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300-cagneyCAGNEY – North Hollywood:  Here comes a show to enjoy on many different levels.  James (Jimmy) Cagney (1899 – 1986) was generally cast as a tough guy in movies such as White Heat, Angels With Dirty Faces, and The Public Enemy (where he famously slammed a grapefruit into Mae Clarke’s face), but he showed a totally different, completely captivating side when he turned to musical films such as West Point Story and Yankee Doodle Dandy.  Though it has never been definitively shown that he was gay, his leading ladies often commented that he would kiss them anywhere on the face except their mouths, and his first Broadway role was as a sailor who danced in drag.  A musical biography has now been penned, combining original songs with many George M. Cohan classics.  It opened in on the outskirts of New York in mid-2015 for a five-week trial, then moved downtown for a 14-month sold-out run.  The original cast of six actors is now bringing the show to North Hollywood for a limited run.  Robert Creighton has a startling physical resemblance to Cagney, and he leads the company through one delightful tap number after another.  The story starts with his predictably poor upbringing in New York, and follows him on his career trajectory as an A-list actor.  El Portal Theatre (CagneyTheMusical.com) 10/5 – 29.

300-mcbrideTHE LEGEND OF GEORGIA McBRIDE – San Diego & Palm Springs:  Casey, a young Elvis impersonator, is barely making a living plying his craft when wham/bam, he learns that his wife is pregnant, and he has been fired when the run-down bar where he works decides to replace him with a B-level drag show.  Faced with a sink-or-swim choice, he replaces his muttonchops with padded boobs, and learns a lot about people and himself in the process.  The script has plenty of laughs, and the costumes have plenty of glitter (both for the king and the girls) but without getting preachy, the show celebrates finding your own voice and singing your own song.  Two of California’s top regional theatres, Cygnet in San Diego and Dezart Performs in Palm Springs, are mounting totally independent productions this fall.  It would be worth a bit of driving to see them both. Cygnet Theatre San Diego  (CygnetTheatre.com) 10/11 – 11/12; Dezart Performs Palm Springs (DezartPerforms.org) 11/3 – 12.

300-brightstarBRIGHT STAR – Los Angeles:  Written by Steve Martin and Edie Brickell, this southern-set musical is filled with bluegrass music, and plenty of shucks-y characters with names like Jimmy Ray Dobbs and Billy Cane, living in Zebulon, North Carolina.  The lady editor of the Ashville Southern Journal – The Bright Star – tells the audience that tonight, she is going to report her own story, which she proceeds to do largely through flashbacks and plenty of bluegrass music, played by an onstage ensemble.  The show was originally produced at San Diego’s magnificent Old Globe Theatre in the fall of 2014.  After a year of edits and workshops, it opened at DC’s Kennedy Center, and then moved to Broadway in early 2016, where it earned many nominations and several awards, but only played for 140 performances.  Throughout each of its incarnations, it has starred Joan Cusack (“Shameless”), and she will once again be center stage at the Ahmanson this month as the national tour kicks off.  (CenterTheatreGroup.org) 10/11 – 11/19.

300-le-swtichLE SWITCH – San Francisco:  We really have surprisingly few nice, enjoyable male/male romantic comedies.  Le Switch, being presented this month by San Francisco’s gay New Conservatory Theatre, is a welcome addition to that category. David is a self-possessed New York librarian with a need for classification, a love for collecting rare books he never opens, and a strong ambivalence about marriage.  What happens when his best friend’s bachelor party takes him to Montreal, and he is swept off his feet by a charming young florist? In the months that follow, David and his non-traditional family (his sister, grieving activist roommate and best friend) must decide for themselves what it really means to be committed, married, and queer.  Why should Julia and Reese hog all the rom-coms?  I, for one, am glad to see a couple of gay boys expanding on the tradition, and New Conservatory always does a top job with everything they touch!  (nctsf.org) 10/27 – 12/3.

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