“Ain’t Too Proud” to say it’s impossible to resist The Temptations this autumn, especially a Broadway preview, but fall also brings the opportunity to contemplate the dangers of letter writing, Canadian hospitality, horticulture, variations of Shakespeare and just how much Pasadenans love Halloween.
At the Ahmanson Theatre, three musicals — two inspired by true events — will transport you to a toe-tapping happy place. Kennedy Prize-winning playwright Dominique Morisseau gives us a chance to celebrate The Temptations, five guys who sang 42 Top 10 hits with 14 making it to the top in “Ain’t Too Proud,” a Broadway-bound musical. (Aug. 21 to Sept. 30).
After the Netflix movie, “To All the Boys I’ve Ever Loved Before,” and the Ahmanson presentation of 2017 Tony and Grammy award-winning “Dear Evan Hansen,” you may never want to write another letter! The title character here writes one that is made public with heartwarming and heartbreaking consequences. (Oct. 17-Nov. 25)
Another Ahmanson trip down memory lane, “Come From Away” looks at what happened when 7,000 passengers were stranded in a small Canadian town after the terrorist attacks on 9/11 grounded their flights. (Nov. 28-Jan. 6).
Can it truly be Halloween in Pasadena without the Wicked Lit ensemble? For its tenth season, Wicked Lit will have a world premiere adaptation of “Teig O’Kane and the Corpse” by Kerry Kazmierowicztrimm. “The Chimes: A Goblin Story” also returns to the bill (featured in the first two Wicked Lit productions) but with a new production. This year’s shows will run from Oct. 4 through Nov. 10 with curtain times of 7:30 p.m. and 9 p.m. for a 75-minute total runtime and smaller groups. The entire production will be indoors and will include interactive “museum” exhibits that feature costumes, puppets and photo ops. Scary times await at the Mountain View Mausoleum & Cemetery in Altadena.
A little Oscar Wilde horror will be on stage at A Noise Within with Wilde’s “The Picture of Dorian Gray.” Adapted and directed by Michael Michetti, the hauntingly beautiful original production ran in 2006. (Sept. 23-Nov. 16).
Two ANW productions take audiences to the other side of Shakespeare. First, Tom Stoppard’s Tony Award-winning “Rosenbrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead. Next is “Hamlet” from the view of two minor characters who in Shakespeare’s version were mere pawns in the plot to kill Hamlet. (Oct. 7-Nov. 18). Directed by Geoff Elliott.
At Theatre@Boston Court, Jessica Kubzansky directs Sarah. B. Mantell’s world premiere “Everything That Never Happened.” And by that, Mantell means to fill in the gaps and expose the realities of Jewish history that is missing from Shakespeare’s “The Merchant of Venice.” But you won’t be stuck in the 16th century. This play deals with the sacrifices of fathers and daughters and lovers and friends today and beyond. (Sept. 27-Nov. 4).
Instead of reading between and beyond the lines, at Caltech for one night the Reduced Shakespeare Company deletes lines, pages, characters and all the unnecessary parts to give you “The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (abridged) (revised).” Knowing time is precious, Adam Long, Daniel Singer and Jess Winfield (with additional material by Reed Martin) have winnowed Shakespeare down to a mere 97 minutes for 37 plays. Directed by Austin Tichenor and Martin. (Oct. 20).
If you insist on a more traditional approach to the bard, and if free is your favorite four-lettered word, then be sure to pencil in “The Tempest” at Brand Park in Glendale (Oct. 4-20, 7:30 p.m. Reservations required).
In Southern California, fall is the time for gardening and the Pasadena Playhouse has a new comedy, “Native Gardens,” to get you in the right frame of mind. “Modern Family” star (Ronaldo) Christian Barillas, Oscar-nominee Bruce Davison, Frances Fisher (“Titanic” and “Unforgiven”) and Jessica Meraz (TNT’s “Major Crimes”) lead the cast in what amounts to a horticultural War of the Hoses (Sept. 5- 30). Directed by Jason Alexander.
In October, the Playhouse will be host to ghosts with Stephen Mallatratt’s adaptation of Susan Hill’s ghost story, “The Woman in Black.” This particular woman is believed to have cursed a man’s family, with the exorcism set to begin on Oct. 17 (to Nov. 11) with special premium packages available for Oct. 30 and 31.
Caltech will have “Demons, Devils and Divas: Ghostly Tales from Opera and Musical Theater” (Oct. 30 at 8 p.m.) presented by sopranos Suzan Hanson and Shana Blake Hill, baritone Roberto Gomez and bass-baritone (and Caltech alum) Dean Elzinga. Pianist Victoria Kirsch will narrate this staged evening of Halloween-inspired songs and arias from a variety of sources, including Sondheim’s “Sweeney Todd” and Verdi’s “Macbeth.”
A ghost and witch bring song and sin to the Los Angeles Opera Company at the Chandler Pavilion. Ramón Vargas is “Don Carlo,” a man who has lost his fiancée to his father, the King of Spain and now confronts the Spanish Inquisition. Plácido Domingo plays his best friend Rodrigo, Marquis of Posa. (Sept. 22, 29 and Oct. 4, 7, 11, 14). Twelve-foot-tall creatures and special effects bring Engelbert Humperdinck’s classic opera “Hansel and Gretel” to life. Diva Susan Graham plays the wicked witch on fantastical sets, luring the titular characters to her trap. (Nov. 17, 25 and Dec. 9, 12, 15).
For more meditative fair, Philip Glass fans and those interested in Gandhi can be mesmerized by the “truth force” that drove Gandhi (Sean Panikkar) forward into history in “Satyagraha.” (Oct. 20, 27 and Nov. 1, 4, 8, 11) as the aging king who is going mad which allows this blood-thirsty daughter to terrorize the kingdom’s citizens in “Nabucco.” (Oct. 14 and Nov. 2, 5, 8, 11 and 19).
The Sierra Madre Playhouse has Weller Martin (Alan Blumenfeld) fighting old age at a nursing home and battling Fonsia Dorsey (Katherine James) at cards in D.L. Coburn’s Pulitzer Prize-winning “The Gin Game” (Sept. 22 to Oct. 1).
Two different types of relocation camps will be featured in downtown productions this fall. In Qui Nguyen’s “Vietgone” by East West Players at the David Henry Hwang Theatre in Little Tokyo, refugees Quang and Tong meet at a relocation camp in Arkansas (Oct. 18-Nov. 11). The Mark Taper Forum, in association with El Teatro Campesino, presents Luis Valdez’s “Valley of the Heart,” a story about two lovers from immigrant families — the Yamaguchis and the Montaños — during World War II (Oct. 30-Nov. 9)
The Mark Taper Forum also presents Pulitzer Prize-winning “Sweat,” another drama about hard times, picket lines and friendships, this time in the industrial town of Reading, Pennsylvania (Aug. 29-Oct. 7).
At the Alex Theatre, the Musical Theatre Guild will remind us how wild aunts can be fun with “Mame” (Sept. 23, 7 p.m.) and also give us a little lusty Greek romance with “Zorba” (Nov. 11, 7 p.m.).
At REDCAT, expect performances that push the boundaries of theater. Dutch visual and performing artists Pauline Kalker, Arléne Hoornweg and Herman Helle recreate a miniature Auschwitz to dramatize the finals days of Kalker’s grandfather in “Hotel Modern: KAMP” (Sept. 20-23). Performance artist Ken Jacobs creates unique performances with his Nervous Magic Lantern and its mesmerizing hallucinatory-like imagery in “Metropolis Looms And The Bad Maria Is Tuned Up” (Oct. 8). “Jack &” humorously considers a man’s re-entry into society after prison (Nov. 15-17). Ellen Reid’s “Prism,” presented with LA Opera explores the bonds between mother and sickly child (Nov. 29-Dec. 2). And My Barbarian’s “Non-Western” is a musical fantasy that promises a confrontation between the Virgin Mary and a pterodactyl at the La Brea Tar Pits (Dec. 13-16).
For a change of pace, you can take a trip back in time for a one-nighter — “The Return of Vaudeville,” presented by the Roaring Twenties Street Jam at Throop Hall (Oct. 13).
Holiday fare includes the traditional “A Christmas Carol” at A Noise Within from Dec. 1 to 23 and the Lythgoe Family Panto, in association with the Pasadena Playhouse, will present the world premiere “The Wonderful Winter of Oz” at the Pasadena Civic Auditorium in 15 performances Dec. 14-30. Bonnie Lythgoe directs and Napoleon and Tabitha D’umo (NappyTabs) choreograph.