Our Laguna: Playhouse announces 2012-13 lineup

Laguna Playhouse Executive Director Karen Wood and Artistic Director Ann E. Wareham raised the curtain at the Hotel Laguna on Monday on the 13 productions in the 2012-13 season.

"It's a 'baker's dozen of art and entertainment,'" said Wood.

Matthew Smedal performed a rousing overture and musical interludes on the piano to introduce the three musicals scheduled for the upcoming season.

"The Marvelous Wonderettes: Caps & Gowns" is set for July 3 to 29. It features more than 20 hit songs from the 1950s and '60s, including "Rockin' Robin" and "River Deep — Mountain High."

"You remember our gals from their last visit, 'Winter Wonderettes,'" Wareham said. "Well, in this world premiere, our four favorite gals from the 1950s take us down memory lane when they graduate from high school and move beyond."

Smedal played "Let it Snow" as a hint to "Plaid Tidings," the special edition of "Forever Plaid" that will be on stage from Nov. 27 to Dec. 23.

"In this visitation, the hilarious, heavenly quartet croons their swingin' harmonic renditions in a lovingly nostalgic, holiday extravaganza," Wood said. "Featuring standards including 'White Christmas,' 'I'll Be Home for Christmas,' and 'Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas,' this is sure to be a holiday treat for the whole family."

The musical "Having It All" moves to center stage March 5, 2013, and will run through March 31.

Shannon Warne belted out "Picture of a Dream," one of the songs from the show, which explores the myth that juggling a career, a marriage, children and running a household is "having it all."

The show is being produced by the Playhouse in association with Peter Schneider, and Laguna Beach resident and impresario David Elzer; it's his fifth production with the Playhouse.

"We hope to have the original cast that debuted the show last year in Los Angeles," Elzer said.

The show's lyricist David Goldsmith also attended the Playhouse soiree.

Comedy and what Wood called dramedy takes the stage starting with Alfred Hitchcock's classic "The 39 Steps" thriller on Sept. 25 for a nearly monthlong run.

The 1935 movie featured the first of Hitchcock's signature cool blondes: Madeleine Carroll.

The long-running hit play is the winner of Tony and Drama Desk awards and London's Olivier Award for Best New Comedy.

"It's also one of the biggest challenges in the repertoire of a character actor, with 150 roles essayed by four very energetic, ambitious actors," Wareham said.

Former Playhouse Artistic Director Andrew Barnicle will return to direct "Chapter Two," Neil Simon's semi-autobiographical comedic take on the drama of adjusting to his wife's untimely death and his brother's match-making proclivity.

The play will jump start the New Year, opening Jan. 8.

Barnicle recalled mentoring a Playhouse staff member who was terrified of speaking to a group of ushers, mostly from Leisure World.

The staffer asked Barnicle, who once taught a college class on public speaking, for some tips. Barnicle suggested making an outline of what he wanted to say.

"Unfortunately, what came out of his mouth was, 'It's a pleasure to see so many old faces,'" Barnicle said. "That's about how I feel now."

Wareham, who succeeded Barnicle as artistic director, introduced Jenny Sullivan, director of "Steel Magnolias," which is set for April 30 through May 6, 2013.

"I am really excited to revisit it," said Sullivan, who directed the show last year. "It has such heart and some of the most amazing one-liners. It's about friendship in a [beauty] salon, where everything takes place."

The title refers to the exterior fragility and interior strength of magnolias.

So that's the six-play lineup in the subscription series.

But wait, there's more.

"We have the student productions of the youth theater program and our cherished community collaborators returning; the Laguna Dance Festival plus Laguna Beach Live's festival and individual music presentations; and, of course, our own Laguna Concert Band," Wood said. "It is always a joy to welcome our community into the season.

"And you all remember our folk music hit, 'Lonesome Traveler?' Well, this year we're partnering with the wonderful Rubicon Theatre once again to bring you a special one-week engagement (Aug. 28 to Sept. 2) we call 'Lonesome Travelers in Concert.' Here to remind you of that all-American folk music is one of the Travelers, Justine Bennett."

Bennett, who had the Joan Baez role in "Travelers," sang "Turn, Turn, Turn" and was enthusiastically applauded by the audience of Playhouse supporters and guests.

"And, of course, we have our return smash-hit engagement of Rita Rudner's witty stand-up comedy in August for the third hilarious year, and so entitled 'Rita Rudner, Act Three,'" Wood said.

That show will run Aug. 24 to 26.

"Sister Catechism: Las Vegas" is the third of the special engagements, set for June 4 to 23, 2013.

The convent sends Sister to Vegas to win the money for a new roof, based on her gambling skills acquired while directing church bingo nights.

"There is always something engaging happening at your Laguna Playhouse," said Wood. "None of this upcoming season or last, or our upcoming 100th season, would be possible without the leadership and commitment of the Laguna Playhouse Board of Directors."

Wood asked Chairman Henry Mayhew and all board members present to stand and be recognized. She also introduced Andy Nove, business development director of Mercedes-Benz of Laguna Niguel, which is a new sponsor of the Playhouse.

"I'm sure this is just the beginning of a beautiful relationship with the Playhouse and a deepening relationship with Laguna Beach," said Wood.

Wood also extended thanks to hotelier Georgia Andersen and the staff at Claes Ovation for hosting the event Monday.

Among the other notables at the event: Councilwomen Elizabeth Pearson and Toni Iseman, Arts Commissioners Pat Kollenda and Mary Ferguson, Laguna Beach Live! founder Cindy Prewitt, and Laguna Concert Band President Matt Wood and founder Carol Reynolds.

OUR LAGUNA is a regular feature of the Laguna Beach Coastline Pilot. Contributions are welcomed. Call (714) 966-4682 or email coastlinepilot@latimes.com with Attn. Barbara Diamond in the subject line.

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