How about seeing theater just for fun this month—just to feel better about the world. The L.A. area has five shows opening in May that could cheer anyone up: a musical about making new life bloom in a long-abandoned garden, a hilarious mash-up of millennial music and a Shakespearean classic, a gleeful look at what happens backstage when the show goes wrong onstage, a Samuel Beckett piece about optimism, and a new play about what really matters in love. We’re betting these five shows, listed in order of closing date, will be worth your theatergoing time and money this month.
The Secret Garden
3–D Theatricals at Cerritos Center for the Performing Arts, May 3–19
Orphaned, unloved and unconsciously feeling every bit of it, embittered 10-year-old Mary Lennox blossoms when she learns to love the plants, animals and other children in a safe walled garden hidden from all but them. This musical premiered on Broadway in 1991, based on the 1911 novel of the same name by Frances Hodgson Burnett, with music by Lucy Simon, book and lyrics by Marsha Norman.
12700 Center Court Dr, Cerritos (714-589-2770). Thu at 7:30pm; Fri at 8pm; Sat at 2, 8pm; Sun at 2pm. $45–$85.
Troubadour Theater Company at El Portal Theatre, May 9–19
Yep, Troubadour Theater Company has finally gotten around to messing up Shakespeare’s classic political-historical tragedy by musicalizing it, using the songs of Weezer and forever ruining any future straight versions for us. Adapted, directed and choreographed by Matt Walker, the production will feature L.A.’s finest Bard-speaking, rock-singing, improv-spouting performers, backed by one of the best theater bands around. You’ll come to praise this clever, funny production.
5269 Lankershim Blvd, North Hollywood (818-508-4200). Fri at 8pm; Sat at 4, 8pm; Sun at 4pm. $50–$65.
A Noise Within, May 21–June 9
A popular success last spring at Pasadena’s home for the classics, this year Michael Frayn’s hilarious back-stager returns to close out A Noise Within’s repertory season. Meet the most inept theatermakers as they bumble their way through their production of a farce. Fortunately, each of them is played by ANW’s superb veterans—who, we bet, have never walked on stage too early or forgotten their lines. Julia Rodriguez-Elliott and Geoff Elliott co-direct.
3352 E Foothill Blvd, Pasadena (626-356-3100). See ANW website for repertory schedule. $20–$84.
Mark Taper Forum, May 15–June 30
From absurdist playwright Samuel Beckett, this two-actor play finds the optimistic Winnie literally sinking into the earth, while her at-liberty husband, Willie, barely responds. Still, she’s happy. What makes us happiest? Firstly, it stars Dianne Wiest. Secondly, we can just sit and enjoy and not have to write a school report trying to explain it. James Bundy directs.
135 N Grand Ave, Downtown L.A. (213-972-4400). Tue–Fri at 8pm; Sat at 2:30, 8pm; Sun at 1, 6:30pm. $32–$115.
Fountain Theatre, May 1–June 23
They may be the “perfect” couple, but this is a play, and so the audience needs a central conflict. Thus Daniel wants to marry Mitchell, but Mitchell doesn’t believe in gay marriage. Then, the play asks, “What happens when all of our fundamental rights are denied?” Simon Levy directs this Southern California premiere of Michael McKeever’s script. Bill Brochtrup and Tim Cummings, flawlessly paired in the Fountain’s The Normal Heart in 2013, reunite here, adding the adorable Jenny O’Hara.
5060 Fountain Ave, Hollywood (323-663-1525). Fri at 8pm; Sat at 2, 8pm; Sun at 2pm; Mon at 8pm. $25–$45. (Subject to availability, pay-what-you-want seating is available every Monday night in addition to regular seating).