Los Angeles/Regional Theater Preview: CHANCE THEATER’S 2014 SEASON (Chance Theater in Anaheim)

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by Tony Frankel on January 8, 2014

in Theater-Los Angeles,Theater-Regional


Merrily We Roll Along is a notoriously difficult musical to get right. Even with Sondheim’s magnificent score, the nature of the show—its lopsided cynicism and moving-back-in-time device—has hampered every production I have seen. Except one. And while I truly loved Chocolate Factory’s small-scale West End revival, Chance Theater's production of THE WHO'S TOMMYwhich screened nationwide last October, Chance Theater’s 2010 production was just as good. In some ways, it was even better. The little-theater-that-can may be geographically outside of Los Angeles County, but this rightfully ballyhooed troupe consistently offers better fare and better productions than any other company in L.A.

With the exception of a few cutting-edge storefront theaters, smaller Los Angeles theater is largely showcase in nature; and mid-size and larger houses specialize in theater-as-commerce, choosing seasons based on economic feasibility and the desires of older season subscribers. Since 1999, Chance has delivered on its mission to create exciting theatrical experiences, take artistic risks, and collaborate with gifted artists on passionate and provocative plays and musicals. Utilizing a team of resident artists, they do it all with astounding professionalism, and nothing I have seen there ever feels safe.

JERRY SPRINGER THE OPERA at the Chance TheaterProduction values and visionary risk-taking aside, it is their programming which is most exciting, especially considering Orange County’s conservatism. The Chance shakes it up and plots out each season with a stunning selection of works, and their freshly announced 2014 season includes a few premieres. As the newly formed Producers League in L.A. ponders how to vitalize the theater scene, they need only to observe the course of visionaries Oanh Nguyen (Artistic Director), Casey Long (Managing Director), and Erika C. Miller (Development Director), who together have created a template for building an audience: After operating as a 49-seat venue in an industrial complex, they are moving next door into a brand new 150-seat space.

CHANCE THEATER BANNER - PosterAlong with a well thought-out season, this company has the same elements that make Chicago theater the best in the country: their own space; world premieres; visionary directors; top-notch technical design; extraordinary reinventions of musicals we thought we knew; and dynamic, talented non-Equity actors who are paid more than Equity-Waiver contracts dictate. No wonder they have offered some of my favorite productions of the last three years: Jerry Springer: The OperaThe Who’s TommyWest Side Story, and Edward Albee’s The Goat or, Who is Sylvia? Even The Secret Garden, a poorly written musical that is a seasonal audience favorite, had such incredible performers and production values that my review was titled “Baffling musical gets the treatment it doesn’t deserve.” Buy a season subscription from this wonderful troupe and get the treatment you deserve.

Here is the 16th anniversary season line-up:

Lysistrata Jones at the Chance TheaterFebruary 7 – March 9, 2014
(West Coast Premiere)
Book by Douglas Carter Beane
Music and Lyrics by Lewis Flinn
Athens University is in the midst of a thirty-year losing streak, so Lyssie J. and her girl-power posse won’t “give it up” to their basketball-playing boyfriends until they win a game. The hilarious dialogue and upbeat score from five-time Tony nominated playwright Douglas Carter Beane and Lewis Flinn is an electric combination of Mean Girls, Glee and Pitch Perfect.  A modern retelling of Aristophanes’ bawdy Greek comedy, Lysistrata, director Kari Hayter and choreographer Kelly Todd (of last season’s summer hit Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson) bring you a comedy about the age old question, “Does abstinence truly make the heart grow fonder?”

PASSION PLAY at the Chance TheaterApril 25 – May 25, 2014
PASSION PLAY (Orange County Premiere)
By Sarah Ruhl
For over 600 years, cities across the Western world have restaged the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ for entertainment, community building, and political agenda.  Two-time Pulitzer Prize nominee Sarah Ruhl dramatizes the complicated history of these Passion plays, humorously and provocatively depicting three such productions in three different historical periods.  Ruhl’s epic trilogy, named one of the 10 Best Plays of 2008 by The New Yorker, travels from Elizabethan England and Nazi Germany to post-Vietnam Era America. This exciting theatrical event will be staged by Trevor Biship (Jerry Springer: The Opera).

IN THE HEIGHTS at the Chance TheaterJuly 3 – August 3, 2014
IN THE HEIGHTS (Regional Premiere)
Book by Quiara Alegría Hudes
Music and Lyrics by Lin-Manuel Miranda

Winner of four 2008 Tony Awards including Best Musical, In The Heights is about the importance of chasing one’s dreams and finding where you belong. The score features hip-hop, rap, jazz, pop, salsa, and merengue, serving as the backdrop for a community which dreams of succeeding in America while holding onto their cultural heritage. Were this musical done by any other company, I would see no reason to revisit it. However, because it is being done by the same creative team behind the Chance’s magnificent revival of West Side Story, yo soy lo que hay (I am so there).

Maple and Vine at the Chance TheaterSeptember 19 – October 19, 2014
MAPLE AND VINE (Regional Premiere)
By Jordan Harrison
The exciting playwright whose Futura took my breath away at Boston Court now brings us the story of Katha and Ryu, who have become allergic to their 21st-century lives. After they meet a charismatic man from a community of 1950s reenactors, they forsake cell phones and sushi for cigarettes and Tupperware parties. In this compulsively authentic world, Katha and Ryu are surprised by what their new neighbors—and they themselves—are willing to sacrifice for happiness.

She Loves Me at the Chance TheaterNovember 28 – December 28, 2014
Book by Joe Masteroff
Lyrics by Sheldon Harnick
Music by Jerry Bock

Adapted from Miklos Laszlo’s Parfumerie, which also gave rise to the films The Shop Around the Corner (1940), In the Good Old Summertime (1949), and You’ve Got Mail (1998), this lush and extraordinarily charming show is easily one of the greatest musicals ever written. Georg, a dull but adorable manager, and Amalia, the spirited new clerk, are consistently involved in heated workday arguments. They escape the stress of Maraczek’s Parfumerie through longing, passionate letters to anonymous pen pals—never guessing that each is writing to the other. This perfect jewel of a musical comedy opened one year prior to Bock and Harnick’s Fiddler on the Roof and two years before Masteroff’s Cabaret.

Striking 12 at the Chance TheaterDecember 9 – 28, 2014
By Brendan Milburn, Rachel Sheinkin, and Valerie Vigoda
See what happens when New Year’s Eve in modern-day New York collides with 19th Century Denmark. Directed by the über-imaginative Oanh Nguyen, Sheinkin’s (The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee) story is about a grumpy, recently-single guy who stays at home on New Year’s Eve, until a chance encounter with a door-to-door light bulb salesgirl inspires him to read Hans Christian Anderson’s “The Little Match Girl,” and the combination of the two of them changes his life. This concert-with-a-story, sketch-comedy-meets-musical event springs to life through an eclectic score of classical, musical theater, jazz and rock. A Los Angeles Times review states: “In the quest for an ideal holiday entertainment for adults, Striking 12 strikes gold.”

Chance Theater’s 2014 Season
Chance Theater
5522 E. La Palma Ave. in Anaheim Hills
season begins February 7, 2014
for tickets, call (714) 777-3033 or visit www.ChanceTheater.com

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