On Theater: New theater season off and running

No sooner does September check in than local stage productions flood in.

The honor of kicking off the 2011-12 season goes to the Costa Mesa Playhouse. This weekend it revives Noel Coward's ghostly comedy "Blithe Spirit." That's the antique chuckler about the guy who must put up with two wives, one of whom is dead but very much in the picture.

Orange Coast College launches its new season next weekend with "Seascape for Shark and Dancer," billed as a "quirky comedy about a destructive relationship."

That show will run from Sept. 9 to Sept. 18 in OCC's Drama Lab Theater.

On the weekend of Sept. 16 to Sept. 18, South Coast Repertory will headline a busy three-show revival of Jane Austen's "Pride and Prejudice." The romantic comedy focusing on a vintage English family will run through Oct. 9 on the Segerstrom Stage.

Neil Simon once went through a "B.B." period with a trio of autobiographical plays. In between "Brighton Beach Memoirs" and "Broadway Bound" he penned "Biloxi Blues," which will arrive at the Newport Theatre Arts Center on Sept. 16. It centers on Simon's alter ego, Eugene Jerome, and his experiences in Army basic training.

That same weekend will find Vanguard University launching a world premiere, "Americans All," written by retired Orange County Judge James P. Gray, a columnist with the Daily Pilot. It's described as an inspirational musical revue in a high school classroom.

SCR returns to the spotlight the weekend of Sept. 30 to Oct. 2 with "How the World Began," a new play centering on a New York biology teacher attempting to crack the hard shell of beliefs in Plainview, Kan. This one runs through Oct. 16 on the Julianne Argyros Stage.

Everyone's favorite ogre is now the centerpiece of a musical comedy. The Segerstrom Center for the Arts will present "Shrek the Musical" from Oct. 4 to Oct. 16.

Orange Coast College will be set for a little sleuthing from Oct. 14 to Oct. 23 when "Sherlock Holmes" arrives at the Drama Lab Theater. Vanguard University has the stage version of "To Kill a Mockingbird" ticketed for an Oct. 28 opening.

That same weekend will find two other local productions opening — "The Trip to Bountiful" at South Coast Repertory and a return visit from the original comedy "Earthlings Beware" at the Costa Mesa Playhouse.

TOM TITUS reviews local theater for the Daily Pilot.

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