Classical Music and Opera
While L.A. is best known for its pop realms, other types of music here consist of top-flight orchestras and companies -- both local and visiting -- to fulfill the most demanding classical music appetites; scan the papers to find out who's performing while you're in the city.
The world-class Los Angeles Philharmonic (tel. 323/850-2000; www.laphil.org) is the only major classical music company in Los Angeles, and it got a whole lot more popular in 2003 with the completion of its incredible home: the Walt Disney Concert Hall, located at the intersection of 1st Street and Grand Avenue in the historic Bunker Hill area. Designed by world-renowned architect Frank Gehry, this exciting addition to the Music Center of L.A. includes a breathtaking 2,265-seat concert hall, outdoor park, restaurant, cafe, bookstore, and gift shop.
Gustavo Dudamel, hailed as one of the most exciting and compelling conductors of our time, has begun his tenure as the new music director of the Los Angeles Philharmonic. Tickets can be hard to come by when celebrity players like Itzhak Perlman, Emanuel Ax, and Yo-Yo Ma are in town. In addition to performances at the Walt Disney Concert Hall, the Philharmonic plays a summer season at the Hollywood Bowl.
Slowly but surely, the Los Angeles Opera (tel. 213/972-8001; www.losangelesopera.com), which performs at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, is gaining respect and popularity with inventive stagings of classic pieces, modern operas, visiting divas, and the contributions of high-profile general director Plácido Domingo. The 120-voice Los Angeles Master Chorale sings a varied repertoire that includes classical and pop compositions. Concerts are held at the Walt Disney Concert Hall (tel. 323/850-2000) September through May.
The UCLA Center for the Performing Arts (tel. 310/825-2101; www.uclalive.org) has presented music, dance, and theatrical performances of unparalleled quality for more than 60 years and continues to be a major presence in the local and national cultural landscape. Presentations occur at several different theaters around Los Angeles, both on and off campus. UCLA's Royce Hall is the Center's pride; it has even been compared to New York's Carnegie Hall. Standouts from the Center's busy calendar included the famous Gyuto Monks Tibetan Tantric Choir and the Cinderella story Cendrillon, with an original score by Sergei Prokofiev.
Fun with Festivals -- The L.A. Philharmonic's summer concert series at the Hollywood Bowl is one of the world's largest outdoor music festivals. And the venue itself is the largest natural outdoor amphitheater in the country!
Free Morning Music at Hollywood Bowl -- It's not widely known, but the L.A. Philharmonic's summer morning rehearsals are generally open to the public and absolutely free. On Tuesdays and Thursdays, from 9:30am to 12:30pm, you can see the program scheduled for that evening. Non-L.A. Phil rehearsals are only open subject to the artists' discretion. So bring some coffee and doughnuts (the concession stands aren't open) and enjoy the best seats in the house (tel. 323/850-2000; www.hollywoodbowl.org).
Summer Open-Air Concerts in Santa Monica -- Santa Monica's Twilight Dance Series (www.santamonicapier.org/twilight) brings top names to the world-famous Santa Monica Pier for free open-air concerts Thursday nights from early July through mid-August. Join locals, families, singles, and tourists who picnic on the beach while enjoying the sunset and live music.
Major Theaters and Companies -- Tickets for most plays cost $10 to $35, although big-name shows at the major theaters can fetch more than $100 for the best seats. LA Stage Alliance (tel. 213/614-0556), a nonprofit association of live theaters and producers in Los Angeles, offers half-price tickets to more than 100 venues via their Internet-only service at www.lastagetix.com. This handy site features a frequently updated list of shows and availability. Tickets can be purchased online with a credit card and they'll be waiting for you at the box office; a service fee is applied depending on the cost of the ticket. Note: One caveat of the half-price bargain is that the seating assignments are solely at the discretion of the theater -- there's no guarantee you'll be sitting next to your partner (though this is rare) -- and you must bring a printed or faxed copy of your e-mail confirmation to the box office.
The all-purpose Music Center of Los Angeles County, 135 N. Grand Ave., Downtown, houses the city's top two playhouses: the Ahmanson Theatre and Mark Taper Forum (tel. 213/628-2772; www.centertheatregroup.org). They're both home to the Center Theater Group (www.centertheatregroup.org), as well as traveling productions (often Broadway- or London-bred). Every season, the Ahmanson Theatre (tel. 213/628-2772) hosts a handful of high-profile shows, such as the Tony Award-winning Jersey Boys, and Oprah Winfrey's musical The Color Purple. Tip: The best seats in the theater are in the mezzanine section.
The Mark Taper Forum is a more intimate theater with a thrust stage -- where the audience is seated on three sides of the acting area -- that hosts contemporary works by international and local playwrights. Neil Simon's humorous and poignant The Dinner Party and Tom Stoppard's witty and eclectic Arcadia, which has won three Pulitzer Prizes and 18 Tony Awards, are among the more popular productions performed on this internationally recognized stage.
One of L.A.'s most venerable landmarks, the Orpheum Theatre, 842 S. Broadway, at 9th Street (tel. 213/749-5171; www.laorpheum.com), reopened after a 75-year hiatus. Built in 1926, this renowned venue has hosted an array of theatrical productions, concerts, film festivals, and television and movie shoots -- from Judy Garland's 1933 vaudeville performance to a taping of American Idol. The 2,000-seat theater is home to the Mighty Wurlitzer, one of three original theater organs still existing in Southern California theaters.
Across town, the moderate-size Geffen Playhouse, 10886 Le Conte Ave., Westwood (tel. 310/208-5454; www.geffenplayhouse.com), presents dramatic and comedic works by prominent and emerging writers. UCLA purchased the theater -- which was originally built as a Masonic temple in 1929 and later served as the Westwood Playhouse -- back in 1995 with a little help from philanthropic entertainment mogul David Geffen. This striking venue is often the West Coast choice of many acclaimed off-Broadway shows, and also attracts locally based TV and movie actors eager for the immediacy of stage work. One popular production featured the world premiere of Wishful Drinking, a poignant comedy written and performed by Carrie Fisher. Always audience-friendly, the Playhouse prices tickets in the $35 to $75 range.
You've probably already heard of the Kodak Theatre, 6834 Hollywood Blvd. (tel. 323/308-6300; www.kodaktheatre.com), home of the Academy Awards. The crown jewel of the Hollywood and Highland entertainment complex, this modern beauty hosts a wide range of international performances, musicals, and concerts ranging from Alicia Keys and David Gilmour to the Moscow Stanislavsky Ballet and Sesame Street Live. Guided tours are given 7 days a week from 10:30am to 4pm.
The restored Pantages Theatre, 6233 Hollywood Blvd., between Vine Street and Argyle Avenue (tel. 323/468-1770; www.pantages-theater.com), reflects the full Art Deco glory of L.A.'s theater scene. Opened in 1930, this historical and cultural landmark was the first Art Deco movie palace in the U.S. and site of the Academy Awards from 1949 to 1959. The theater recently presented Hair, Spring Awakening, and Westside Story.
At the foot of the Hollywood Hills, the 1,245-seat outdoor John Anson Ford Amphitheatre (tel. 323/461-3673; www.fordamphitheater.org) is located in a county regional park and is set against a backdrop of cypress trees and chaparral. It's an intimate setting, with no patron more than 96 feet away from the stage. Music, dance, film, theater, and family events run May through September. An indoor theater, a cozy 87-seat space that was extensively renovated in 1998 and renamed [Inside] The Ford, features live music and theater year-round.
Supported by Dustin Hoffman in association with Santa Monica College, the $45-million Broad Stage theater (tel. 310/434-3200; www.thebroadstage.com) has drawn rave reviews for its intimate atmosphere. Its compact design allows patrons to feel as if they're in eye-to-eye contact with the performers from any of the 499 seats in the house. The state-of-the-art theater presents renowned artists and world-class operas, symphonies, musicals, dance companies, film, and theater, under the leadership of artistic director Dale Franzen.
For a schedule at any of the above theaters, check the listings in Los Angeles magazine (www.lamag.com), available at most area newsstands, or the "Calendar" section of the Sunday Los Angeles Times (www.latimes.com/theguide/); or call the box offices at the numbers listed above.
Great Theater, Cheap Tickets -- The Ahmanson Theatre and Mark Taper Forum offer specially priced $20 "hot" tickets that can be purchased in person at the box office or over the phone. It used to be that you would have to stand in line two hours before a show to get them (if you were lucky); now you can purchase them at any time. Exact seat locations are not discussed; however, all are described as "limited view." Still, it's a great way to experience theater if you are on a budget. All performances are subject to availability, with restrictions.
Smaller Playhouses and Companies -- On any given night, there's more live theater to choose from in Los Angeles than in New York City, due in part to the surfeit of ready actors and writers chomping at the bit to make it in Tinseltown. Many of today's familiar faces from film and TV spent plenty of time cutting their teeth on L.A.'s busy theater circuit, which is home to nearly 200 small and medium-size theaters and theater companies, ranging from the 'round-the-corner, neighborhood variety to high-profile, polished troupes of veteran actors. With so many options, navigating the scene to find the best work can be a monumental task. A good bet is to choose one of the theaters which have established excellent reputations for their consistently high-quality productions; otherwise, consult L.A. Weekly (www.laweekly.com), which advertises most current productions, or call LA Stage Alliance (tel. 213/614-0556; http://lastagealliance.com) for up-to-date performance listings.
In the same complex as Walt Disney Concert Hall, REDCAT (an acronym for the Roy and Edna Disney/CalArts Theater) is a relatively new multiuse forum for cutting-edge performance and media arts. Befitting its ultramodern location, the REDCAT is one of the most versatile and technologically advanced presentation spaces in the world. Tip: Be sure to arrive a bit early so you can visit the REDCAT lounge and bookstore for a pre-performance espresso or cocktail -- wrapped in signature Frank Gehry plywood, it's one of the best-kept-secret bars in the city. The REDCAT is located at 631 W. 2nd St. at the southwest corner of the Walt Disney Concert Hall (tel. 213/237-2800; www.redcat.org).
The Colony Studio Theatre, 555 N. 3rd St., Burbank (tel. 818/558-7000; www.colonytheatre.org), was formed in 1975 and has developed from a part-time ensemble of TV actors longing for their theatrical roots into a nationally recognized company. The company produces plays in all genres at the 276-seat Burbank Center Stage, which is shared with other performing arts groups.
Actors Circle Theater, 7313 Santa Monica Blvd., West Hollywood (tel. 323/882-6805; www.actorscircle.net), is a 47-seater that's as acclaimed as it is tiny. Look for original contemporary works throughout the year.
Founded in 1965, East West Players, 120 N. Judge John Aiso St., Downtown (tel. 213/625-7000; www.eastwestplayers.org), is the oldest Asian-American theater company in the United States. It's been so successful that the company moved from a 99-seat venue to the 200-seat David Henry Hwang Theater in Downtown L.A.'s Little Tokyo.
The L.A. Theatre Works (tel. 310/827-0808) is renowned for its marriage of media and theater and has performed more than 500 plays and logged more than 1,000 hours of on-air programming. Performances are held at the Skirball Cultural Center, nestled in the Sepulveda Pass near the Getty Center. In the past, personalities such as Richard Dreyfuss, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Jason Robards, Annette Bening, and John Lithgow have given award-winning performances of plays by Arthur Miller, Neil Simon, Joyce Carol Oates, and more. For nearly a decade, the group has performed simultaneously for viewing and listening audiences in its radio theater series. Tickets are usually around $49; a full performance schedule can be found online at www.latw.org.
L.A.'s comedy clubs have launched the careers of many comics who are now household names. Check out the alternative comedy featured comedy and stand-up nights at Largo at the Coronet with Patton Oswalt and Sarah Silverman, among others, 366 N. La Cienega Blvd. (tel. 310.855.0350; www.largo-la.com).
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.