These shows will light up Southern California stages in 2023

After an often dormant, hit-and-miss three years, theater this spring season will be back in full bloom with a mix of touring Broadway musicals and locally produced world premieres. If there’s a sub-theme, it’s women, with a focus on stories about women’s lives and shows by female playwrights.

On 14 stages across four Southern California counties, a bountiful harvest awaits.


Ahmanson Theatre: Broadway actress Sierra Boggess is featured in the revival of “The Secret Garden,” which is being developed at the Ahmanson. Originally a children’s novel in 1911, and with many movie versions,  the material was reworked into a musical by Marsha Norman and Lucy Simon, first opening on Broadway in 1991. Tony Award-winning choreographer and director Warren Carlyle is helming this reimagined work. April 4-May 7. 135 N. Grand Ave., Los Angeles.

Elizabeth McGovern wrote and will star in “Ava: The Secret Conversations,” which explores the life and loves of femme fatale Ava Gardner. (Photo by Monica Schipper, Getty Images for IMDb)

Geffen Playhouse: Written by and starring Elizabeth McGovern, “Ava: The Secret Conversations” gets inside the realities and myths of Ava Gardner, one of Hollywood’s great femme fatales of the 1940s and ’50s. A U.S. premiere, this play finds Garner working on a tell-all auto biography, and while marriages to Mickey Rooney, Artie Shaw and Frank Sinatra, as well as a relationship with reclusive billionaire Howard Hughes, factor in, the story is equally about the woman herself. April 4-May 7. 10886 Le Conte Ave, Los Angeles.

La Mirada Theatre for the Performing Arts: While “Grease” may, indeed, be “the word,” it is also the number at this theater, with the show being the No. 1 show requested by La Mirada audiences to be staged there again. Powered by the soundtrack hits “Summer Nights,” “Greased Lightnin’,” “Hopelessly Devoted to You,” and “You’re the One That I Want,” expect tickets to be in short supply in advance of this run. Jan. 20-Feb. 12. 14900 La Mirada Blvd., La Mirada.

Mark Taper Forum: This world premiere of “A Transparent Musical” is centered on gender identification and realization themes, with an LA Jewish family coming to terms with the re-definition of selfhood. The comedy is based on the Amazon Prime original show which includes a book by the TV version’s creator, Joey Soloway, and music and lyrics by Faith Soloway. May 20-June 25. 135 N. Grand Ave., Los Angeles.

Musical Theatre West: The stage adaptation of “American in Paris: A New Musical” is rooted in the Oscar-winning film with Gene Kelly as far as the storyline goes, set in Paris right after World War II. The musical arrangements work from a ravishing score of Gershwin songs and highly romanticized and effective extended dance sequences. April 9-25. Carpenter Center, 6200 E Atherton St., Long Beach.

Gerald Ramsey plays Mufasa in “Disney’s The Lion King,” at the Pantages Theatre from Feb. 2 through March 26. (Photo by Matthew Murphy)

Pantages Theatre: The 25th anniversary of “The Lion King,” the highest grossing Broadway box office musical ever — more than $1.5 billion and counting — has added a significant word to its title: “Disney,” just in case we’ve forgotten who created this live stage monolith. The songs, characters and still amazing staging and props remain the same and likely to fill the 2,700-seat theater on Hollywood Boulevard. Feb. 2-March 26. 6233 Hollywood Blvd., Los Angeles.

Pasadena Playhouse: The theater is focusing its spring calendar on a “Sondheim Celebration!,” with two original productions of two of Stephen Sondheim’s strongest musicals and some supplementary musical events, including two concert performances by Bernadette Peters. On its mainstage, the theater will first stage “Sunday in the Park with George,” which won a Pulitzer Prize for drama and “A Little Night Music,” which includes what was probably the composer’s most popular individual song, “Send in the Clowns.” “Sunday in the Park with George,” Feb. 14-March 19; “A Little Night Music,” April 25-May 21. Bernadette Peters, June 10-11. 39 S. El Molino Avenue, Pasadena.

Broadway legend Bernadette Peters will perform two nights at Pasadena Playhouse as parts of its “Sondheim Celebration!” (Photo by Andrew Eccles)

The Wallis: Based on an unlikely association that led to friendship between famed Black opera singer Marian Anderson and Nobel Prize-winning physicist Albert Einstein, “My Lord, What a Night” imagines a real-life evening in 1937 when Einstein invited Anderson to his home after she was denied lodging at a nearby hotel due to her race. The West Coast premiere of this two-actor play in the smaller Lovelace Studio Theater is directed by veteran mainstay of Broadway and TV, Sheldon Epps. May 20-June 11. 9390 N. Santa Monica Blvd, Beverly Hills.


Chance Theater: Celebrating its 25th season, Chance Theater’s robust season includes a world premiere production of a “biting” (the theater’s pun) comedy called “Colonialism is Terrible, but Pho is Delicious.” Directed by Oanh Nguyen, the theater’s longtime artistic director, playwright Dustin A. Chinn’s new work spans a century and a couple continents, tying together three vignettes that are linked by interactions between purveyors of Vietnamese food and non-Asians who relish eating it. March 31-April 30. 5522 E La Palma Ave, Anaheim.

The Laguna Playhouse: Among other things, comedian Rita Rudner has become something of Laguna Playhouse’s virtual in-house star. Now Rudner, with her husband, Hollywood director Martin Bergman, have written a new comedy called “Staged,” in which Rudner will play the lead in this world premiere. The broad outline of the story has a familiar backstage-story factor: Two Broadway stars who had a messy divorce 20 years earlier are forced to professionally reunite.  Jan. 25-Feb. 12. Laguna Playhouse, 606 Laguna Canyon Road, Laguna Beach.

South Coast Repertory: One of this Costa Mesa theater’s most storied commissioned plays, Craig Lucas’ “Prelude to a Kiss,” will see the world premiere of a new, musicalized version of the same title with Lucas again writing the book. This musical version was originally scheduled for a 2020 mounting, but it was postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This world premiere production is being directed by David Ivers, SCR’s artistic director. May 20-June 11. 655 Town Center Drive, Costa Mesa.

The British musical “Six,” which tells the story of the six wives of King Henry VIII, will be on stage at the Segerstrom Center for the Arts in Costa Mesa from June 13 through June 25. (Photo by Joan Marcus)


Segerstrom Center for the Arts: Equal parts narrative musical and pop concert showcase, the recent English glittery confection “Six,” aimed directly at young, female audiences by knitting together an unlikely sextet of history, the six wives of England’s Henry VIII. This touring production is a mounting of the West End and Broadway hit powered by songs that specially tap into the styles and qualities of Beyoncé, Adele and Ariana Grande among others. June 13-June 25. 655 Town Center Drive, Costa Mesa.


Fox Performing Arts Center: The subtitle of the Broadway musical “On Your Feet!”, in its touring iteration here, captures its essence: “The story of Emilio and Gloria Estefan.” The 2015 Broadway hit jukebox musical, based on the successes and tribulations of this husband-and-wife team, is powered by the Cuban-fusion pop music. The songs made Gloria Estefan a break-out star, first as part of the Miami Sound Machine and then as a solo artist, starting in the late 1970s and especially in the 1980s. Feb. 21-22. 3801 Mission Inn Ave., Riverside.


The California Theatre for the Performing Arts: Among the performance options at the downtown San Bernardino California Theatre for the Performing Arts, which was built in 1928 to house vaudeville and has been a regional mainstay of live entertainment since, are occasional productions of musicals. Topping the bill this year is a production of “Miss Saigon,” the ‘90s era show written by the creators of the hit “Les Miz.” The story, based on Puccini’s opera “Madame Butterfly,” is set during the Vietnam War years and aftermath, and involves an ill-fated romance between an American soldier and a Vietnamese woman. May 19-21. 562 W. 4th St., San Bernardino.

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