On Theater: Vanguard takes on some classics next season

Most theater companies take a little time off in the summer to regroup, catch their breath and plan for the upcoming season. Not Costa Mesa's Vanguard University.

The college's regular 2010-11 season is now history, but Vanguard "turns pro" in the summer with a pair of special productions under the banner of the American Coast Theater Company.

The first of its two summer shows, "The Hiding Place," was staged last month and this weekend will find the second, the musical "Godspell," taking the stage. Then comes a short break before the new season, one heavily immersed in the classics, arrives in September.

Vanguard's 2011-12 campaign will get underway Sept. 16 with the world premiere of a musical review entitled "Americans All." Directed by Vanda Eggington, the show "examines and celebrates American core values," according to the college.

The show was written by retired Orange County Superior Court judge and Daily Pilot columnist James P. Gray, with arrangements by Susan Boettger. It focuses on "the importance of making good choices in life, expanding horizons and having some fun along the way." It's billed as suitable for all ages.

Next up in October will be the stage version of a movie that has become a cinema classic — Harper Lee's penetrating novel "To Kill a Mockingbird," adapted for the stage by Christopher Sergel. In the 1962 movie, Gregory Peck won an Oscar for his portrayal of Atticus Finch, a white lawyer defending a black man accused of rape in a rural Southern town in the 1930s.

"Mockingbird," which is seen through the eyes of three young playmates, including the attorney's daughter, will be staged from Oct. 28 to Nov. 6. Marianne Savell will direct.

Ticketed for the holiday season is Dylan Thomas' musical nostalgia play "A Child's Christmas in Wales." It's also viewed through the perspective of several youngsters and will play from Dec. 2 to 11 under the direction of Susan K. Berkompas.

Berkompas returns in February to direct Carlo Goldoni's "The Servant of Two Masters," a farcical comedy and a classic from the 18th century. It'll be staged in the commedia dell'arte style with masks and accentuated physical buffoonery from Feb. 24 through March 4.

Finally, with an extended run from April 5 to 22, will come what many consider a modern classic, the 1950s musical comedy "The Pajama Game." Vanda Eggington will stage this lighthearted show about union activity in a nightwear factory with a score that includes "Hey There," "Steam Heat" and the title tune.

Performances will be given in the Lyceum Theater — which is due to be renovated and expanded this season. Vanguard University is at 55 Fair Drive, Costa Mesa. For reservations, call the college box office at (714) 668-6145.


Elsewhere, the Costa Mesa Playhouse will offer a world premiere this weekend, but you could miss it if you blink. It's only going to be here through Sunday.

Richard Taylor's "Murder Most Sweet" is described as a "comedy-thriller in the vein of "Deathtrap" about a playwright whose scheme to gain control of a hot property leaves bodies in his wake."

Performances will be given at 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday at the playhouse, 611 Hamilton St., Costa Mesa. Call (949) 650-5269 for ticket information and reservations.

TOM TITUS reviews the local theater scene for the Daily Pilot.

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