Doolittle with Judd Hirsch in “Conversations With My Father,” Bill Irwin and David Shiner in “Fool Moon,” “Falsettos,” “The Sisters Rosensweig.”

1994-95: At the Doolittle, Royal National Theatre Company in “Racing Demon,” “Smokey Joe’s Cafe,” “The Woman Warrior,” Howard Hesseman in “Laughter on the 23rd Floor,” “Angels in America.” Remodeled Ahmanson reopens with “Miss Saigon.”


1995-96: After “Miss Saigon” closes, the subscription series returns to the Ahmanson with “Candide,” staged by Gordon Davidson, August Wilson’s “Seven Guitars,” “Kiss of the Spider Woman,” and two from the Royal National Theatre: “An Inspector Calls” with Stacy Keach and “Carousel.”

1996-97: “The Heiress” and “Show Boat.” Later this month, the Ahmanson season’s first ballet--the unorthodox British “Swan Lake.” And this summer, another Neil Simon premiere, at last: “Proposals.”


Compiled by Don Shirley