Two musicals on Taper’s ’09 slate

Times Staff Writer

Hoping to give audiences something to buzz about in the expanded lobby yielded by its $30-million renovation, the Mark Taper Forum will offer a 2009 season that includes revivals of the Broadway musicals “Pippin” and “Parade” and Chekhov’s “Uncle Vanya” as well as three new or recent plays concerning Irish terrorism, the Iraq war hitting home on a New Mexico Indian reservation, and a Mexican American family in 1970s Texas trying to cope with a daughter’s serious injury.

Two musicals in a season is a rarity for the Taper -- done just five times before, the last in 1998-99. Backstage renovations have made it easier and less expensive to move around people and scenery for large shows, Center Theatre Group artistic director Michael Ritchie said.

After years of opening its seasons in the fall, the Taper is returning to a calendar-year schedule for the first time since 1973. The renovated house will be broken in by the two remaining shows in the current season: John Guare’s “The House of Blue Leaves” (Sept. 14-Oct. 19) and Peter Whelan’s “The School of Night” (Nov. 9-Dec. 17).

Launching the new season, “Pippin” (Jan. 25-March 15) posits that choosing a career path was as hard for the emperor Charlemagne’s kid in the 9th century as it can be for youth of today. Its original 1972 incarnation was part of “Wicked” composer-lyricist Stephen Schwartz’s career-making skein of ‘70s hits. This version is a co-production with Deaf West Theatre and director Jeff Calhoun, who again are collaborating with CTG after their 2002 “Big River” went from the Taper to Broadway. The Deaf West method interweaves and overlaps spoken and sung performance with songs and dialogue acted in American Sign Language.


“Parade” (Oct. 4-Nov. 15, 2009) concerns the case of Leo Frank, a Jewish factory supervisor in 1913 Atlanta who was accused falsely then lynched for the killing of a 13-year-old girl. While not a hit, the 1998 show won Tonys for best book (Alfred Uhry) and score (Jason Robert Brown). This production, directed by Rob Ashford, is an import from London’s Donmar Warehouse company, which staged it in 2007.

Chekhov’s “Uncle Vanya” will run May 28-July 12.

The comedic troupe Culture Clash will offer the premiere of a drama, “Palestine, New Mexico” (Dec. 13, 2009-Jan. 24, 2010). This play, by trio member Richard Montoya, concerns a female Army captain who arrives from Iraq with unsettling and unwanted news about how the son of a New Mexico tribal chief really died.

Martin McDonagh’s “The Lieutenant of Inishmore” (July 23-Sept. 6, 2009) mixes horror and hilarity, stoked by the black-comic rage of a terrorist too volatile for the IRA.


In “Lydia” (April 15-May 17), by Octavio Solis, author of South Coast Repertory’s Christmas perennial, “La Posada Magica,” a family is shaken when a new caretaker comes to help with their injured daughter. The show had its premiere this year at the Denver Center Theatre Company.