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Spring Theater Preview

Theater is one of the oldest forms of art and entertainment (just ask Shakespeare!). Often when one thinks of theater, Broadway and New York City immediately come to mind. While the Big Apple may very well be the country’s theater capital, Orange County has a diverse and celebrated offering of live stage entertainment for theater enthusiasts. Therefore, Irvine Weekly has put together a guide for what is coming to Orange County theaters this Spring.

Photo by RMA Photography Inc.

Perhaps the biggest theater in Orange County is the Segerstrom Center for the Arts in Costa Mesa, just a hop, skip and a jump from Irvine. First opening in 1986 (as the Orange County Performing Arts Center), the Segerstrom Center is home to the Philharmonic Society of Orange County, the Pacific Symphony and the Pacific Chorale. In addition to these orchestral performances, the Segerstrom Center is usually the place to find the biggest Broadway shows on tour. So what’s coming to the Segerstrom Center this Spring?

From March 6th through the 23rd, you can catch Disney’s “Aladdin.” Based on the animated film, the musical features everyone’s favorite classic songs plus some new ones. The musical is actually a little closer to the filmmaker’s original concept for the animated film before Robin Williams came on board.”We’ve actually restored the original vision of the film, which was to make it sort of [a] 1920s roadshow feel. Then Robin Williams came in and sort of switched things around and made it his own, which was great, but the original idea was to have sort of a musical comedy feel, which is what we’re doing,” says Adam Jacobs, who originated the role of Aladdin on Broadway. “You can expect everything you know and love from the animated film, but then we’ve also added back in some songs and scenes that were cut.”

Michael James Scott in Aladdin – Photo by Deen van Meer

Opening April 9th through April 14th, you can catch Andrew Lloyd Webber’s famous musical “Cats.” Once the longest-running show in Broadway history (it’s currently fourth longest), “Cats” tells the story of a tribe cats on a single night when they make the “Jellicle Choice” to change one cat’s future forever. The musical has been performed in over 30 countries and 15 languages since opening in 1981 and the music has since become iconic — hearing the song “Memory” live and in its original context may be worth the price of admission alone.

In May, from the 7th to the 19th, another classic musical comes to the stage at the Segerstrom Center: “Fiddler On The Roof.” The musical tells the story of Tevye, a Jewish father trying to keep the traditions of his Jewish faith alive in his five daughters as they begin to rebel against ancient customs like marriage arrangements. All of this is set during the beginning of the 20th century in Imperial Russia when the Tsar chose to evict the Jews from their village. Although the musical first opened in 1964, this production has been said to be a “fresh and authentic vision” from Tony-winning director Bartlett Sher. Don’t worry, though, all the songs people know and love from the show like “Tradition” and “If I Were A Rich Man” are still intact.

The final production hitting the Segerstrom Center stage this Spring is “Charlie and The Chocolate Factory.” Based on the classic Roald Dahl book, the musical still features songs from the movie like “Pure Imagination” and “The Candy Man” plus some new songs as well from the songwriters of “Hairspray.” This production is said to show a “more contemporary” version of the story. Perhaps the newest of the shows coming to the Segerstrom Center this Spring, “Charlie and The Chocolate Factory” opened on Broadway in 2017. It will be running May 28th through June 9th.

David Gonzalez – The Frog Bride

If musical theater isn’t your cup of tea, then you can check out a performance at the much more intimate Irvine Barclay Theatre. First opening in 1990 as a joint venture between the city of Irvine, the University of California, Irvine and the private sector, the 750-seat “jewel box” theater runs as an independent non-profit organization. So what’s coming up this Spring? In March, Spanish singer and flamenco artist Diego el Cigala takes the stage on the 1st. Two great orchestral presentations will be held that same month, with the UCI Symphony Orchestra performing on March 8th and the Mozart Classical Orchestra on March 10th. Jazz artist Dee Dee Bridgewater performs with the Memphis Soulphony on March 14th. On March 16th, “4 Girls 4” will feature four female Broadway stars live on stage: Maureen McGovern (“Little Women”), Donna McKechnie (“A Chorus Line”), Faith Prince (“Guys & Dolls”) and Lillias White (“The Life”).

“David Gonzalez: The Frog Bride,” a comical take on the classic Russian tale, will take place on March 17th and one of Cuba’s most sought-after dance companies, the Malpaso Dance Company, will be performing on March 20th. Festival Ballet Theatre will present their production of “The Sleeping Beauty” on March 23rd and 24th and IUSD High School’s “All Star Jazz Night,” featuring Irvine’s young Jazz artists, will be held on March 25th. “The Phantom Tollbooth,” based on the classic children’s book, will take the stage with two performances on March 27th. On March 28th, the “Bob Dylan of Iran,” Mohsen Namjoo, takes the stage and the following day, crooner John Pizzarelli celebrates the 50th anniversary of Frank Sinatra’s collaboration with bossa nova composer Antonio Carlos Jobim. Finally, on March 30th, country artist Kathy Mattea performs.

Christian McBride, portrait by Anna Webber

April at the Barclay features the Orange County Gay Men’s Chorus in “MenAlive: MOVE” on April 5th and 6th. On April 13th, Broadway staple Sutton Foster (“Anything Goes”) takes the stage. April 18th features soul group Tower of Power and “Tomas Kubinek: Certified Lunatic and Master of the Impossible,” a blend of vaudeville, comedy and magic, hits the stage on April 26th. Jazz artist Christian McBride performs on April 27th and the Mozart Classical Orchestra will hold their season finale on April 28th.

In the final months of Spring, “Celebrate Music at UCI” on May 3rd will showcase students and faculty from UCI’s Department of Music. “AcaLove: Southern California’s A Cappella Festival” will take place on May 4th. Opera UCI will put on their production of “Die Fledermaus” May 11th and 12th and Backhausdance, a “fusion of classic and contemporary dance” will take the stage on May 22nd. Finally, the UCI Symphony Orchestra will perform on June 7th. It’s also worth checking out the Barclay’s “National Geographic Live” speaker series, which are “thought-provoking presentations by today’s leading explorers, scientists and photographers,” taking place throughout the Spring as well.

Finally, we couldn’t give a rundown of Orange County’s theatrical presentations in the Spring without mentioning UCI Claire Trevor’s School of the Arts Drama Department’s productions: James Fritz’s “Parliament” will be held March 9-16th, “The Refugee Hotel” will be held April 27 through May 5th and UCI’s production of “The Pajama Game” will run June 1st through 8th. With so much to choose from, Broadway may be 3,000 miles away, but Irvine definitely has its fair share of theater lined up for Spring 2019.

Segerstrom Center for the Arts
600 Town Center Drive, Costa Mesa, CA 92626
(714) 556-2787

Irvine Barclay Theatre
4242 Campus Drive, Irvine, CA 92612
(949) 854-4646

UCI Claire Trevor School of The Arts
University of California, Irvine, Department of Drama
249 Drama, Irvine, CA 92697
(949) 824-6614