This preview of the 10 most interesting OC-area theater shows of the summer almost didn't get written. Not that it was hard to find 10—in fact, the challenge was keeping it to 10. It's that in perusing what's on tap on OC and Long Beach stages the next few months, your intrepid typist stumbled onto three words that made him spurt out a delicious mouthful of Dos Equis:
Ghost: The Musical. While the Segerstrom Center schedules a great deal of wonderful stuff (its annual Off Center Festival late in the year merely one), booking the national tour of a musical based on the 1990 film just seems, well, awful. Maybe it rocks. Maybe it's transcendent. Maybe it's a glitzy tour de force. But it just seems, well, awful. So, in homage to Ghost: The Musical (which runs July 29-Aug. 10), OC Weekly is proud to unveil its Summer Theater Preview Metric System, a sophisticated alchemical index that rates each show on a 1-to-10 scale based on how far removed it seems from, well, awful, 10 meaning not awful at all. We call it the Potentially Awful Scale System, or PASS.
A musical gleefully ripped off by Eric Idle from the film he and his fellow Pythons created in their 1975 cult classic, Monty Python and the Holy Grail. PASS: 9. Maverick Theater, 110 E. Walnut Ave., Fullerton, (714) 526-7070; www.mavericktheater.com. June 20-Aug. 9.
IN THE HEIGHTS
Though unfairly billed as the West Side Story of the 21st century, this hip-hop-, salsa-, you-name-it-infused musical chronicling life in the ethnic cauldron of New York City's Washington Heights has won Tony and Grammy awards and was also a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in 2009. PASS: 9. Chance Theater, 5522 E. La Palma Ave., Anaheim, (714) 777-3033; www.chancetheater.com. July 3-Aug. 3.
A MIDSUMMER SATURDAY NIGHT'S FEVER DREAM
Part of Shakespeare Orange County's ambitious Summerfest, this features Matt Walker and the ridiculously talented Troubadour Theater Co. doing what it does best: merging classic theater with classic rock and pop. This time, it's Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream with the Bee Gees. PASS: 10. Festival Amphitheatre, 12762 Main St., Garden Grove, (714) 590-1575; www.shakespeareoc.org. July 24-July 26.
A few short days later, the Troubies are back at it in La Mirada, with this mash-up of the Greek tragedy Agamemnon (one really fucked-up homecoming) with the music of ABBA. Seriously, kids, if you've never seen this company do its thing—and with two chances this summer, you really have no excuse—you wallow in mud like a pig. PASS: 9. La Mirada Theatre for the Performing Arts, 14900 La Mirada Blvd., La Mirada, (562) 994-9801; www.lamiradatheatre.com. Aug. 1-Aug. 3.
THE THREEPENNY OPERA
This is probably the most ambitious offering of the summer, considering it's an opera by Bertolt Brecht and Kurt Weill that offers everything from jazz and whores to beggars and a fierce critique of capitalism, all done in a very small theatrical space. PASS: 7. Garage Theater, 251 E. Seventh St., Long Beach, (562) 433-8337; www.garagetheater.org. Aug. 1-Aug. 30.
CAT ON A HOT TIN ROOF
Compared to The Glass Menagerie and A Streetcar Named Desire, this later (1955) work by Tennessee Williams brings us, at the very least, three classic dramatic names: Big Daddy, Brick and Maggie "The Cat." So why shouldn't it get more days in the theatrical sun? PASS: 7. STAGEStheatre, 400 E. Commonwealth Ave., Fullerton, (714) 526-7070; www.stagesoc.org. Aug. 15-Sept. 21.
CYRANO DE BERGERAC
The highly talented Nathan Makaryk, who did a yeoman's job on his take on Robin Hood a couple of years ago, returns to legend territory with this classic tale of the guy with the big nose. And you know what they say about men with big noses? Big nostrils. PASS: 8. Maverick Theater, 110 E. Walnut Ave., Fullerton, (714) 526-7070; www.mavericktheater.com. Aug. 15-Sept. 20.
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Orange County's very own new-play festival returns to Chapman University. This year, productions of two full-length and two one-act plays are featured. The subjects range from aspiring singer/songwriters to dudes waiting for a mysterious delivery in the woods to investment brokers entangled with provocative women and some klutz who winds up damaging a Rothko piece in a museum. PASS: 7. Moulton Center Studio Theatre, Chapman University, 300 E. Palm Ave., Orange, (714) 902-5716; occentric.weebly.com. Aug. 21-Aug. 31.
Alan Bowne wrote this dark love story about people afflicted by a plague and quarantined in lower Manhattan. It was adapted into the 1993 sci-fi thriller Daybreak. The play was published the year before Bowne died at age 44 of AIDS-related complications. PASS: 7. Theatre Out, 402 W. Fourth St., Santa Ana, (714) 220-7069; www.theatreout.com. Aug. 22-Sept. 13.
Shakespeare. Songs by Tom Waits. Stage illusion from Teller of Penn and Teller fame. Movement courtesy of the innovative dance troupe Pilobolus. This "traveling tent show" combines Las Vegas spectacle and highbrow literary stuff in a theater performance that had better be astonishing. PASS: 10. South Coast Repertory, 655 Town Center. Dr., Costa Mesa, (714) 708-5555; www.scr.org. Aug. 29-Sept. 28.
HONORABLE MENTION: ANNIE GET YOUR GUN
Only because my appearance in my fifth-grade musical, in which I had to sing an a cappella version of "The Girl That I Marry" alone because the two other guys failed to show up that day, traumatized me for years. Who knows? Had I liked it, I might be dancing on Broadway, not typing this crap. Attic Community Theater, 2834 S. Fairview, Santa Ana, (714) 662-2525; www.ocact.com. Through July 6.