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Theater preview: This season’s upcoming stage performances are sure to steal the show

(By Ashley Ko/Illustrations director)

By Victoria Munck, Talia Sajor, Maya Vibhakar, and Puja Anand

Oct. 4, 2023 1:22 p.m.

This post was updated Oct. 8 at 8:29 p.m.

Despite the cooler weather, fiery live productions are heating up Los Angeles stages.

This autumn, star-studded casts and beloved stage shows will leave audiences with much to be thankful for. With a lineup consisting of vibrant jukebox musicals and genre-defying comedies, viewers will surely be rushing to the city’s many theaters this fall.

Read on for the Daily Bruin’s picks for the season’s most coveted tickets.

[Related: Film preview: Fall’s forthcoming films include historical adaptations, franchise favorites]

(Courtesy of T Charles Erickson)
The cast of “Hadestown” is pictured onstage. The Tony Award-winning musical will run at the Ahmanson Theatre through Oct. 15. (Courtesy of T Charles Erickson)

Hadestown (Ahmanson Theatre)

LA is once again taking the road back to hell.

Running until Oct. 15, the Tony Award-winning musical “Hadestown” has made its return to the Ahmanson Theatre. With intertwining dual plotlines, the musical tells the mythological tragedy of Orpheus and Eurydice as well as the love story between Hades and Persephone through a folky score and steampunk aesthetic.

With a similar New Orleans-style set design as its Broadway counterpart, the touring production follows the same story as the poverty-stricken Orpheus travels down to the underworld to rescue Eurydice, who has been seduced by the security that Hades’ factory, Hadestown, offers for its workers. The Southern California performances will also mark the debuts of Amaya Braganza and Lana Gordon as Eurydice and Persephone, respectively. Alongside the leading ladies will be J. Antonio Rodriguez as the lyre-playing Orpheus, Matthew Patrick Quinn as the King of the Underworld and Will Mann as the narrating Hermes.

Soon, audiences will be “Livin’ it Up on Top” at the Ahmanson.

– Talia Sajor

(Courtesy of Ben Schwartz & Friends)
Ben Schwartz is pictured in the promotional photo for “Ben Schwartz & Friends.” The hit long-form improv show will hit The Orpheum Theatre Nov. 4. (Courtesy of Ben Schwartz & Friends)

Ben Schwartz & Friends (Orpheum Theatre)

With sonic speed, Ben Schwartz is redefining live comedy in LA.

On Nov. 4, actor and comedian Ben Schwartz will take the stage of The Orpheum Theatre to present his hit long-form improv show, “Ben Schwartz & Friends.” With decades of improv experience, Schwartz helped popularize the comedy form with his 2020 Netflix series “Middleditch & Schwartz” – the very first improv special on the streaming service – as well as multiple performances at the famous Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre. On Sept. 23, the touring production became the first group improv show to headline Radio City Music Hall, and it is now racing toward LA.

“Ben Schwartz & Friends” follows an uncomplicated premise, taking place atop a mostly bare stage adorned with only a few folding chairs. Schwartz is joined by three or four fellow comedians – previous shows have featured names such as Joe Keery, D’Arcy Carden and Bobby Moynihan – to completely improvise an hour-long performance. Each story is based upon a preshow conversation with an audience member, ensuring that every production is one of a kind.

Viewers should grab their tickets to Schwartz’s show fast – it will literally never happen again.

– Victoria Munck

(Courtesy of Brinkhoff Mögenburg)
Donna and the Dynamos perform in “Mamma Mia!” The jukebox musical will run at the Hollywood Pantages Theatre from Nov. 14 to Dec. 3. (Courtesy of Brinkhoff Mögenburg)

Mamma Mia! (Hollywood Pantages Theatre)

Get ready to dance, jive and have the time of your life – “Mamma Mia!” is coming to LA.

The jukebox musical, composed of Swedish pop group ABBA’s ‘70s hits, is making its next stop at the Hollywood Pantages Theatre from Nov. 14 to Dec. 3. Featuring chart-toppers such as “Dancing Queen” and “Gimme! Gimme! Gimme! (A Man After Midnight),” “Mamma Mia!” tells the touching story of mother-daughter duo Donna and Sophie, following Sophie’s quest to discover her father’s identity on the eve of her wedding. Drama ensues when Sophie, having narrowed her potential fathers down to three eclectic men, decides to invite all three to her wedding without her mother’s knowledge, in hopes that one will give her away.

Similar to its hit 2008 film adaptation, the stage production is filled with lively ensemble choreography, flashy costumes and sentimental ballads that are sure to leave mothers and daughters teary-eyed. For this national tour, Christine Sherrill and Alisa Melendez star as Donna and Sophie respectively, while Rob Marnell, James Newman and Victor Wallace portray Sophie’s potential fathers.

With a soundtrack full of catchy classics and an endearing familial story, “Mamma Mia!” will surely be impossible to resist.

– Maya Vibhakar

[Related: TV preview: Upcoming shows promise an autumn filled with vampires, superheroes and more]

(Courtesy of Jeremy Daniel)
The cast of “How the Grinch Stole Christmas! The Musical” is pictured onstage. Based on Dr. Seuss’ famous holiday story, the Christmas production will premiere at the Hollywood Pantages Theatre on Dec. 6. (Courtesy of Jeremy Daniel)

How The Grinch Stole Christmas! The Musical (Hollywood Pantages Theatre)

The Grinch is back to steal LA’s Christmas.

From Dec. 6 to 17, the nation-touring musical will jingle its way through the Hollywood Pantages Theatre. Based on Dr. Seuss’ beloved holiday tale, “How the Grinch Stole Christmas! The Musical” follows the green-with-envy Grinch on his wicked scheme to steal Christmas from the jovial Whos. However, in a Christmas miracle of sorts, the cold Grinch rediscovers himself, challenging his inner hatred for joyous things. The musical features hit songs from the 1966 film adaptation, such as “You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch” and “Welcome Christmas,” alongside new music.

As seen in its teaser, “How the Grinch Stole Christmas! The Musical” embodies the holiday spirit: red and green decor, heartwarming melodies and a Yuletide conspiracy or two. Audiences of all ages are sure to swoon at this musical reinvention of the classic story, finding the true meaning of Christmas along the way. With The New York Times calling it “100 times better than any bedtime story,” the musical is the ultimate way to celebrate the sentimentality and magic of the holidays.

From mean Grinches to cheery Whos, “How the Grinch Stole Christmas! The Musical” will strike a chord with all.

– Puja Anand

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Victoria Munck | Arts editor
Munck is the 2024-2025 Arts editor. She was previously an assistant Arts editor on the theater | film | television beat. Munck is a third-year communication student from Granada Hills, California.
Munck is the 2024-2025 Arts editor. She was previously an assistant Arts editor on the theater | film | television beat. Munck is a third-year communication student from Granada Hills, California.
Talia Sajor | Arts editor
Sajor was the 2023-2024 Arts editor. She previously served as the 2022-2023 Theater | film | television editor and a Photo, Opinion and PRIME contributor. She is also a fourth-year communication student from Oxnard, California.
Sajor was the 2023-2024 Arts editor. She previously served as the 2022-2023 Theater | film | television editor and a Photo, Opinion and PRIME contributor. She is also a fourth-year communication student from Oxnard, California.
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