L.A. takes center stage for new musical theater

Thu Sep 18, 2008 3:58pm EDT
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By Jill Serjeant

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Better known as the home to Hollywood movies, Los Angeles is fast starting to beat to the sound of new musical stage productions that debut here then dance their way to Broadway.

When Dolly Parton's "9 to 5: The Musical" gets its world premiere on Saturday, it will be the fourth musical in as many years to open in Tinseltown before The Great White Way.

That sequence reverses long-standing theater tradition in which musicals such as global hit "Wicked" win acclaim on Broadway, then tour the world with a stop in Los Angeles. In fact, the City of Angels is now being seen as an incubator for new musicals with big ambitions.

"It's a good place to put on a new show. The talent is right here in Los Angeles. We seem to be able to raise the money right now to do it, and we are building an audience base for musicals," Michael Ritchie, artistic director of the Centre Theatre Group in Los Angeles, told Reuters.

Much of the success stems from the Centre Theatre Group's program to develop and produce two or three new plays and at least one new musical a year. The group created new shows "The Drowsy Chaperone" and "Curtains" which went to Broadway in 2006 and 2007 and earned 21 Tony award nominations -- more than any other theater company outside New York.

Centre Theatre Group also put up the musical "13," about the angst of being a 13-year-old, by LA-based composer Jason Robert Brown, which opens on Broadway in October.

WORKIN' "9 TO 5"

The latest, and most anticipated, is the musical version of 1980 film comedy "9 to 5," about three women making their way in the workplace while fending off a chauvinist boss. It plays for a month here before opening in Times Square in March 2009.   Continued...

<p>The stars of "9 to 5: The Musical" (L-R) Stephanie J. Block, Allison Janney and Megan Hilty are pictured at a news conference promoting the musical in Los Angeles September 18, 2008. REUTERS/Fred Prouser</p>