CARDBOARD PIANO – San Diego:  Playwright Hansol Jung has explored numerous taboos in this tale of two sixteen-year-old women who find each other and fall in love in war torn Uganda during the millennium.  Adiel is a Ugandan dreamer, Chris is the daughter of missionaries who are preparing to leave Africa.  Shortly after they stage their own de facto wedding ceremony in an empty church with a tape recorder as their witness, their tryst is broken by two soldiers barging in.  The inherent issues of young lesbians in 2000 is exacerbated by setting the drama in the rampant homophobia of Uganda.  The play received enthusiastic critical response on the east coast in its 2016 debut.  This is the west coast premiere.   Diversionary Theatre ( 1/25 – 2/25.

CANDIDE – Los Angeles:  Opera can be a daunting art form.  Images of overweight people singing incomprehensibly in Italian isn’t always a strong lure from our local cineplex.  However, this month the L. A. Opera will present their premiere of Candide, a riotous globetrotting romp based on Voltaire’s classic comic novel.  The score was written by Leonard Bernstein (who mostly batted for our team), and this production will feature Kelsey Grammar as Dr. Pangloss, and Christine Ebersole as the Old Lady.  The score is pure musical theatre magic, but demands full operatic chops from most of the singers.  The overture is an orchestral standard, “We’ll Make Our Garden Grow” a highlight for choruses, and “Glitter and Be Gay” has surfaced in too many drag shows to count.  Here’s a chance to see how they all come together.  Note that there will only be seven performances, 1/27 – 2/18 (

CIRQUE du SOLEIL:  LUZIA – Los Angeles, Orange County:   The arrival of a new Cirque du Soleil show is an event.  Unlike traditional circuses that largely present the same acts each year wearing new costumes, every Cirque production has a new concept, cast, music, design, and is destined to run for years, either in one location, or touring the world.  Luzia:  A Waking Dream of Mexico is currently playing in Los Angeles, and soon moves to Orange County.  I have seen at least 20 Cirque du Soleil productions, but this one definitely has the best original score.  The musicians are the mariachi stalwarts – guitar, accordion, trumpet, tuba, percussion – but the compositions, sound quality and additional effects are spectacular.  As always, the visuals of the sets and costumes come close to defying description.  The color pallet is mostly warm red, orange, and yellow, consistent with the Mexico theme.  The set changes are a triumph of misdirection:  While you’re watching one thing at the edge of the large round stage, as soon as you look back at the main stage area, there is a new set.  The show has devised a waterfall curtain that creates a flowing tapestry not from lighting effects but from the timing of water dispersed from each of several hundred jets.  The acrobatic acts defy gravity, a twinkish contortionist defies biology, and I defy anyone watching Luzia to go for ten minutes without gasping.  If I had a complaint, it would be that all of the men’s pants are baggy, and with the men who have been selected for this cast, that’s a damned shame!  Luzia plays under the Grand Chapiteau (tent) at Dodger Stadium through 2/11, then Costa Mesa Fair and Event Center 2/22 – 3/18 (

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