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ON THEATER: Playhouse season something to sing about

With “Ella” opening this weekend, Frank Sinatra ticketed for summer and George Gershwin waiting in the wings, the Laguna Playhouse is becoming a mecca for aficionados of great popular music.

“The Laguna Playhouse will be filled with music and laughter as we present a season of sensational musicals and playful comedies guaranteed to keep audiences entertained,” said Andrew Barnicle, who is well into his second decade as artistic director of the theater.

“My Way: A Musical Tribute to Frank Sinatra” will open the just-announced 2009-10 season at the playhouse, playing July 7 through Aug. 23. The show — with book by Todd Olson and directed by David Grapes — follows the legendary singer from his beginnings as a big band crooner in the 1940s to his Rat Pack days in Las Vegas.

Barnicle hails “My Way” as “a terrific tribute to one of the greatest pop singers of the 20th century” and added that the next show, “Moonlight and Magnolias,” will be “a wildly funny look at Hollywood during its golden age.”

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That show, which Barnicle will direct, is Ron Hutchinson’s take on movie history — specifically that period in 1939 when producer David O. Selznick stopped production on one of his flicks because he wanted a rewrite of the unwieldy script. The movie: “Gone With the Wind,” about which you may have heard.

“Selznick hires playwright Ben Hecht to do the job — in only five days,” Barnicle explains.

“Only one problem: Hecht has never even read the novel. So Selznick closets himself with Hecht and director Fleming to his office, locks the doors and closes the shades.”

The comedy, co-produced with McCoy Rigby Entertainment and the La Mirada Theater for the Performing Arts, will be on the Laguna stage from Oct. 6 to Nov. 1.

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If you loved last summer’s production of “The Marvelous Wonderettes,” get ready for some deja vu. “Winter Wonderettes,” written and directed by Roger Bean, will run from Nov. 23 through Dec. 20.

Six months after the end of the previous show, this seasonal sequel sees the squabbling singers returning to their home town for a holiday celebration with family and friends — and wind up as the entertainment for a company Christmas party.

Come January, the playhouse will present “George Gershwin Alone” with actor and musician Hershey Felder offering an intimate portrait of the legendary composer, whose compositions included “I Got Rhythm,” “Someone to Watch Over Me” and the classic instrumental piece “Rhapsody in Blue.”

The show has been playing to sellout performances around the world.

“George Gershwin Alone,” directed by Joel Zwick, takes the playhouse stage Jan. 12, 2010, and runs through Feb. 7, 2010. The final play remains unselected, and Barnicle promises an announcement soon.

“No one will want to miss our 2009-10 season,” he said. “It really is something to sing about.”


TOM TITUS reviews local theater for the Coastline Pilot.


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