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On Theater: Mesa Playhouse, Vanguard chart new seasons

Vanguard University
A recent production of “The Importance of Being Earnest” at Vanguard University’s Lyceum Theater. Their upcoming 2019-20 season kicks off with the musical “9 to 5" on Sept. 20.
(File Photo)

(Third in a series of columns previewing the upcoming theater seasons)

Costa Mesa is known as the City of the Arts, and for good reason. Apart from the two famed neighboring professional showplaces just north of the 405, the city also houses a pair of fine community and collegiate theater groups.

The Costa Mesa Playhouse, born in the same year as South Coast Repertory, 1965, and Vanguard University, formerly known as Southern California College, have long served their community’s entertainment needs and both have announced ambitious plans for the 2019-20 season.

Kicking off the schedule Aug. 23 for the Costa Mesa Playhouse will be “The 39 Steps,” billed as “a gleeful theatrical parody of Alfred Hitchcock’s 1935 movie thriller.” It will run weekends through Sept. 15.

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“Violet,” a musical set in the deep South during the early days of the civil rights movement, follows, playing from Oct. 18 to Nov. 17. The show won the Drama Critics Circle’s “best musical” award.

Neil Simon’s “Lost in Yonkers,” which won four Tony awards and the Pulitzer Prize, is ticketed for a Jan. 24 to Feb. 16 engagement. It focuses on two teen-age brothers coping with hard times in1942.

“Silent Sky,” the story of early 20th century astronomer Henrietta Leavitt who became a pioneer in her field, is next on the Costa Mesa Playhouse agenda. It will be performed from March 20 through April 12.

The season will close with Tennessee Williams’ magnum opus, “A Streetcar Named Desire.” This classic confrontation between a wilted Southern belle and her sister’s brutish husband will be on stage from May 15 to June 7.

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All Costa Mesa Playhouse performances will be staged Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m. at 611 Hamilton St., Costa Mesa. Additional information may be obtained by calling (949) 650-5269 or visiting costamesaplayhouse.com.

Meanwhile, Vanguard University has a full schedule of mostly musical stage attractions planned, beginning with “9 to 5,” the tuneful version of the hit movie of 1980. The show opens Sept. 20 and runs through Oct. 6.

“Sigh No More,” the debut studio album by London-based rock quartet Mumford & Sons, inspired the theatrical piece of the same name. It’s ticketed for Oct. 25 through Nov. 3 in Vanguard’s Lyceum Theater.

The musical theme plays on with “A Not So Silent Night,” a Christmas album from Australian vocal group The Ten Tenors, fashioned as a stage production. Playing dates are Nov. 22 to Dec. 8.

The holiday spirit continues as Vanguard’s professional arm, the American Coast Theater Company, presents “ACTC’s Christmas Cabaret.” The sounds of the season will abound from Dec. 12 to 22.

One of the theater’s greatest musicals is next on the agenda as “West Side Story” arrives early in 2020. The Jets and the Sharks will face off from Feb. 27 through March 15.

Finally breaking the musical streak will be Neil Simon’s “Rumors,” one of the late, great playwright’s finest comedies. The suburban madness will reign from April 17 to 26.

Vanguard’s Lyceum Theater is located at 55 Fair Drive in Costa Mesa, but may be best reached from Newport Boulevard. More information is available at (714) 668-6145 or vanguardtickets.com.

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