Chances are you’ve never heard of Paisley—Walter, that is—much less have any idea what he may or may not have accomplished of late. Don’t worry, no one else has either. All that’s about to change, however, as something that’s been described as “a beatnik horror comedy musical” descends on So Cal this weekend.
“Did You See What Walter Paisley Did Today?” is that rarest of rare birds, a world premiere musical making its debut in the Never Never Land between the Music Center in Downtown Los Angeles and the La Jolla Playhouse, both established venues for hatching new works of promise. It’s being presented at the La Mirada Theatre for the Performing Arts (www.LaMiradaTheatre.com), to be exact, from Mar. 18 to Apr. 2; previews are Mar. 16-17.
What I know so far sounds intriguing. It’s about a starving artist in San Francisco—a sculptor—who happens upon a new style of art and becomes rich and famous as a result. Then he apparently finds himself in hot water. It’s being touted as “Little Shop of Horrors” meets “Sweeney Todd” meets “Avenue Q.”
Book, music and lyrics are by three-time Emmy-winner Randy Rogel, who boasts TV’s endlessly clever “Animaniacs” and its offbeat spin-off “Pinky and the Brain” among his credits. The show is directed by BT McNicholl, who was part of the original creative team behind Broadway’s “Cabaret” and “Billy Elliott,” and is choreographed by Connor Gallagher (Broadway’s “Beetlejuice.”)
You missed out on a real gem if you didn’t see Lillian Hellman’s “The Little Foxes” at South Coast Repertory in Costa Mesa (www.scr.org). I managed to catch the closing performance on Feb. 26 and was glad I did. The play, which is perhaps best known for the film version starring Bette Davis in her prime, is a densely layered drama about family secrets, loyalties and hidden agendas involving money.
Lisa Peterson directed the handsome production at SCR, on the same set used for Branden Jacobs-Jenkins’ play “Appropriate,” created by Lawrence E. Moten III. Tom Ontiveros’ lighting made you appreciate the set design (an impressive Southern mansion) much more in the Hellman play. The performances of Shannon Cochran (in Davis’ role, the devious Regina), Bill Geisslinger and Tessa Auberjonois were superb, as were Dominique Fawn Hill’s costumes.
What’s on the near horizon at South Coast Rep? “Coleman ’72” by Charlie Oh, which centers on a Korean American family making a road trip from Milwaukee to So Cal and back, opens Apr. 23; “avaaz” by Michael Shayan, which recalls a woman’s journey from Tehran to Los Angeles, opens Apr. 29. Both productions are part of SCR’s ever-popular Pacific Playwrights Festival in its 25th edition, along with staged readings of five new plays (May 5-7).
Hot tip: “Inventing Van Gogh” (at Golden West College in Huntington Beach through Mar. 19) and “The Belle’s Strategem” (at Cal State Fullerton through Mar. 25) are both a feast for the eyes.
Photo: “Walter Paisley” promo (courtesy of La Mirada Theatre).