NPR personality, best-selling author and performer Sandra Tsing Loh makes her East West Players (EWP) debut with a new staging of her whimsical holiday tale “Sugar Plum Fairy,” Dec. 5-23, directed by Bart DeLorenzo.
Showtimes: Thursday, Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m.; Saturday and Sunday at 2 p.m. Venue: David Henry Hwang Theater, Union Center for the Arts, 120 Judge John Aiso St. (between First and Temple), Little Tokyo.
The story, based on Loh’s original offering on “This American Life,” follows a 12 year-old Sandra and her over-the-top dream of landing the lead in the inevitable dance school production of “The Nutcracker.” Loh and friends are pitted against the vicious hierarchy of desirable roles in this well-weathered ballet, while she desperately yearns to be recognized as a pre-teen queen in her own right.
The play features Shannon Holt and Tony Abatemarco in a rotation of quirky characters from her misfit friends to a rigid Russian ballet instructor, as well as being co-conspirators in spreading some literal holiday cheer around the theater.
Wittily set to a classical music score (a la Disney’s “Fantasia’s” hippopotamus ballerinas), “Sugar Plum Fairy” is knitted together with moments of audience participation, and attendees are encouraged to dress in their most festive outfits, prepare for sugary showers of candy, and get photos for the ‘gram with Yuletide-themed set designs that include reindeer, an animatronic Santa, and even, if you’re lucky, Frosty the Snowman.
Loh recounts her experience of the holiday season with its wintery, Old World aspirations in contrast to growing up in sun-baked Southern California, and why this show is culturally fitting for the East West Players stage:
“What I really love about doing this show at East West Players in Los Angeles, in the West, is that growing up Christmas seemed to be a very British, 18th– or 19th-century Dickens thing with taffeta skirts, and it was an impossible reality to live. My father was Chinese, my mother was German, they were recent immigrants, and so their notion of having to put together a Christmas was always quite a bit odd. Lawn elves in the fireplace, tinsel over a dead cactus, a manger inside the aquarium for an underwater nativity scene!
“This show expresses a bit of the craziness of trying to fit in with this American idea of having the perfect Christmas.”
“I am so thrilled to welcome Sandra and the ‘Sugar Plum Fairy’ company to East West Players,” adds EWP Producing Artistic Director Snehal Desai. “I am a big fan of Sandra’s work and love the humor, whimsy, and sheer joy that this show is. We want to welcome families to join us at EWP for this holiday treat — just be ready to dodge some airborne candy canes.”
“Sugar Plum Fairy” has most recently been performed at South Coast Repertory and Skylight Theater. Loh’s confessional play “The Madwoman in the Volvo” premiered at SCR in 2015 with subsequent performances at the Pasadena Playhouse and Berkeley Repertory Theatre. That year, The New York Times selected her book of the same name for its 100 Most Notable Books list.
Loh’s stand-up show, “The B**** Is Back: An All-Too Intimate Conversation,” ran at The Broad Stage in July 2015. Variety has named her one of the 50 Most Influential Comedians. She has been featured on NPR’s “Morning Edition,” PRI’s “This American Life” and “Marketplace”; and her syndicated daily minute, “The Loh Down on Science,” is heard weekly by four million people.
There are no preview performances prior to opening night on Thursday, Dec. 5. Tickets start at $25 for children and $35 for adults. Discounts are available for students, seniors, and groups of 10 or more. Tickets can be purchased online at www.eastwestplayers.org, by phone at (213) 625-7000, or by visiting the EWP box office, which is open Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.