January is here and local stages are gearing up for a busy month. Newport Theatre Arts Center offers the fascinating drama “Taking Sides” as its first performance of 2020. Nearby, Segerstrom Center for the Arts in Costa Mesa is hosting a variety of concerts, from pop icon Art Garfunkel to violinist Itzhak Perlman, South Coast Repertory has a pair of plays to start the new year, and Laguna Playhouse is packed with a plethora of performances.
Life of Controversial Conductor on Local Stage
Hard to believe that the Newport Theatre Arts Center is celebrating its 40th anniversary. This charming 90-seat theater on Cliff Drive is located on a bluff with views of Newport Harbor. This intimate venue is billed as a community theater, but the productions are always first rate thanks to the watchful eye of longtime Board President Rae Cohen.
Up first in 2020 for NTAC is “Taking Sides,” directed by Sharyn Case. The show will hit the stage Thursdays through Sundays, Jan. 24–Feb. 23.
According to the NTAC website, “Taking Sides” is based on the life of Wilhelm Furtwangler, the controversial conductor of the Berlin Philharmonic whose tenure coincided with the Nazi era.
“One of the most spectacular and renowned conductors of the 1930s, Furtwangler’s reputation rivalled that of Toscanini’s,” the description reads. “After the war, he was investigated as part of the Allies’ de-Nazification program. In the bombed-out Berlin of the immediate post-war period, the Allies slowly bring law and order, and justice, to bear in an occupied Germany.”
The “tough and hard-nosed” Major Steve Arnold is given the Furtwangler file and told “to find everything he can and to prosecute the man ruthlessly.”
Arnold “sets out to investigate a world of which he knows nothing. Orchestra members vouch for Furtwangler’s morality. He did what he could to protect Jewish players from his orchestra,” the website explains. “To the Germans, deeply respectful of their musical heritage, Furtwangler was a demigod; to Major Arnold, he is just a lying, weak-willed Nazi.”
For more information, visit NTACOnline.com.
Musical Tales of Female Friendship, Furry Pals, Tribute Acts
Laguna Playhouse hits the ground running in the new year with an encore presentation of “Girls Night: The Musical,” running this weekend through Sunday.
According to the Playhouse, this funny and touching musical takes audiences on a journey into the lives of a group of female friends as they visit their past, celebrate their present, and look to the future on a wild and hilarious night out. Described as “Desperate Housewives meets Mamma Mia” by Applause Magazine, “Girls Night” includes such familiar hits as “Lady Marmalade,” “It’s Raining Men,” “Man I Feel Like A Woman,” “I Will Survive” and more.
The Laguna Playhouse’s Theatre for Young Audiences series offers a new musical, “The Perfect Dog,” Jan. 17–19. Based on John O’Hurley’s charming children’s book, the musical is a tale (or tail) about man’s best friend and the acceptance of others.
The rest of January is filled with tribute acts: One of These Nights: Eagles Tribute (Jan. 9–12), Beach Boys Tribute: Surfin’ (Jan. 23–26), and Folsom Prison: A Tribute to Johnny Cash (Jan. 29–Feb. 1).
For more information, visit TheLagunaPlayhouse.com.
Variety at Newport’s Neighboring Concert Hall
Just over the border, Segerstrom Center in Costa Mesa is feeling the blues next month, but that’s because famed performance art sensation Blue Man Group hits town Jan. 7-12 with a new touring show full of surprises.
If you’re not familiar with the group, well, you should be. The show features a trio of non-verbal musician/comics painted blue, head to toe. It’s Charlie Chaplin meets performance artist Laurie Anderson by way of Jerry Lewis.
Blue Man Group is owned and operated by Cirque du Soleil Entertainment, so you know to expect the unexpected. The show includes original music, custom-made instruments made from unusual sources, a lot of audience interaction, and plenty of humor.
Next on stage comes half of the legendary musical duo, Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel. On Jan. 11, Garfunkel will bring soaring vocals and electric stage presence to Segerstrom Concert Hall.
The Pacific Symphony starts 2020 in a big way with its first Classics Concerts of the year Jan. 16–18.
Guest conductor Christian Arming leads the orchestra in a performance of Dvorák’s Symphony No. 8, and the Beethoven violin concerto featuring Clara-Jumi Kang.
The Philharmonic Society of Orange County presents another classical music legend, pianist Emanual Ax, on Jan. 21. This all-Beethoven program is in essence a recital, unaccompanied by an orchestra or other musicians, which makes the event all the more exciting for classical music fans.
On Jan. 25 in Segerstrom Concert Hall, Pacific Symphony presents its annual Lunar New Year concert, conducted by Carl St.Clair. Celebrating the Year of the Rat, this performance will, like past years, be a colorful melding of eastern and western music and dance.
PSOC returns on Jan. 26 with the San Diego Symphony performing an all-Beethoven concert featuring the Egmont Overture and Symphonies No. 4 and 6.
Why so much Beethoven? Simple: In 2020, the world will celebrate Beethoven’s 250th birthday, and this concert is part of the Philharmonic Society’s Beethoven@250 celebration.
If that’s not enough of the classic composer, The Philharmonic Society of OC offers a trio of concerts on Jan. 31 and Feb. 1 featuring all 10 of Beethoven’s violin sonatas starring another legendary violinist, Midori, with Jean-Yves Thibaudet on piano.
The Jan. 31 concert includes sonatas 2, 3 and 9. The first Feb. 1 concert at 3 p.m. includes sonatas 5, 6 and 10, while the 8 p.m. concert includes sonatas 1, 4, 7 and 8.
For more information, visit SCFTA.org or call (714) 556-2121.
Theatrical Stories of Drama, Romance
Costa Mesa-based South Coast Repertory begins 2020 with “Fireflies” by Donja R. Love, Jan. 5–26 on the Julianne Argyros Stage.
According to a press release from SCR, “Somewhere in the Jim Crow South, the sky burns red. A church bombing has rocked the Civil Rights Movement to its core, and Reverend Charles Grace must galvanize the people with messages of hope. It is his wife Olivia, however, who skillfully crafts his speeches and delivery. But her ability to play the supportive spouse is cracking under the weight of too many secrets, too many regrets and life lived in the shadows.”
On the main Segerstrom Stage, the classic 1963 musical “She Loves Me” gets a reboot Jan. 25–Feb. 22. Directed by David Ivers, the book is by Joe Masteroff, music by Jerry Bock, and lyrics by Sheldon Harnick.
A description, courtesy of SCR: “Romantic, charming and brimming with joy, this musical comedy reminds us that one kind deed can open up a world of possibilities. At Maraczek’s Parfumerie, clerks Georg and Amalia are constantly at odds. Outside of work, they’re each falling madly in love with an anonymous pen pal, unaware that it is the other.”
For tickets and more information, visit SCR.org.