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5 L.A. theater productions you should see this August 2018

Written by
Dany Margolies

With instability swirling around us (sure, we’re talking astrology), we’re going with a theme of tried-and-true this month. Midcentury poetry, a historic play about a historical event, a classic American musical from the 1960s and a new musical celebrating perhaps the greatest of the great Motown musicians are our picks for August. Oh, wait, that’s only four. Well, fifth in our lineup is a show from a quartet of singers from Sweden who pretty much ruled the pop music world in the 1970s and who—we’re stunned to observe—still embody the world’s musical tastes. That’s why we’re betting these five shows, listed in order of closing date, are worth your theatergoing time and money this month.

Under Milk Wood
Atwater Village Theatre, through Aug 25

Open Fist Theatre Company takes on Welsh poet Dylan Thomas’s imagining of an ordinary day in the extraordinary fictitious seaside town of Llareggub. Dreaming, talking to ghosts, going about their daily tasks, the dozens of memorably eccentric characters come to life in the maritime village they call home, engaging in such poetic activities as relentlessly bossing deceased husbands around and openly reading about famous poisoners over breakfast. Ben Martin directs a cast of 19.

3269 Casitas Ave (323-882-6912). Fri, Sat at 8pm; Sun at 7pm. $20.

Mamma Mia!
3–D Theatricals, Redondo Beach Performing Arts Center • Cerritos Center for the Performing Arts

The exclamation point in the title represents the surprise engendered by this show’s continuing popularity. This jukebox musical features the songs of ABBA, stitched together to revolve around a young woman at her wedding on a Greek isle. Her mother is there, and so are the three men who might be her father. Still, it’s a great vocal vehicle for musical theater stars, and 3–D Theatricals always pulls in the best of our great local crop. David F.M. Vaughn directs.

Redondo Beach Performing Arts Center, 1935 Manhattan Beach Blvd, Redondo Beach (714-589-2770). Aug 3–12: Fri at 8pm; Sat at 2, 8pm; Sun at 2pm. • Cerritos Center for the Performing Arts, 12700 Center Court Dr, Cerritos (714-589-2770). Aug 17–26: Thu at 7:30pm; Fri at 8pm; Sat at 2, 8pm; Sun at 2pm. $25–$100.

Man of La Mancha
A Noise Within, Aug 16–Sept 9

There was a time when this 1960s classic musical—by Dale Wasserman, Joe Darion and Mitch Leigh—just sounded tired and dated. But somehow, today, a story that inspires us to become better people by treating one another with unfailing respect seems fresh and ripe. It tells of 17th-century author Miguel de Cervantes and his own classic novel Don Quixote, and features the legendary song “The Impossible Dream” among others that range from lively to lovely. Julia Rodriguez-Elliott directs.

3352 E Foothill Blvd, Pasadena (626-356-3100). See ANW website for repertory schedule. $25–$70.

Will Geer’s Theatricum Botanicum, through Sept 30

This rarely revived historical melodrama by William DuBois centers on the 1802 overthrow of the colonial Haitian government by Toussaint L’Ouverture. When first presented in 1938 by the Negro Theatre Unit of the Federal Theatre Project, it shocked with its casting of white and black actors who performed together at the Lafayette Theatre in Harlem as part of a federal program to give employment to actors. Ellen Geer directs. The show is part of Theatricum’s summer repertory season.

1419 N Topanga Canyon Blvd, Topanga (310-455-3723). Repertory schedule. $10–$38.50. (The theater is outdoors, cushions available for rent.)

Ain’t Too Proud
Ahmanson Theatre, Aug 21–Sept 30

Subtitled The Life and Times of the Temptations, this musical’s tunes are from that stellar chapter of the Motown catalogue, which should thrill audiences. But the story of the young men who forged the legendary group, considered by many to be the greatest in R&B music, is one of travails and triumphs, set against the background of our nation at a cultural crossroads. Des McAnuff, a legend in his own field, directs; and Sergio Trujillo, who did a fabulous job with Latin and 1980s dances in the recent On Your Feet!, choreographs this musical set in the 1960s and ’70s.

135 N Grand Ave (213-972-4400). Tue–Fri at 8pm; Sat at 2, 8pm; Sun at 1, 6:30 pm. $30–$130.

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