(This is the third and final column reviewing local theater in 2019)
Two figures stood out like a proverbial but pleasant sore thumb in Orange County theater this year, each combining artistic talent with impressive productivity.
One has made Christmas a good deal merrier for four decades and is now hanging up his red scarf, while the other was local theater’s busiest director this year, turning out one excellent community theater production after another.
They are South Coast Repertory’s legendary Scrooge in its annual staging of “A Christmas Carol” and the innovative force at the Attic and other community theaters.
Hal Landon Jr. and Kathy Paladino are the man and woman of the year in local theater for 2019.
Landon is a living legend at SCR, where he will give his final performance as Scrooge on Christmas Eve. But he’s also a lifelong professional actor with a long and varied career in television and movies.
Among his flicks are “Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure” back in 1989 and its sequel, “Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey.” He may be done with Scrooge, but he’s still not finished with the movie franchise. He’ll be a part of “Bill & Ted Face the Music,” coming next summer.
Landon has also played Polonius in “Hamlet” for Shakespeare Orange County and appeared on TV in such shows as “Mad Men,” “The Closer” and “My Name is Earl.” He’s one of six founding artists at SCR, along with “Carol” castmates Richard Doyle and Art Koustik.
For Paladino, theater is a way of life. She graduated Magna Cum Laude in theater and went on to perform in many regional theaters, including a USO tour during the Vietnam War — which probably inspired her to direct “A Piece of My Heart” twice, at the Attic and the Costa Mesa Playhouse. She’s a board member of both theaters.
She was the theater director at Costa Mesa High School for a dozen years and has staged over 100 shows at venues such as the Attic, the Costa Mesa Playhouse, the Newport Theatre Arts Center and the Long Beach Playhouse.
This year alone, Paladino directed “A Piece of My Heart,” “The Gin Game,” “Floyd Collins,” “Young Frankenstein” and the top community theater show of 2019, “Titanic.” And she’ll be staging five more shows in 2020.
No two single artists have made a deeper impact on local theater this year than Hal Landon Jr. and Kathy Paladino. They are well deserving of the titles of man and woman of the year in theater for 2019.