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Fall arts picks: Theater

September 16, 2011 |  8:30 am

Ghetto klwon 
Big spectacles are awaiting us this fall — “Bring It On: The Musical” at the Ahmanson Theatre, “Jesus Christ Superstar” at La Jolla Playhouse. But I’m looking forward to some smaller-scale works that seek to make up in offbeat charm what they may lack in expensive special effects.

Among these are two musicals that are carving their own quirky paths — “I’ve Never Been So Happy,” a work by the genre-busting Rude Mechs (“The Method Gun”), and “Hey, Morgan!,” the Black Dahlia’s foray into indie musical comedy.

David Henry Hwang’s comedy “Chinglish,” opening on Broadway in October, stands out amid the new dramatic offerings this season. And closer to home there’s John Leguizamo’s “Ghetto Klown” — a solo effort that will no doubt populate the stage as though it were a massive extravaganza.

‘Ghetto Klown,’ opens Oct. 2

John Leguizamo brings his latest solo show, which had a successful Broadway run last season, to Los Angeles, where he’ll surely find a warm welcome for his anecdotes about a wiry Latino funnyman from Queens trying to navigate his way around Hollywood prejudice and peculiarity. An antic comic storyteller, he turns satire into a deadly weapon — especially when it’s pointed at his younger and not-so-innocent self.

Ricardo Montalbán Theatre, L.A. $42.50 to $115 (premium available).

(800) 595-4849 or

‘I’ve Never Been So Happy,’ Oct. 8

The Austin-based experimental company Rude Mechs returns to the Kirk Douglas with a work described as “a western musical transmedia shindig.” In other words, expect the unexpected from this show about star-crossed lovers, whose parents make those of “Romeo and Juliet” seem completely lacking in disciplinary imagination.

Kirk Douglas Theatre, Culver City. $20-$30 (subject to change).

(213) 628-2772 or online at

‘Hey, Morgan!,’ Oct. 15

This world premiere musical by Matthew Fogel and Isaac Laskin is described by the show’s director Matt Shakman as “a charming, funny, occasionally filthy and ultimately moving chronicle of a relatively normal Jewish girl from Brentwood” named Morgan Farkas. Sounds like fun, but how in the world are they going to squeeze an orchestra into the Dahlia’s itsy-bitsy space?

Black Dahlia Theatre, L.A. $25.

(800) 838-3006 or

‘Next Fall,’ Nov. 2

Geoffrey Nauffts’ Tony-nominated drama revolves around a gay odd couple of sorts. One partner is deeply religious, the other is devoutly secular. While grappling with gentle humor about the tricky compromises of relationships, this small play winds up exploring a big philosophical subject involving the meaning of faith and the limits of rationalism.

Geffen Playhouse, L.A. $37-$77.

(310) 208-5454 or

‘A Missionary Position,’ Nov. 9

This multimedia solo work by Ugandan American artist Ntare Guma Mbaho Mwine delivers a satiric riposte to Uganda’s proposed Anti-Homosexuality Bill. Mwine proved himself to be a gripping performer in his one-man show “Biro,” which dealt with an HIV-positive Ugandan who illegally entered the U.S. for medical treatment. So count on a united front of artistry and activism.

REDCAT, L.A. $20-$25.

(213) 237-2800 or

‘Bring It On: The Musical,’ Nov. 11

The national tour of this musical comedy about competitive cheerleading, loosely inspired by the movie franchise that kicked off in 2000 with Kirsten Dunst as a pompom-waving cutie pie confronting ethical conundrums, is bound to give an uplifting kick to the season. With a book by Jeff Whitty (“Avenue Q”) and music and lyrics by Tom Kitt (“Next to Normal”), Lin-Manuel Miranda (“In the Heights”) and Amanda Green (“High Fidelity”), the show deploys some top-notch talent in its spirited crusade for theatrical victory.

Ahmanson Theatre, L.A. $20-$120 (subject to change).

(213) 972-4400 or

‘Jesus Christ Superstar,’ Nov. 30

Director Des McAnuff (“The Who’s Tommy,” “Jersey Boys”) is said to have pulled off a miracle: This 1971 Andrew Lloyd Webber-Tim Rice rock opera about the last days of Jesus of Nazareth was hailed in its Stratford Shakespeare Festival production and is rumored to be Broadway bound. Of course, doubting Thomases who have written off this show as dated will have to see it to believe it.

La Jolla Playhouse, La Jolla. Call for ticket prices.

(858) 550-1010 or


‘The Mountaintop,’ Oct. 13

Samuel L. Jackson and Angela Bassett star in Katori Hall’s two-character play about an encounter between the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and a hotel chambermaid on the night before he was assassinated. Hall, a young American writer, found success abroad (her play won the Olivier Award, London’s answer to the Tony), and expectations are high for her Broadway debut, which has coaxed Jackson and Bassett back to New York from Hollywood.

Bernard B. Jacobs Theatre, New York. $76.50-$131.50

(212) 239-6200 or

‘Richard III,’ Oct. 19

Kevin Spacey, in a cunning, fearless and utterly hammy turn, portrays the deformed and dastardly villainous Duke of Gloucester murderously plotting his way to the throne. Directed by Sam Mendes, whose last collaboration with Spacey, on the 1999 film “American Beauty,” resulted in Oscars for both of them, the production was unfailingly vivid when it premiered at London’s Old Vic this summer. It careened in its final stretch, but the ride was often thrilling.

Curran Theatre, San Francisco. $35-$200 (subject to change)

(888) 746-1799

‘Chinglish,’ Oct. 27

David Henry Hwang’s new comedy certainly has a timely topic — the stumbling two-step between China and the U.S. eager to do business with each other yet still bewildered by cultural differences. Leigh Silverman, a dab directorial hand with adventurous new plays, stages the Broadway premiere, which follows her critically acclaimed production of the work at Chicago’s Goodman Theatre this summer.

Longacre Theatre, New York. $36.50-$121.50.

Telecharge: (212) 239-6200 (outside the N.Y. metro area [800] 432-7250) or


More fall arts picks from Times critics and writers

Join our live chat with John Leguizamo of 'Ghetto Klown'

--Charles McNulty\charlesmcnulty

 Photo: John Leguizamo in his one-man show "Ghetto Klown."  Credit: Carol Rosegg/Lyceum Theatre