On Theater: Playhouse musical a precursor to new season

The new season doesn't start for another month, but the Costa Mesa Playhouse is getting a head start this weekend.

Friday night through Sunday only, the playhouse will stage its annual musical fundraiser, this one entitled "That Was Then ... This is Now!" Revenue raised from the benefit will go toward replacing equipment stolen in a recent break-in at the theater.

Jason Holland is directing "That Was Then" with musical direction by Stephen Hulsey. The show is described as a "musical journey through the best of Broadway hits from the 1940s to the present day."

Curtain time is 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday with Sunday's matinee scheduled for 2 p.m. Saturday's show will feature a VIP gala with a silent auction and champagne and appetizer reception. Tickets are $20 for Friday and Sunday, and $23 for Saturday.

The new season, the playhouse's 47th, opens Sept. 2 with Noel Coward's popular comedy "Blithe Spirit," about a novelist whose second marriage is threatened by the appearance of the ghost of his first wife. Timothy MacDougall is directing the show, which runs through Sept. 25.

If you missed Michael Dale Brown's B-movie spoof "Earthlings Beware" when it premiered at the playhouse in 2007, you'll have a chance to catch it on its return visit from Oct. 28 through Nov. 20. Brown again directs his "savvy and silly homage to those unintentionally hilarious B-grade sci-fi flicks of the 1950s, with hokey dialogue, stiff acting and cheesy special effects," Brown promises.

The musical comedy "Nunsense," centered on a benefit variety show staged by sisters from a convent, has inspired six sequels. The playhouse will present the original from Feb. 10 to March 11 under the direction of Jason Holland.

Things turn deadly serious April 13 when Arthur Miller's epic drama of 17th century "witchcraft," "The Crucible," takes the stage. John McQuay will direct this powerful period piece written during the repressive McCarthy era of the 1950s. The show will run through May 6.

Wrapping up the new season will be a local premiere, "Hedwig and the Angry Inch," a cult rock musical by John Cameron Mitchell and Stephen Trask. Director Stephen Hulsey describes it as "a brutally honest musical theater experience. The R-rated show will play from June 8 through July 8.

Performances will be given at the playhouse, 611 Hamilton St., Costa Mesa, and advance reservations may be obtained by calling the theater at (949) 650-5269. Further information is available online at http://www.CostaMesaPlayhouse.org.

TOM TITUS reviews local theater for the Daily Pilot.

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