Theaters all over the city are having an especially excellent month. We’ve narrowed the choices down to five can’t-miss shows.
March 15, 17, 22, 24
Performance artist Taylor Mac charts the history of American activism, form the early women’s lib movement to the Zoot Suit riots, through 24 decades of song at the Theatre at Ace Hotel (in glittering heels and magnificent headpieces, no less). We asked Mac a couple of questions about his upcoming performances.
Two weeks, four six-hour shows, and 246 songs. What are you trying to teach us here?
I don’t think I’m teaching. What I am doing is reminding people of the things they’ve forgotten or buried. Who is that dandy in “Yankee Doodle Dandy”? Let’s go hunting for that queer. History and identity are the show’s subthemes. The show is about people building communities that are being torn apart at the same time. That thing you’re feeling about Trump? It dates all the way back to 1786.
You’ve performed this more than 200 times around the country, sometimes in single installments, other times in one 24-hour-long go. Will the performance be any different this time?
Every time we perform it, it’s crazy different. We have this whole troupe of “dandy minions” who roam around the theater and perform, all of whom are local musicians. There are 75 costumes and 24 costume changes. It’s a living show. It’s never frozen.
March 29-31, April 5-8
On the 50th anniversary of the 1968 East L.A. Student Walkouts, Plaza de la Raza in Lincoln Heights restages the story of a young Chicana who can’t quite shake the neighborhood of her youth. Grammy-nominated Guatemalan musician Gaby Moreno narrates the show through the songs of Los Lobos.
“It’s a wonderful project. Anything that has to do with people getting involved with their communities and speaking up—getting out into the streets, all of the peaceful protests we’re seeing in the last few years—all of that still resonates to this day, which is why it’s so important.”
Through March 11 and March 19, respectively
If you’ve heard of Quiara Alegría Hudes, it’s probably because you’ve seen Lin-Manuel Miranda’s In the Heights—she wrote the book for the Tony-winning Broadway smash. But don’t sleep on the shows in her Elliot Trilogy, a progression of plays about Puerto Rican Iraq War veteran Elliot Ortiz (who’s based on Hudes’s real-life Marine cousin). Each of the three installments was inspired by a different musical tradition—Hudes is a composer and musician—and can stand on its own, but they’ve been playing concurrently in L.A. since January (a first). Even though the opening chapter, Elliot, A Soldier’s Fugue (musical inspo: Bach) wrapped at the Kirk Douglas Theater in February, you’ve still got time to see the other two.
Here’s what to expect:
Water by The Spoonful
The Musical Inspo: The dissonant works of saxophonist and composer John Coltrane
The Story: The Pulitzer Prize-winning play sees Elliot back in Philadelphia after his tour overseas. He’s injured, working at Subway, and taking care of his sick aunt. Scenes tack between his life and the lives of four recovering drug addicts who participate in an online chat room. The threads seem unrelated until Elliot’s birth mother—the chat room’s administrator—gets in touch when his aunt dies.
The Happiest Song Plays Last
The Musical Inspo: Jibaro folk music from Puerto Rico
The Story: Elliot returns to the Middle East to act in a documentary-style film about the Iraq War in which he relives many of his own experiences from the first play, Elliot, a Soldier’s Fugue. True life: Hudes’s cousin, also named Elliot, starred in a real-life doc on the subject (Nick Broomfield’s Battle for Haditha).
March 10, 15, 18, 21, 24, 25
Christoph Willibald Gluck’s 1774 tragic opera Orphée et Eurydice was daring material when it came out. An amalgam of dance, poetry, dialogue, and music, it was basically the opposite of what opera was at the time. Gluck would be thrilled, then, with John Neumeier’s interpretation of the work. It debuted last year when Neumeier, the longtime director and choreographer of the Hamburg Ballet, helmed a coproduction by Chicago’s Lyric Opera and the Joffrey Ballet. This month he brings the Joffrey to the LA Opera. Allow us to answer all of your burning questions.
So wait. What is this thing?
Think of it as a danced opera. Or maybe a sung ballet. Either way, you’ll be right.
Is the story the same as the one I learned in High School?
For the most part. The way Neumeier tells it, our Orpheus is the director of a ballet (you know the old maxim—write what you know) and Eurydice, his wife and the company’s star. Her untimely death takes Orpheus to a ballerina-filled underworld.
Oof. Heavy. Is there a happy ending?
“Happy” is a strong word. Neumeier’s version is darker than Gluck’s, to be sure. You may not be walking on air when you leave, but you will be moved.
Karen Kilgariff and Georgia Hardstark—hosts of the insanely popular and slightly oxymoronic “comedy-murder” podcast My Favorite Murder—talk through some homegrown crimes during an evening at the Orpheum Theatre. Like they always say: Stay sexy, don’t get murdered.
“We always talk about local murders at our live shows. It’s like cheering for the home team, but instead of sports, it’s crimes. Also we’ve spoken with Eric Garcetti, who’s guaranteed no traffic on the way to or from the Orpheum that night, and friend of the show Elton John will be opening.”
—Georgia Hardstark and Karen Kilgariff
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