Alex Theatre to Unveil Its 1997-98 Series


With 21 shows in its 1997-98 season, the Alex Theatre in Glendale will continue to present high-profile performances, including jazz, classical and international music and contemporary dance. This year’s series, which will be formally announced today, includes only three performances in each category, however, scaled back from a total of 32 performances in the 1996-97 season at the restored Art Deco theater.

Playboy Jazz concerts return for a second year. Wayne Shorter and Herbie Hancock will put on a joint show (Sept. 28), and Cleo Laine and her husband/bandleader John Dankworth will give a tribute to the music of Ella Fitzgerald (May 3, 1998). The third concert is yet to be announced.

Performances by Marvin Hamlisch (Nov. 22), Peter Nero (Jan. 22) and William Bolcom and mezzo-soprano Joan Morris (Feb. 14) comprise a piano series. The classics program includes pianist Angela Hewitt in her Los Angeles debut, soprano Sumi Jo, and a “Words and Music” recital by flutist Eugenia Zukerman, pianist Brian Zeger and actress Claire Bloom (April 4). The slate of world music includes the Klezmer Conservatory Band (Jan. 18), the Peking Opera (Feb. 22) and the Irish Rovers (March 13).


The dance subscription series will include MOMIX (March 27), Donald Byrd/the Group (April 18, 1998) and the Mark Morris Dance Company doing a repertory program (May 5, 1998). In addition, the Paul Taylor Dance Company, which performs at the Alex next week, will give a non-subscription performance Oct. 19.

Four travelogues will explore Egypt (Jan. 11), Italy (Feb. 15), Vietnam and Myanmar (March 29), and Australia and New Zealand (April 26). The family-oriented show “The Magic School Bus,” based on the book and PBS series, is the other non-subscription performance (April 5).

The Alex’s other resident companies, including the Glendale Symphony Orchestra, Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra and the Gay Men’s Chorus, will also have regular performances.

Jim Wilke, president of the Alex Regional Theatre Board, which approved the $550,000 budget for the 1997-98 shows, said the board had decided to be somewhat more fiscally conservative. “We were concerned that we sell out the events and . . . and felt that we may have spread our advertising budget too thin,” Wilke said.

Alex Executive Director Martin Kagan said box-office receipts didn’t cover the $700,000 price tag of the last season, but the theater got help through a grant from the Ralph M. Parsons Foundation. A $225,000 annual subsidy from the city of Glendale covers only theater operation expenses, not shows.

Kansas City-based Theater League, the company that has produced Broadway musical revivals at the Alex for the last two years, will not return next season. The company decided in January not to return, according to company President Mark Edelman. The Alex’s stage, built in 1925 as a silent movie and vaudeville house, has always been a tight fit for its sets. For “Camelot,” coming May 6-11, it will have to build the stage out over the orchestra pit.


“We’re disappointed because it’s a beautiful theater, but because of the technical shortcomings, it’s not part of our long-range plans,” Edelman said. “The biggest problem was that we were competing for an audience with the downtown theater, which are so close.” Theater League will continue to produce musicals at the Thousand Oaks Civic Arts Plaza.