Move over Broadway, Los Angeles has some of the best theaters and performing arts centers in the nation. Whether you're looking for intimate and avant garde or sweeping orchestral maneuvers and lively musicals, there's a wide range of venues and shows at each performing arts center to suit every taste. So pair a show with dinner at a romantic restaurant for the ultimate date night, or take your kids out for a family-friendly affair—whatever you do, add seeing a show at one of these places onto your things to do list.
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Best performing arts centers and theaters in LA
The West Side's most glittery theatrical venue is home to a good-sized main stage, the Gil Cates Theater, and the cozier Skirball Kenis Theater. The company offers a mix of new work and local premieres, frequently with big-name (though sometimes second-tier) Hollywood talent. Special nights include Wine Down Sundays, Lounge Fridays and Talk Back Tuesdays, where a special drinks or coffee reception is held before the performance. Saturday mornings often feature great kid-oriented shows.
The LA region's leading classical theater company presents two annual seasons, each containing three productions in repertory. Workshops, lectures and classes are also held in the splendid new Pasadena facilities, opened in 2011.
Distinguished as the first non-New York theater to win consecutive Pulitzer prizes two years in a row (for The Kentucky Cycle and Angels In America), this 739-seat theater holds a high standard for its year-round program of plays—and as a result, tends to draw keen, theater-literate audiences.
This 1930's warehouse-turned-theater (complete with an exposed beam ceiling, swoon) hosts performances of all kinds, including music, theater, dance and film. Indie rock bands and local talent are often on tap here, and it's one of the best small music venues on the Eastside. The theater's owners are steeped in the arts as well, from actors to set designers to welders—it's no wonder they fill Bootleg's calendar with such varied and quality shows.
Located in the back of the Walt Disney Concert Hall complex, the prestigious CalArts–owned multipurpose space leads the way in compelling avant-garde performances in dance, music and theater—not to mention the exhibits mounted in the center's 3,000-square-foot gallery.
This city-owned, four-theater complex is housed in a former bank close to Skid Row in Downtown, and can be one of the city's most exciting venues. The Latino Theater Company (www.latinotheater.com) has operated from here since 2006.
The stage named for and by LA's top downtown arts philanthropists might seem a bit out of place, miles away from their Grand Avenue Corridor, but the Broad Stage is an elegant venue for theater, dance and music performances throughout the year.
The $274-million crown jewel of the LA Music Center—home of the LA Philharmonic and the LA Master Chorale—is a terrific venue. Designed by Frank Gehry, the hall features a 2,265-capacity auditorium with an open platform stage and virtually perfect acoustics.
The West Side branch of the Center Theatre Group offers the company's most adventurous fare, along with intermittent collaborations with some of LA's smaller troupes. The theater itself was originally built as a cinema and retains its iconic old neon sign out front.
Named for American philosopher Josiah Royce, UCLA's grand 1,800-seat theater has a history of legendary performances that dates back to the 1930s, when Jimmy Dorsey’s Band, Duke Ellington, George Gershwin and Arnold Schoenberg graced the stage.
The Wallis is one of the newer performing arts centers on the scene, but it has proven it deserves a place on this list. From its production of Spring Awakening, which moved on to Broadway, or Debbie Allen's Freeze Frame, the Wallis has presented some top-notch productions that create quite a bit of buzz. From dance to theater to music, the shows take place in the 70,000-square-foot Wallis or the more intimate Lovelace Studio or Bram Goldsmith theaters.
San Fernando Valley's $125 million glass-paneled theater, located on the Cal State Northridge campus, opened in 2011 with a high-profile performance by the Moscow Symphony. The 1,700-seat hall is the area's main arts hub with year-round dance, theater, classical and world music programming.