Category: La Jolla Playhouse

Flaming Lips musical to debut in late 2012, minus Aaron Sorkin

March 14, 2012 |  2:24 pm


"Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots," the new musical based on the Flaming Lips' 2002 album of the same name, will make its debut later this year at the La Jolla Playhouse, the theater company announced on Wednesday. The musical will have its world premiere in either November or December, in a production directed by Des McAnuff.

Despite its title, "Yoshimi" will feature songs from a number of other albums by the Flaming Lips, including "The Soft Bulletin" and "At War with the Mystics," the company said. The alternative rock band from Oklahoma City is led by frontman Wayne Coyne.

"Yoshimi" has been in the works since at least 2007. Aaron Sorkin, the writer of TV's "The West Wing" and the movie "The Social Network," had previously been tapped to pen the book for the musical. But Sorkin's name is conspicuously missing from Wednesday's announcement.

The announcement states that the  musical is written by McAnuff. [Updated, March 15 9:30 a.m.]: The director issued the following statement via the La Jolla Playhouse:

"Wayne Coyne of The Flaming Lips and I have been working on Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots for some time.  Aaron Sorkin initially planned to write a book for the musical, but when it became clear that the musical would be 'sung through,' Aaron turned his attention to other projects.  In the meantime, Aaron and I have started work on another play.  Wayne and I continue to fine tune the libretto and score for the musical which will go into rehearsal in La Jolla in the middle of September.  We are both looking forward to Yoshimi with keen anticipation.  We know that we have Aaron's enthusiastic blessing on our project."

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'Spring Awakening' team to bring fairy-tale show to La Jolla

March 6, 2012 |  2:49 pm

Duncan Sheik and Steven Sater at 2007 Tony Awards Jason Szenes European Pressphoto Agency

“Spring Awakening” collaborators Duncan Sheik and Steven Sater are dipping into the well of 19th century European literature yet again, with a musical version of the Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale  “The Nightingale.”

The La Jolla Playhouse announced Tuesday that the work-in-progress will have a public workshop staging July 10 to Aug. 5 as part of the playhouse’s Page to Stage new play development series.

Composer Sheik and lyricist-librettist Sater will have a high-profile collaborator in director Moises Kaufman, who helped get Page to Stage off on the right foot in 2001, directing its inaugural installment, Doug Wright’s “I Am My Own Wife.”

That show, with Kaufman as director, went on to win the 2004 Pulitzer prize for drama and 2004 Tony Awards for best play and best actor (Jefferson Mays in a solo turn playing dozens of characters). Kaufman co-wrote and directed “The Laramie Project” for his own documentary stage company, Tectonic Theater Project, and directed well-received stagings of Rajiv Joseph's "Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo" at L.A.'s Kirk Douglas Theatre and Mark Taper Forum in 2009-10, as well as its 2011  Broadway production starring Robin Williams.

Before Page to Stage debuted, the La Jolla Playhouse helped launch “Spring Awakening” with its initial in-house workshop in 2000 under former artistic director Anne Hamburger. That show, based on Frank Wedekind’s 1891 drama about teen angst in sexually repressive, Victorian-era Germany, went on to win eight Tony Awards in 2007, including best musical, best book (for Sater) and best score and orchestrations (for Sheik).

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Spring theater preview: 'Waiting for Godot,' 'Hands on a Hardbody'

March 2, 2012 |  9:00 am

'The Scottsboro Boys'

Trucks have never really been my thing, but of the upcoming new musicals this season, I’m most curious about “Hands on a Hardbody,” the Doug Wright-Trey Anastasio-Amanda Green collaboration at La Jolla Playhouse. As for drama (or tragicomedy, to be more precise) I am champing at the bit for “Waiting for Godot,” with Alan Mandell and Barry McGovern sure to put on a Beckettian master class at the Mark Taper Forum.

Here’s a shortlist of the spring season's most promising theatrical offerings.

'Waiting for Godot'

Samuel Beckett’s play is more than just an ingenious work of theater — it’s a modern myth. Two tramps pass their time together while waiting for the appearance of a gentleman who will supposedly redeem their patience and relieve their confounded suffering. A tragicomic mix of vaudeville antics and philosophical badminton, this genre-busting work was magnificently characterized by playwright Jean Anouilh as “the music-hall sketch of Pascal’s 'Pensées' as played by Fratellini clowns.” Two highly regarded Beckett interpreters, Alan Mandell and Barry McGovern, take on the roles of Estragon and Vladimir in a production directed by Michael Arabian and featuring James Cromwell as Pozzo that will have an extraordinary wealth of experience to draw on in reanimating this modern classic.
Mark Taper Forum, 135 N. Grand Ave., Los Angeles Music Center. March 21 – April 22. Tickets start at $20.

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'Jesus Christ Superstar' recasts Pontius Pilate — again

December 8, 2011 |  2:04 pm

A scene from "Jesus Christ Superstar"

The Broadway-bound revival of "Jesus Christ Superstar," currently at the La Jolla Playhouse, has been generating positive buzz since opening earlier this year at the Stratford Shakespeare Festival in Canada. But the production appears to be experiencing some complications in the casting of Pontius Pilate, the Roman politician who sentences Jesus to the cross.

When the musical opened in Stratford, the role of Pilate was played by Brent Carver, a Tony Award winner for "Kiss of the Spider Woman." Carver was announced for the La Jolla transfer but then last month, the company said he was withdrawing from the production, citing a need to rest his voice.

Actor Jeremy Kushnier was then cast in the role of Pilate and appeared in the Nov. 30 opening-night performance. But this week Kushnier left the role and was replaced by actor Tom Hewitt, who started on Wednesday.

A spokeswoman for the playhouse said Hewitt will be performing the role of Pilate for a limited engagement and that Kushnier would return to the production later in the run.

A Stratford Shakespeare Festival spokeswoman said Hewitt is only performing for six or seven performances in La Jolla. She said there is a possibility that he is being considered for the role of Pilate on Broadway. As for Kushnier, the Stratford spokeswoman said that even before he took over the role of Pilate there were plans for him to be part of the Broadway transfer.

"Jesus Christ Superstar" features songs by Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice. The revival is staged by former La Jolla Playhouse artistic director Des McAnuff.

The La Jolla run is scheduled to end Dec. 31. The Broadway engagement is set to open Mar. 22 at the Neil Simon Theatre.


Theater review: 'Jesus Christ Superstar' at La Jolla Playhouse

La Jolla's 'Superstar' cast same as Stratford's, minus Brent Carver

'Jesus Christ Superstar' opening on Broadway in March

— David Ng

Photo: A scene from "Jesus Christ Superstar." Credit: David Hou / Stratford Shakespeare Festival


'Bonnie & Clyde' on Broadway: What did the critics think?

December 2, 2011 | 10:56 am


"Bonnie & Clyde," the new musical by Frank Wildhorn and Don Black, opened on Broadway this week at the Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre. Based on the lives of the famous Depression-era outlaws, the show debuted at the La Jolla Playhouse in 2009.

Audiences will no doubt be familiar with the story of the murderous bank robbers from the 1967 movie "Bonnie and Clyde," directed by Arthur Penn and starring Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway. The musical, which isn't based on the movie, features a book by Ivan Mencell and is directed and choreographed by Jeff Calhoun.

In his review of the La Jolla production, Times theater critic Charles McNulty wrote that "the creators find little to say about the romantic robbers that hasn’t been said more compellingly elsewhere."

The Broadway version stars Jeremy Jordan and Laura Osnes as the main protagonists. (Osnes also starred in the La Jolla production, but the role of Clyde Barrow was then played by Stark Sands.)

How did critics respond to the musical?

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Theater review: 'Jesus Christ Superstar' at La Jolla Playhouse

December 2, 2011 |  6:00 am

Jesus christ superstar

O ye of little faith. To all those who made snarky comments when it was announced that “Jesus Christ Superstar” was being resurrected by Des McAnuff, I say unto you, “Go down to La Jolla Playhouse and observe the benevolent gift of this revival, which has had the miraculous effect of turning even an Andrew Lloyd Webber denier like me into a momentary believer.”

Nothing puts me in a more secular mood than a Gospel-inspired musical, which is suddenly (and inexplicably) all the rage again. (“Godspell” is back on Broadway, and this new “Jesus Christ Superstar,” critically acclaimed when it premiered at the Stratford Shakespeare Festival in Canada, transfers to the Great White Way in March.) But McAnuff manages to find refreshing sincerity in the show Webber and Tim Rice created out of their hit concept album, draining the work of its camp excesses and hitting just the right balance between modesty and flash.

A legacy of the countercultural movement, “Jesus Christ Superstar” was directed on Broadway in 1971 by Tom O'Horgan, best known for his explosive flower-power handling of “Hair,” and the show has always had a hippy-dippy, free-love aura to it. Moving from one number to the next as it traces the last days in the life of Jesus of Nazareth, this eclectic opera mixing rock and theatrical pop with more classical strains seeks to “strip away the myth from the man,” as one of Rice’s occasionally overblown lyrics puts it.


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Berkeley Rep's Les Waters to head Actors Theatre of Louisville

November 29, 2011 |  1:56 pm

Les Waters photo by Rebecca Martinez Berkeley Rep
Completing a directorial swap between California and Kentucky, Actors Theatre of Louisville announced Tuesday that Les Waters, associate artistic director of Berkeley Repertory Theatre since 2003, will be its next artistic director.

Waters (pictured), a 59-year-old native of northern England, will start his new gig in March, succeeding Marc Masterson, who had led Actors Theatre for nearly 11 years before being grabbed earlier this year as the new artistic director of South Coast Repertory in Costa Mesa.

Waters will take charge of Actors Theatre’s nationally prominent annual showcase event, the Humana Festival of New American Plays. He often has worked the edgier side of the theatrical tracks, directing plays by Wallace Shawn, Caryl Churchill and Charles L. Mee. At Berkeley, he had a hand in Sarah Ruhl’s emergence as a leading contemporary playwright, directing the 2004 premiere of “Eurydice,” her first play to gain national acclaim, and the 2009 premiere of “In the Next Room (or the Vibrator Play),” which later that year brought both Waters and Ruhl their Broadway debuts.

“In the Next Room” received a 2010 Tony Award nomination for best play and was a finalist for that year’s Pulitzer Prize in drama –- controversially losing to the musical “Next to Normal,” which had not been among the three finalists recommended to the Pulitzer board by a jury of theater experts chaired by Los Angeles Times critic Charles McNulty.

Before being hired in 2003 by Berkeley Rep’s artistic director, Tony Taccone, Waters spent eight years as head of the master’s degree directing program at UC San Diego. 

He had made his Southern California directing debut in 1989, when the Mark Taper Forum imported Timberlake Wertenbaker’s “Our Country’s Good” from London’s Royal Court Theatre for its U.S. premiere. Waters co-directed that production with his mentor and then-boss, Royal Court artistic director Max Stafford-Clark.  At the Royal Court, Waters’ directing credits included plays by Churchill and the 1979 world premiere of Shawn’s “Marie and Bruce.”

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La Jolla's 'Superstar' cast same as Stratford's, minus Brent Carver

November 14, 2011 |  2:42 pm

Jesus Christ Superstar

The actors playing Jesus, Judas and Mary Magdalene all will be onstage again, but Broadway veteran Brent Carver will be AWOL as Pontius Pilate when the La Jolla Playhouse reprises the Stratford Shakespeare Festival's hit production of "Jesus Christ Superstar" later this month.

The playhouse has announced casting for Des McAnuff's critically praised, Broadway-bound version of the Andrew Lloyd Webber/Tim Rice musical, which gave the world its first rock 'n' roll Messiah. Paul Nolan will be Jesus, Chilina Kennedy once more will portray Mary Magdalene and Josh Young will again take on the part of what Chicago Tribune theater critic Chris Jones described as a "sexy, well-made-up Judas" with "a dangerous, if somewhat campy, air."

But Carver, a longtime Stratford regular who also starred on Broadway in the musical "Kiss of the Spider Woman," has washed his hands of the role of Pontius Pilate, at least for the time being. In an e-mail Monday afternoon, a La Jolla publicist told Culture Monster: "Brent Carver will not be part of the Stratford Shakespeare Festival’s production of Jesus Christ Superstar at La Jolla Playhouse because he requires vocal rest."

The La Jolla production will mark the latest homecoming for McAnuff, who served as the playhouse's artistic director for several years until leaving in the early 1990s to pursue other film and theater projects.


Quick Takes: Losing 'Neverland'

Des McAnuff to vacate La Jolla Playhouse post

'Jesus Christ Superstar' opening on Broadway in March 

-- Reed Johnson

Photo: Paul Nolan portrays Jesus in the Stratford Shakespeare Festival's production of Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice's musical "Jesus Christ Superstar," opening this month at the La Jolla Playhouse. Credit: Associated Press / Stratford Shakespeare Festival / David Hou

Trey Anastasio, Benjamin Millepied join 'Hands on a Hardbody'

October 14, 2011 |  5:07 pm


Phish, Benjamin Millepied and the La Jolla Playhouse -- together at last.

The cause of this eclectic assembly of creative talent is "Hands on a Hardbody," the new musical based on the popular 1998 documentary film that will debut at the La Jolla Playhouse in April, organizers announced on Friday.

Tony-winning playwright Doug Wright is penning the book for the musical.  Millepied -- a principal with the New York City Ballet who also choreographed the movie "Black Swan" and is engaged to Natalie Portman, with whom he has a newborn son -- will serve as choreographer. The rock band Phish will be represented in the production by frontman Trey Anastasio, who is co-writing the score. The crew also includes director Neil Pepe and lyricist Amanda Green.

"Hands on a Hardbody" tells the story of a contest to win a new hardbody truck. The competition requires people to keep their hands on the vehicle for the longest period.

The La Jolla Playhouse said that it commissioned the musical and that it developed the project through a series of readings and workshops. The production is scheduled to run April 27 to June 10.


'Jesus Christ Superstar' opening on Broadway in March

Weinsteins pull the plug on 'Finding Neverland' musical at La Jolla Playhouse

'Little Miss Sunshine' actor misses the bus

-- David Ng

Photo: Trey Anastasio of the band Phish. Credit: Alison Redlich / Associated Press


'Jesus Christ Superstar' opening on Broadway in March

October 4, 2011 |  6:01 pm


Broadway fans would be wise to brush up on the New Testament this season as two Christ-themed musicals are scheduled to descend from the heavens onto New York. Organizers announced Tuesday that the highly anticipated revival of "Jesus Christ Superstar" will open at the Neil Simon Theatre on March 22.

The musical, written by Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice, comes from Canada's Stratford Shakespeare Festival and will stop at the La Jolla Playhouse from Nov. 18 to Dec. 31 before heading to New York. The revival production is directed by Des McAnuff and stars Paul Nolan in the title role of the Messiah. Broadway preview performances are scheduled to begin March 1.

This fall, a revival of "Godspell" is set to open on Broadway at the Circle in the Square Theatre. The Stephen Schwartz musical will star "Weeds" actor Hunter Parrish in the role of Christ and is set to officially open Nov. 7.

Both musicals made their Broadway debuts in the 1970s.

"Jesus Christ Superstar" is a last-minute replacement at the La Jolla Playhouse after the musical "Finding Neverland" was called off by the Weinstein Co.


Weinsteins pull the plug on 'Finding Neverland' musical at La Jolla Playhouse

Theater review: 'Milk Like Sugar' at the La Jolla Playhouse

Theater review: 'Sleeping Beauty Wakes' at La Jolla Playhouse

— David Ng

Photo: Paul Nolan in the Stratford production of "Jesus Christ Superstar." Credit: David Hou / Associated Press.



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