On Theater: Vintage plots, updated versions

At Costa Mesa's Vanguard University of Southern California, the upcoming theater season will be marked by one major factor — maturity.

All five plays to be performed at the school's Lyceum Theater in 2010-11 fit quite comfortably into the "oldies" category insofar as their original conceptions are concerned. A few are updated versions of vintage plot lines.

Of course, the summer season still is upon us as Vanguard's professional arm, the American Coast Theater Co., winds up its third program. The musical "Boomers" closed July 18 and the drama "Shadowlands" will be running in August, opening on Aug. 6 and playing through Aug. 29.

Then, in mid-September, the new student-performed season gets under way with a new twist on an old favorite — Lewis Carroll's "Alice in Wonderland" adventures.

"Alice," a musical rendition of Carroll's classic storybook characters, starts the new season Sept. 17 and runs through Oct. 3 under the direction of Vanda Eggington. Elizabeth Swandos adapted the 150-year-old children's fantasy, adding original songs for the White Rabbit, the Cheshire Cat, the Mad Hatter and all the rest.

Vanguard had scheduled a revival of Thornton Wilder's classic "Our Town" last season, but the performance rights weren't forthcoming. The college will mount the drama of small town life from Oct. 29 through Nov. 7 with Susan K. Berkompas, producing artistic director, at the helm.

A return engagement of "It's a Wonderful Life," the stage version of the vintage Jimmy Stewart movie, will be on the Lyceum stage from Dec. 3 to 12. Amick Byram will direct this show, calculated to put audiences into the Christmas spirit.

Shakespeare, of course, is about as old as you can get in the theater without going back to the Ancient Greeks, and Vanguard has one of the Bard's best-known tragedies on tap. Berkompas will return to direct "Romeo and Juliet," scheduled for a Feb. 25 to March 6 engagement.

Finally, Vanguard will tap the fertile mind of Charles Dickens for its closing production, "The Mystery of Edwin Drood." This was Dickens' last work, unfinished at the author's death, and playwright Rupert Holmes has added music and lyrics. Eggington will stage the local production, the ending of which will hinge on audience preference. Yes, you'll have a vote, just like "Night of January 16th."

Prospective patrons may avail themselves of advance tickets, either the seasonal or individual variety, by contacting the university at (714) 668-6145, or online at http://www.vanguardtickets.com. The theater is accessed off the Newport Boulevard entrance to Vanguard, 55 Fair Drive, Costa Mesa.

TOM TITUS reviews local theater for the Daily Pilot.

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