Anyone who has had the pleasure of experiencing a musical at the Chance Theater knows that the Anaheim-based troupe kicks butt in terms of staging sophisticated, grown-up musicals. Recent offerings of the Stephen Sondheim-James Lapine art-infused Sunday in the Park with George, the tribal rock-musical Hair and Sondheim's examination of political assassinations, Assassins, are fine illustrations of that fact.
Oanh Nguyen directs the show, which is benefiting from a relationship forged between The Chance, Disneyland Technical Services and Elation, a global supplier of entertainment and theatrical lighting technology. Video projections and a killer lighting console should bring a visual flair to a show that is highly theatrical to begin with.
Combine the Chance's great pool of acting talent, a four-person band and the full genius of Pete Townshend's lyrics, and it should be quite a hoot. But, be warned: If you're a diehard fan of the album or Ken Russell's 1975 film version, you might be let down. When Townshend and Des Macanuff retooled the album for its Broadway run, they added a few tweaks near the end that tempered the ambiguity of the album, and the bizarre nature of the film. There's a palpable sense of championing family values in the musical, which drives Tommy purists crazy–for good reason.
Around the horn at other local theaters:
The Monkey Wrench Collective opens Brad Fraser's True Love Lies on Friday. Though Canadian, Fraser fits the standard of the kind of in-yer-face playwright that Monkey Wrench artistic director (and OC Weekly contributor) Dave Barton likes so much: His plays are uncompromisingly frank in their depictions of sex, drugs and violence. While there is a little sex and violence in this one, it is, based on reviews of its 2009 English premiere, a sophisticated but surprisingly domestic family comedy.
Over at Stages Theatre, it's the second weekend of the first round of its late-night productions of classic Twilight Zone episodes. The first two on the bill are Five Characters in Search of an Exit, and Will the Real Martian Please Stand Up. The first two nights were packed solid and while these shows are just theatrical versions of teleplays, they're a lot of fun. Robert Dean Nunez as the creepy old guy in the diner of the latter, and Jeffrey Rockey as the demented clown in the former, contribute eccentrically strong performances.
And, there's still time to check out one of the most deliriously captivating musicals to stride the boards of a local stage in some time: The Maverick Theater's stellar production of Mel Brooks' The Producers. Read some ink-stained wretch's comments on the show here.
And if you like your musicals with a healthy dollop of gay, check out Theatre Out's Zanna Don't, billed as a Grease-like fairy tale musical that shows what high school would have been like if everyone were gay. Uh, isn't that Glee?
The Who's Tommy: Chance Theater, 5552 E. La Palma Ave., Anaheim Hills, (714) 777-3033. Thurs.-Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat., 3 & 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 & 7 p.m. Thru Aug. 8. www.chancetheater.com
True Love Lies: Monkey Wrench Collective, 204 N. Harbor Blvd., Fullerton, (714) Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m. Thru Aug. 14. www.monkeywrenchcollective.org.
The Twilight Zone: Stages Theatre, 400 E. Commonwealth, Fullerton, (714) 525-4484. Fri.-Sat., 10:30 p.m. Thru Sat. www.stagesoc.com.
The Producers: Maverick Theater, 110 E. Walnut Ave., Fullerton, (714) 526-7070. Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat., 3 & 7 p.m. Thru Aug. 1. wwww.mavericktheater.com.
Zanna Don't: Theatre Out, 202 N. Broadway, Santa Ana, (714) 826-8700. Thurs-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m. Thru July 31. www.theatreout.com.
Joel Beers has written about theater and other stuff for this infernal rag since its very first issue in, when was that again???