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Fall Arts Guide

Untangle the season with our curated guide to the tops of theater, dance, art, classical music and jazz.

Benedict Cumberbatch as Hamlet

Cirque du Soleil
Oct. 15-Nov. 29
Orange County Fair & Event Center, 88 Fair Drive, Costa Mesa :: cirquedusoleil.com/kurios

No matter how many Cirque du Soleil shows you have seen, you’ve undoubtedly been mesmerized by the seemingly impossible acrobatic feats, dazzling costumes and hypnotic music. So just when you thought you had seen it all, Cirque reinvents itself with “Kurios – Cabinet of Curiosities.” For that you can thank creator-director Michel Laprise.

Laprise was a young boy in Canada when he happened upon a tent with seductive music wafting from within. It was the early days of Cirque, so with no security guards or fences, he was able to peek inside. Immediately he was hooked. His father took him to see two performances in two days. Now, as director of “Kurios,” Laprise wants to bring the emotions he felt to new audiences.

To ensure the show wouldn’t be predictable, he made a list of Cirque acts that were done out of necessity and those done out of habit. He then eliminated or recrafted anything done out of habit. So while you will see a trapeze act, you won’t see an actual trapeze in this show. And “Kurios” will be decidedly more low-tech to emphasize what he calls the “human factor.” Also gone is the new age world music, replaced by an original “electro-swing” score by composer/music director Raphael Beau and the pair known as Bob & Bill (Guy Dubuc and Marc Lessard).

But Cirque’s signature flourishes remain – the aerial contortions, terrifying tosses, heart-stopping balancing acts and clowning around. The show revolves around a mysterious inventor – the Seeker – in  the 1800s who has built a machine to travel to the four corners of the world. During his travels, he collects items for his “cabinet of curiosities.”

“That was a time when there was a feeling that everything is possible,” Laprise says. “I want this show to be very optimistic. I want people to exit the big top at the end with a big smile, knowing that with kindness and generosity, everything is possible.”

Cirque will set up the big white tent in Costa Mesa before moving on to Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles in December.

Qui Nguyen: A Geek goes Rom-Com

Oct. 4-25
South Coast Repertory,
655 Town Center Drive, Costa Mesa
:: scr.org

When Qui Nguyen came to South Coast Repertory, he was expecting to write a play about geeks. Instead, he ended up returning to his roots.

As a co-founder of the New York-based Vampire Cowboys, Nguyen, 38, practically invented “geek theater,” a genre that appeals to the comic book crowd with superheroes, zombies and action-adventure plots infused with martial arts, hip-hop, multimedia and a pop culture vernacular.

When he arrived at SCR as part of the theater’s CrossRoads community-focused playwriting initiative, he thought he would write a play related to Comic-Con. But on the final day of his weeklong residency, he found himself at UC Irvine, looking at archival photos of Vietnamese and Cambodian refugee camps in the U.S. in the 1970s.

“The photos that were of interest to me were from Fort Chaffee (in Arkansas) because that’s where my parents were,” he says. After he got back to Brooklyn, he decided to tell the tale of his parents’ journey from Vietnam to the U.S.  The result is “Vietgone,” the first of five plays on their experience as immigrants.  

“Vietgone” is a love story about a couple that meets in a Vietnamese refugee camp at Fort Chaffee in 1975. Most elements are based on Nguyen’s parents, who were, at first, reluctant to talk about sad times. To draw them out, the playwright used deception: “I would play dumb and say, ‘These are the facts I know,’ and they’re like, ‘Are you an idiot? That’s not what happened.’ ”

Nguyen wanted to create two sexy lead characters that did not fit stereotypes of Asians – “complex characters with wants and needs and goals – just like any white character in a white romantic comedy.” He’s hoping his pop culture touches will attract a younger generation of playgoers who may be inspired to learn more about their own parents.
In the audience will be Nguyen’s parents, who will be seeing the play for the first time at SCR.

“One Man, Two Guvnors”
Sept. 11-Oct. 11
South Coast Repertory, 655 Town Center Drive, Costa Mesa
Need a laugh? Lively British humor comes to Costa Mesa in Richard Bean’s adaptation of the commedia dell’arte classic “The Servant of Two Masters.” Silly bits, audience participation and madcap comedy have brought smiles to audiences worldwide in this farce, which earned James Corden (“Into the Woods,” “The Late Late Show”) a Tony Award. Directed by David Ivers, this co-production with Berkeley Repertory stars Dan Donohue as a hungry man working for two bosses at the same time. :: scr.org

“First Date”
Sept. 18-Oct. 11
La Mirada Theatre for the Performing Arts,
14900 La Mirada Blvd., La Mirada
Let’s face it: Blind dates can be awkward. But the good news is that audiences can sit back and laugh at someone else’s mismatched connection in this charming musical that opened on Broadway in 2013. The show plays out in real time, as our boy and girl suffer through first impressions, unsolicited advice, potential bailout plans and angst over the check. And in the end, will they find romance?
:: lamiradatheatre.com

“The Sound of Music”
Sept. 20-Oct. 31
Ahmanson Theatre, 
135 N. Grand Ave., Los Angeles
Who doesn’t love “The Sound of Music”? The Rodgers and Hammerstein classic about the Von Trapp family has been reworked for this new production, directed by Tony Award-winning director Jack O’Brien. The original show was born on Broadway before becoming the Oscar-winning movie musical and one of the highest-grossing films of all time. O’Brien has cast newcomer Kerstin Anderson, a Pace University student, as Maria, the aspiring nun who becomes the governess for the Von Trapp family, memorably played in the film by Julie Andrews. Ben Davis (Broadway’s “Violet”) will play Capt. Von Trapp, and Ashley Brown (Broadway’s “Mary Poppins”) will play the Mother Abbess. :: ctgla.org

“The Lion King”
Oct. 6-Nov. 1
Segerstrom Center for the Arts,
600 Town Center Drive, Costa MesaHas it really been 18 years since “The Lion King” first bowed on Broadway? Now it’s time for a new generation to experience the groundbreaking stage translation of the Disney animated movie. Julie Taymor brings to life the love story of Simba and Nala through dazzling puppetry, stunning choreography, innovative costumes and familiar songs by Elton John and Tim Rice.
:: scfta.org

“I’m Still Getting My Act Together”
Oct. 7- Nov. 1
Laguna Playhouse,
606 Laguna Canyon Road, Laguna Beach
Gretchen Cryer and Nancy Ford’s long-running 1978 off-Broadway pop musical comes back to life with an updated production at the Laguna Playhouse. The story follows a 39-year-old divorced singer looking to make her comeback. Cryer, who is the mother of “Two and a Half Men” star Jon Cryer, will be making a comeback of her own in this musical, hailed for its feminist themes. Rex Smith also will headline. :: lagunaplayhouse.com

Oct. 16-Nov. 15
South Coast Repertory,
655 Town Center Drive, Costa Mesa
Twenty-five years ago, Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Beth Henley debuted “Abundance” at SCR, the world premiere of her first play that didn’t revolve around quirky tales of life in the South. Still, like Henley’s “Crimes of the Heart” and “The Miss Firecracker Contest,” this work features her signature strong female characters and oddball humor. Set in the Wyoming Territory in the mid-19th century, this comedic drama begins in 1860 and takes us through a quarter-century with two mail-order brides and their husbands who share dreams of their new lives while struggling on the new frontier. :: scr.org

NT Live: Benedict Cumberbatch in “Hamlet”
Nov. 3 and 4
Irvine Barclay Theatre, 4242 Campus Drive, Irvine
When the National
Theatre of London announced that Benedict Cumberbatch would take on the role of Hamlet in a new stage production, tickets sold out in just minutes. And why not? The beloved star of “Sherlock” and “The Imitation Game” has a huge fan base and last appeared with NT in Danny Boyle’s “Frankenstein.” If you aren’t one of the lucky ones who snared tickets to see the Shakespeare classic in London, fear not: NT Live brings Cumberbatch to you with its broadcasts on big screens, including at the Barclay. :: thebarclay.org

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