THE 25TH ANNUAL PUTNAM COUNTY SPELLING BEE

A bunch of up-and-coming musical theater performers have joined forces as Yutopian Entertainment to do what up-and-coming musical theater performers do best—put on a show (in this case William Finn and Rachel Sheinkin’s The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee), and the show they have put on ends up easily rivaling the best of the now dozen Spelling Bees I’ve attended so far.
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WHAT I LEARNED IN PARIS

The 1973 election of Maynard Jackson as Atlanta’s first African-American mayor is merely the backdrop for Pearl Cleage’s What I Learned In Paris, a romantic roundelay Noël Coward could have confectioned, its made-for-each-other exes J.P. and Evie giving Private Lives’ Elliot and Amanda a run for their money, albeit with a good deal more soul.

Following its 2012 World Premiere at Atlanta’s Alliance Theatre, Cleage’s entertaining if overlong comedy now arrives at Burbank’s Colony Theatre with some sparkling performances and an often fascinating look back at the heady changes wrought by the previous two decades’ Civil Rights crusade and the then burgeoning Feminist Movement.
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THE WESTERN UNSCRIPTED

They’ve improvised Shakespeare. They’ve improvised Film Noir and The Twilight Zone. They’ve improvised Jane Austen, Charles Dickens, and Chekhov. They’ve even had the chutzpah to improvise Stephen Sondheim, music, lyrics, and all. And now the improv geniuses who call themselves Impro Theatre are back for business at the Falcon Theatre with their latest (and one of their very best) confections to date—improvising a full-length “feature film” live onstage in that most quintessential of American movie genres: The Western UnScripted.
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THOROUGHLY MODERN MILLIE

For a Broadway hit that won six Tony awards (including Best Musical of 2002), Thoroughly Modern Millie has made relatively few Southland appearances in the intervening twelve years, just one of many reasons to celebrate the Thoroughly Modern (circa 1922) Miss’s arrival at Glendale Centre Theatre under the thoroughly marvelous co-direction of Danny Michaels and Orlando Alexander.
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LEADING LADIES

RECOMMENDED

Boys will be girls when a pair of traveling Shakespearean thespians impersonate a pair of long-lost sisters in hopes of inheriting a fortune in Ken Ludwig’s Leading Ladies, now entertainingly revived at Glendale Centre Theatre.
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LAY ME DOWN SOFTLY

Nobody does Irish better in L.A. than Theatre Banshee, proof positive which is now onstage as the award-winning troupe presents the West Coast Premiere of Billy Roche’s charming if minor Lay Me Down Softly.
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FAMILY PLANNING

RECOMMENDED

Burbank’s Colony Theatre opens its 40th Season with Michelle Kholos Brooks’ entertaining if overly familiar Family Planning, and while the World Premiere comedy’s couple of battling 70something ex-spouses will likely appeal to the Colony’s post-retirement-age regulars, particularly as brought to life by TV’s venerable Bruce Weitz and Christina Pickles, the coming year’s bolder later selections appear more apt to revitalize the Colony’s aging subscriber base than its Season 40 opener.
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ABBAMEMNON

The zanies who call themselves The Troubies have taken the oldest—and in this reviewer’s humble opinion deadly-dullest—theatrical genre, Greek Tragedy, added their own trademark blend of wacky jokes, inspired adlibs (impromptu or scripted, you be the judge), snappy choreography, and best of all the songs of “one of the most commercially successful acts in the history of pop music” (Wikipedia) to come up with ABBAMEMNON, and if the results aren’t as all-around brilliant as their best, the Troubies’ latest is still the most entertaining Greek tragedy this reviewer has ever seen—or may ever see again.
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