Thriving L.A. Theater Scene Productions


While Los Angeles does not have a “Great White Way” theater district like New York City, it does have a thriving theater scene featuring outstanding productions. The various large venues in the area offer shows heading to Broadway, like the new Billie Joe Armstrong musical at the Geffen this September that will open in New York in November and the Deaf Theatre West production of Spring Awakening that played in Beverly Hills this spring and opens on Broadway on Sept. 8. ; national tours of hit shows, and smaller professional theater productions that take full advantage of the wealth of talent that calls the Los Angeles area home.

There are performing arts centers elsewhere in Southern California that offer various theater productions and numerous smaller venues, too. But, here are some of the shows playing longer engagements at major theaters in the area through the end of the year. (Dates include previews.)

Bent continues at the Mark Taper Forum until August 23. 

The Object Lesson, Sept. 4 – Oct. 4 at the Kirk Douglas Theatre. This is an immersive theatre piece that uses 3,000 boxes for the set and audience seating, although they are free to roam amongst the clutter. The funny and heartbreaking show about the stuff in lives is written and performed by actor-illusionist-inventor Geoff Sobelle and directed by David Neumann, and will be making its West Coast premiere.

Real Women Have Curves, Sept. 8 – Oct. 4 at the Pasadena Playhouse. Playwright Josefina López wrote this award-winning comedy that became a film starring America Ferrera. The play is a about a group of full-figured women striving to keep their tiny sewing factory in business.

These Paper Bullets!, Sept. 8 – Oct. 18 at the Geffen Playhouse. While billed as a “modish ripoff of William Shakepeare’s Much Ado About Nothing,” this new musical (which had a try-out run in 2014 at the Yale Repertory Theatre) is also a “ripoff” of the Beatles’ story. It is about four lads from Liverpool in a rock group dealing with an angry former drummer.

The Sound of Music, Sept. 20 – Oct. 31 at the Ahmanson Theatre. The classic musical by Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II (with a book by Howard Lindsay and Russel Crouse) begins a new North American live theater tour at the Ahmanson, marking the 50th anniversary of the film version.

Appropriate, Sept. 23 – Nov. 1 at the Mark Taper Forum. Written by Branden Jacobs-Jenkins and directed by Eric Ting, this play is about estranged family members who convene in to settle the patriarch’s estate and go through his crumbling Arkansas plantation home, which has a disturbing legacy.

Love Letters, Oct. 13 – 25 at The Wallis. While this revival does not have the month-long run of the offers featured here, it has casting that warrants attention. Ali MacGraw and Ryan O’Neal, stars of the pre-Nicholas Sparks classic weeper, Love Story, reunite as the duo reviewing their 50-year interaction through their love letters.

Kansas City Choir Boy, Oct. 15 – Nov. 8 at the Kirk Douglas Theatre. Todd Almond and rocker/actress Courtney Love (yes, that Courtney Love) will star in a love story/musical set in an intimate club. The West Coast premiere will be directed by Kevin Newbury.

Breaking Through, Oct. 27 – Nov. 22 at the Pasadena Playhouse. This will be the world premiere of a musical about a singer/songwriter trying to find her way in the music business and rediscover her voice. The book is by Kirsten Guenther, and the music and lyrics are by Emmy award-winning songwriter Cliff Downs and Katie Kahanovitz.

Outside Mullingar, Nov. 10 – Dec. 20 at the Geffen Playhouse. Recipient of the 2014 Edgerton Foundation New American Play Award, this John Patrick Shanley play is about a love that blooms amid family farms and feuds in Ireland.

Guys and Dolls, Dec. 1-20 at The Wallis. The Oregon Shakespeare Festival will bring their production of the musical Guys and Dolls (music and lyrics by Frank Loesser) to Beverly Hills this holiday season.

Straight White Men, Nov. 20 – Dec. 20 at the Kirk Douglas Theatre. Center Theatre Group co-commissioned this piece from writer Young Jean Lee, who will also direct. The play is about a father-son relationship and dealing with the “mantle of white privilege.”

The Christians, Dec. 2 – Jan. 10 at the Mark Taper Forum. Directed by Obie Award-winning Les Waters, this play is about a pastor of a large, successful church who does some soul searching and shakes the congregation with a message that challenges one of the basic tenets of his ministry. Four cast members from the show’s world premium at the Actors Theatre of Louisville will be in the L.A. engagement.

If/Then, Dec. 8 – Jan. 3 at the Hollywood Pantages. Idina Menzel (of Wicked, Frozen, Glee and botched John Travolta intro fame) reprises her Tony-nominated role in the musical for the L.A. engagement. The show follows a woman’s life as well as the what-if life path she did not choose.

The Bridges of Madison County, Dec. 8 – Jan. 17 at the Ahmanson Theatre. The award-winning musical, based on a best-selling book that spawned the Meryl Streep/Clint Eastwood movie, is about a four-day whirlwind romance between a photographer on assignment and a lonely Iowa housewife, an Italian who was a war bride.

Here are the addresses and telephone information for the thriving L.A. theater scene productions mentioned above:

  • Ahmanson Theatre, 601 West Temple St., downtown Los Angeles, (213) 972-7376
  • Geffen Playhouse, 10886 Le Conte Ave., Westwood, (310) 208-5454
  • Hollywood Pantages, 6233 Hollywood Blvd, Hollywood, (800) 982-2787
  • Kirk Douglas Theatre, 9820 Washington Blvd., Culver City, (213) 628-2772
  • Mark Taper Forum, 601 West Temple St., downtown Los Angeles, (213) 972-7376
  • The Pasadena Playhouse, 39 S. El Molino Ave. Pasadena, (310) 208-5454
  • The Wallis (officially the Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts), 9390 N. Santa Monica Blvd. Beverly Hills, (310) 746-4000

Center Theater Group
Hollywood Pantages
Geffen Playhouse
The Wallis
Pasadena Playhouse

Photo of Matthew Carlson and Jake Shears in Bent by Craig Schwartz, courtesy of Center Theatre Group