Theatricum Botanicum will present the new cover of THE WEST SIDE WALTZ


Forty-one years after its premiere at the Ahmanson Theatre, Will GeerTheatricum Botanicum will present the world premiere of an “all-new” revival of The West Side Waltz by the Oscar-winning writer Ernest Thompson (On the golden pond). The production, directed by Mary Jo DuPrey, will run from June 25 through October 1 at the company’s beautiful outdoor venue in Topanga, as part of the 2022 summer repertoire season sponsored by the S. Mark Taper Foundation.

Theatricum Artistic Director, Thompson’s Newly Revised Heart-Filled Music and Comedy Stars Ellen Geer as Margaret Mary Elderdice, an aging concert pianist living alone on New York’s Upper West Side. Geer’s sister, Melora Marshallstars as Margaret’s unmarried neighbor, violinist Cara Varnum, and her daughter, Willow Geer, plays Robin Bird, the budding actress who enters their lives. Also in the cast are Miguel Pérez as the building’s super and Charles Lin as Glen, a young lawyer with eyes for Robin.

Originally commissioned by the Center Theater Group, the 1981 production, which starred Catherine Hepburn and Dorothee Loudon, toured to sold-out houses across the country, including four months on Broadway. The 1995 film starred Shirley McLaine, Liza Minnell and Jennifer Gray.

“When Ellen approached me about a production at Theatricum, I re-read the play, which I hadn’t watched since we made the film,” says Thompson. “It was a gift and a privilege to go back and deepen the relationships between these three women, to investigate them again and to give the play more gravity than it had before. The play is played all over the world, but not like many in the United States, partly because of the difficulty that “playing the music” poses for performers. But I also think that maybe it’s because I never really finished the play, and now I had the chance to finish it.

“With everything going on in the world, it’s a good time to do a comedy, and a good time to do a relationship, character-driven piece, and that’s what I tried to do. — to enhance that and get into the hearts and guts of those characters,” he says.

The West Side Waltz creative team includes a lighting designer Zach Moore; set/prop designer John Eslick; and costume designer Beth Eslick. The music compilation and sound design are by Marshall McDaniel. Karen Osborne is the production manager, assisted by JP Pollinger.

The West Side Waltz will run through the repertoire each weekend with The Merry Wives of Windsor and A Midsummer Night’s Dream, each of which opened earlier in the season. A fourth production, the world premiere of a new stage adaptation of Ellen Geer of Trouble the Water, Rebecca Dwight Bruff’s historical novel about runaway slave Robert Smalls who became a U.S. Congressman, will join the repertoire season on July 9.

Unlike most Los Angeles-area theaters that stage continuous runs of a single play, Theatricum, using a company of actors, will perform each of the plays from the repertoire, allowing all four plays to be seen in one summer weekend.

Playwright Ernest Thompson won an Oscar, a Golden Globe, a Writers Guild Award, and a Broadway Drama Guild Award for Best Play. His work has been nominated for a Tony, an Emmy and a British Academy Award. His more than 35 plays have been seen in theaters around the world. The most enduring, On Golden Pond, has been translated into 30 languages ​​and performed in more than 40 countries on six continents. His other pieces include A Sense of Humor (Jack Lemon and Estelle Parson), White People Christmas, (two very successful holiday tours at the Zephyr Theater on Melrose), Ax of Love, Amazons in August, Murdering Mother, The Elixir and Human Beings. His soon-to-be-released anthology of 25 short plays includes Political Suicide, The Penis Responds, Answers and Valentines for Two. His films include On Golden Pond (Catherine Hepburn, Henry Fonda and Jane Fonda), Dance of the Sweet Hearts (Susan Sarandon and Jeff Daniels), Lies Tell (Kirk Douglas), 1969 (Robert Downey Jr and Bruce Dern), The West Side Waltz (Shirley McLaine and Liza Minnell), Out of Time, and the live On Golden Pond (Julie Andrews and Christopher Plumer), the last four of which Ernest also directed, as he has his last films, Time and Charges and Heavenly Angle.

The Theatricum Botanicum has been named “One of the 50 Coolest Places in Los Angeles” by Buzz Magazine, “One of Southern California’s Most Alluring Theater Experiences” by Sunset Magazine, and “Best Theater in the woods” by the LA Weekly. “The enchantment of a summer night at the Theatricum Botanicum [makes it] it’s completely understandable why audiences have been going up the hills since Theatricum’s first season in 1973. Summer Shakespeare doesn’t get better than this,” writes StageSceneLA. with pre-show picnics and inflated seat cushions, but we were close enough to see the seams on the performers’ costumes. Grab a blanket and a bottle and head for the hills.” In 2017, Theatricum was named “one of the best outdoor theaters in the world” by the Daily Beast.

The beginnings of the Theatricum date back to the early 1950s when Will Geer, a victim of the Hollywood blacklist of the McCarthy era (before he became the Waltons’ beloved grandfather), opened a theater for blacklisted folk actors and singers on his Topanga property. Friends such as Ford Rainy, Della Reese, Pete Seeger and Woody Guthrie joined him on the dirt stage for vigorous performances and inspired grassroots activism, while the audience sat on railroad ties. Today, two outdoor amphitheaters sit in the canyon’s natural ravine, where audiences can relax and enjoy the wilderness during an afternoon or evening show. The Theatricum’s main stage amphitheater sports a new and improved sunshade for increased audience comfort, installed with support from the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors and the Ralph M. Parson Foundation. Theatricum has received numerous awards, including the Margaret Harford Award for “Sustained Excellence”, which is the highest honor of the Los Angeles Drama Critics Circle.

The amphitheater is terraced on the hillside, so spectators are advised to dress casually (warmly for evenings) and bring cushions for the benches. Guests are encouraged to arrive early and have a picnic before a performance. Check the Theatricum website before each performance for current and up-to-date Covid-19 safety protocols.

The West Side Waltz opens Saturday, June 25 at 7:30 p.m. and runs through October 1.

Tickets for each performance range from $10 to $38.50. Premium seats are available for $60. Children 4 and under are free. Pay What You Will ticket prices will be available on the following dates (cash only at the door): The Merry Wives of Windsor on Friday, July 15 at 7:30 p.m.; and A Midsummer Night’s Dream on Friday July 22 at 7:30 p.m.

Will GeerThe Theatricum Botanicum is located at 1419 North Topanga Canyon Blvd. in Topanga, halfway between Malibu and the San Fernando Valley.

For a complete schedule of performances and to purchase tickets, call 310-455-3723 or visit

For a schedule of performances, scroll down or go to Tickets for The West Side Waltz range from $10 to $42. Premium seats are available for $60. Children 4 and under are free. There will be a Pay-What-You-Will performance (cash only at the door) on Friday, July 29 at 7:30 p.m.

Will GeerThe Theatricum Botanicum is located at 1419 North Topanga Canyon Blvd. in Topanga, halfway between Malibu and the San Fernando Valley.

Will GeerThe Theatricum Botanicum’s 2022 Summer Repertoire Season is sponsored by the S. Mark Taper Foundation. For a complete schedule of performances and to purchase tickets, call (310) 455-3723 or visit

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