Blame the 40th anniversary of Woodstock this summer for the fact that the OC Weekly didn't put the Chance Theater's production of Hair on its must-review list. Just one more aromatic homage in a summer filled with Baby Boomer nostalgia.
But, fortunately for the Anaheim Hills theater, lots of other people saw it--and more than several really dug it, because it's garnered six 2009 Ovation Awards.
The Ovation Awards, which are chosen by theater professionals in the greater Los Angeles area, are a big deal in the relatively small world of Southern California theater. It's "LA's most coveted theater honor," according to something called the Los Angeles Times, and makes no distinctions between big, small, professional or storefront theaters.
So, for an Orange County storefront that has called an Anaheim Hills industrial park home for its 10 years to receive so many nominations is an exceptional accomplishment, even more so when considered that the Chance is the only OC theater to receive any Ovation nominations this year. (The Chance does professional-quality work but still isn't a full-fledged professional theater, since members of Actors Equity, the union for stage actors, aren't allowed to perform there. Currently, only the Laguna Playhouse and South Coast Repertory are considered purely professional theater-producing entities in Orange County.)
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Along with the six Hair nominations, the Chance is also up for a new category in the Ovations this year: Best Season, right up there with Los Angeles heavyweights the Geffen Playhouse, Rubicon Theatre Company, the Fountain Theater and Troubadour Theater Company, which has graced Orange County with its presence often the past decade years with its helter-skelter blend of Shakespeare and pop tunes (Fleetwood Macbeth, Romeo Hall and Juliet Oates; Hamlet, the Artist Formerly Known as the Prince of Denmark).
We've been saying for several years that the Chance has surpassed every other OC storefront theater in terms of work and execution. It retains the best acting pool, the highest production values and has demonstrated an ability to nail everything from complicated Stephen Sondheim musicals and complex Anton Chekov plays to more contemporary fare, such as its gripping production of David Lindsay-Abaire's Pulitzer Prize-winning Rabbit Hole, in 2008.
It's received a slew of OC Weekly Theater Award nominations (along with other, far less prestigious ones) over its 10-year history, and it can easily make the case that it's the most successful OC theater since one that launched in 1964 in Costa Mesa: SCR, which today is a major factory of new play development in American theater and one of the country's most well-respected theaters.
If the Chance continues to kick ass over the next 10 years, it seems unavoidable that it will eventually be hanging with the biggest kids on the theatrical block.