It's a new year and local theater companies — professional, community and collegiate — are waiting in the wings with a varied selection of stage productions, most of which will be unfamiliar to their audiences.
Getting things off and running next weekend will be South Coast Repertory with the Pulitzer Prize-winning "Topdog/Underdog" by Suzan-Lori Parks. This acclaimed comedic drama centers on two black brothers — ironically named Lincoln and Booth — con men who live by their wits. Previews start Sunday, and the show opens Jan. 13 and plays through Jan. 29.
It's been more than three decades since "Cats" charmed Broadway audiences and became its second-longest-running show in history. It's made several visits to the Segerstrom Center for the Arts, and will return Jan. 17 for an abbreviated engagement through Jan. 22.
Espionage takes center stage at the Newport Theatre Arts Center from Jan. 27 through Feb. 26 when Hugh Whitemore's "Pack of Lies" makes its local premiere. The drama focuses on two friends whose lives are shattered when British intelligence accuses one of them of being a KGB spy.
South Coast Rep is back in the spotlight Jan. 27, when new artistic director Marc Masterson stages his first SCR show, "Elemeno Pea," Molly Smith Metzler's new comedy about colliding worlds.
"I laughed out loud when I read it," Masterson says, and he predicts that you will as well.
"Nunsense," a satirical musical that inspired six sequels since its birth in 1985, will lead off 2012 for the Costa Mesa Playhouse. An irreverent creation of Dan Goggin (book, music and lyrics), the show features a variety show, solo star turns and an audience quiz. Performance dates are Feb. 10 through March 11.
Opening on Feb. 10 at Orange Coast College will be a student-directed production yet to be announced. It'll run through Feb. 29.
We haven't seen Carlo Goldoni's "The Servant of Two Masters" locally (at least since 1965), so it'll be new to most audiences when it takes the Lyceum Theater stage at Vanguard University from Feb. 24 to March 4. (Golden West College in Huntington Beach will mount its version of the farcical comedy in mid-March).
Local theatergoers will be seeing most of these shows for the first time — except for "Cats" and, probably, "Nunsense." And even these often are welcomed on a second or third viewing.
TOM TITUS covers the local theater scene for the Daily Pilot.