On Theater: 50th anniversary brings past shows back

The Huntington Beach Playhouse may be formulating plans to celebrate its 50th season three years hence, but next door in Westminster, there's already a golden anniversary event underway.

The Westminster Community Theatre, born in 1961, is in the midst of its 50th anniversary season, reviving five popular shows from past seasons and adding another favorite to be produced for the first time.

Already on the boards have been "The Pajama Game" and "Cheaters" (which closed last weekend). Next up will be Agatha Christie's "The Mousetrap," playing from Nov. 5 to 20, followed by "The Curious Savage" by John Patrick, ticketed from Jan. 14 to 19.

The "newcomer," which has been around a while but never in Westminster, will be Frederick Knott's murderous thriller "Wait Until Dark," which will be presented from March 11 to 26. Rounding out the season is "The Philadelphia Story," scheduled to run from May 13 to 28. Performance rights still are pending on the latter show.

Sandwiched between the November and January shows will be WCT's 2010 fundraiser. The Shenanigans comedy troupe will perform sketches with a holiday theme, written and directed by the group's founder, Tom Hardy. The $20 admission fee is tax-deductible.

Over the years, when I was involved actively as an actor and director, the Westminster Community Theatre occupied several memorable moments. The first was in 1968, when I directed my original play, "Summer Lightning." It was my first and last effort as a playwright, but the beginning of a 40-year directing career.

The second came two years later, when I played Mitch in WCT's production of "A Streetcar Named Desire." I fell in love with the actress playing Blanche, and we were married a few months later. Beth and I enjoyed a 13-year run and produced a pair of terrific kids, now both grown and married. Our oldest, Tim, was Noah Claypole in Westminster's "Oliver!"

Our second child, Mindy, was born the afternoon of another directorial project at Westminster, "Sunday in New York," in 1979. She later made her stage debut at WCT when, at age 8, she played the witch's monkey in "The Wizard of Oz." She went on to play young Sally in "The Happy Time," a dancer in "Promises, Promises" and her real-life mother's hairdressing assistant in "Steel Magnolias" on the Westminster stage. Most recently, she was the nurse in "Harvey."

I'm happy to report that the Westminster Community Theatre has been added to the venues covered by the Huntington Beach Independent and that further news and reviews will be forthcoming in this column. Happy anniversary and on with the show.

TOM TITUS reviews local theater for the Independent.

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