The Dow Jones Industrial Average dropped nearly 3,000 points in one day, government-ordered home quarantines expanded and theaters around the world have closed their doors as the coronavirus pandemic continued to worsen, but at least one California arts group Monday chose to look for rays of hope by thinking about the future.
South Coast Repertory moved ahead with its 2020-21 season announcement Monday evening, promising a lineup that includes a musical adaptation of “Prelude to a Kiss” and a new production written by and starring Amy Brenneman. The next season also will include plays by August Wilson and Thornton Wilder, an adaptation of an Alfred Hitchcock movie, acclaimed works by Mike Lew and Octavio Solis, and the final staging of the company’s original production of “A Christmas Carol.”
“Anchored by American classics, our lineup also includes contemporary hits and new works destined to become tomorrow’s classics,” Artistic Director David Ivers said in the announcement. “A wide variety of voices are represented, some that aren’t always front and center, and they explore some of the important issues of our time, as well as the universal truths that bind us together.”
The world premiere of the “Prelude to a Kiss” musical (May 15-June 12, 2021) will close the season. With a book by “Kiss” playwright Craig Lucas, plus music by Dan Messé and lyrics by Messé and Sean Hartley, the new adaptation brings the title back to SCR, where the play (also adapted into the Meg Ryan-Alec Baldwin film) debuted in 1988.
“The play was a groundbreaking play for SCR, and when I heard just a couple of the songs, it was a no-brainer,” Ivers, who will direct the staging, told The Times. “The source material is the same as the play, but the songs are emotionally driven and extraordinary and gorgeous. And they’re sort of earworms.”
The season will kick off with Wilson’s “Two Trains Running” (Sept. 5-Oct. 3) on the Segerstrom Stage, SCR’s largest house. Directed by Lou Bellamy, the Pulitzer Prize finalist is the sixth in Wilson’s 10-part Pittsburgh-based cycle on the African American experience. That production will be followed by Octavio Solis’ “Quixote Nuevo” (Oct. 17-Nov. 14), a modern retelling of Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra’s novel directed by Juliette Carrillo.
The final performances of the company’s original production of Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol” (Nov. 28-Dec. 27) will star SCR founding artist Richard Doyle (known for years as the Ghost of Christmas Past) as Ebenezer Scrooge (played for 40 years by Hal Landon Jr.). Hisa Takakuwa takes over directing duties. A new “Carol” debuts in 2021.
Landon will be back on the Segerstrom Stage in Beth Lopes’ staging of “Our Town” (Jan. 23-Feb. 20), playing the Stage Manager in Wilder’s Pulitzer Prize-winning classic.
The venue also will house the world-premiere production of Erika Sheffer’s “Vladimir” (March 27-April 24), which is scheduled to debut as a reading at the Pacific Playwrights Festival next month. The topical drama charts a crusading journalist running afoul of the Russian government and risking family, friends and freedom to uncover the truth.
Over on SCR’s Julianne Argyros Stage, the world premiere of Brenneman’s “Threshold” (Sept. 27-Oct. 18) will be directed and choreographed by Sabrina Peck. Inspired by Brenneman’s personal experiences with her daughter, born with a rare chromosomal abnormality, the actress from “Judging Amy,” “The Leftovers” and “Goliath” works through preconceptions of disability and what is considered “normal.”
That show will be followed by Lisa Portes’ staging of Mike Lew’s family comedy “Tiger Style!” (Jan. 3-24) and Kent Nicholson’s production of Patrick Barlow’s spy spoof “The 39 Steps” (March 7-28, 2021), based on John Buchan’s novel and Alfred Hitchcock’s film. An additional title (April 11-May 2, 2021), staged from the Pacific Playwrights Festival, will be announced later.
SCR’s Theatre for Young Audiences family series includes the “Peanuts” party “You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown” (Nov. 6-22, directed by Kari Hayter) and Cheryl L. West’s musical journey “Last Stop on Market Street” (Feb. 5-21, directed by Oanh Nguyen). An additional title (May 28-June 13, 2021) will be announced at a later date.
The season also will include the Mozart Project, a collaboration among SCR, the Pacific Symphony and the Pacific Chorale. The program includes the “Don Giovanni” overture and the Requiem in D-minor, interspersed with a portrayal of Mozart’s greatest rival, Antonio Salieri, performed by Ivers.
Subscription packages are on sale; single tickets for all shows will be available in June.