Paul Hodgins

A highly respected and award-winning arts journalist. In partnership with Heide Janssen, Hodgins has in just over a year established a community-focused, award-winning and widely respected Arts & Culture section at Voice of OC. In addition to his work here as an arts writer, columnist and editor, Hodgins teaches at USC. Previously, he was an arts writer and critic at the Orange County Register and the San Diego Union-Tribune and a professor at UC Irvine and Cal State Fullerton. Hodgins holds degrees from USC, the University of Michigan and the Royal Conservatory of Music.

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The second half of Orange County’s performing arts season kicks off with a bang: “Dear Evan Hansen,” Broadway’s biggest hit since “Hamilton,” opens at the Segerstrom Center on New Year’s Day for a two-week stay.

But it’s just one of many major events to circle on your calendar. Whether your entertainment budget is big or small, or your tastes run to theater, dance, or classical music, there’s a lot to choose from in the first half of 2019.

We’ve put together our top 10 don’t-miss performing arts events, in chronological order.

1. “Dear Evan Hansen”: Themes of bullying, loneliness and suicide may not sound like the makings of a hit musical, but those are the things that make “Dear Evan Hansen” this year’s hot Broadway ticket. The story about a high school outcast who becomes a social media sensation after the discovery of a misunderstood letter is striking a chord and inspiring audiences, especially teens. Segerstrom Center for the Arts, Jan. 1-13. 714-556-2787 or

Gabriela Martinez performs Chopin’s Piano Concerto on Jan. 10-12. (Photo courtesy of the Pacific Symphony)

2. Chopin’s Piano Concerto: Versatile, daring and insightful, Venezuelan pianist Gabriela Martinez is establishing an international reputation for the lyricism of her playing, her compelling interpretations, and her elegant stage presence. She plays Chopin’s daunting, beautiful Concerto in A Minor with the Pacific Symphony. Jan. 10-12. 714-755-5788 or

Isabella Boylston and James Whiteside in Harlequinade. (Photo: courtesy of ABT/Rosalie O’Connor.)

3. “Harlequinade”: West Coast premiere of a comic gem performed by the American Ballet Theatre. Celebrated choreographer Alexei Ratmansky, brings this dance treasure to life in ABT’s sumptuous re-imagining of Petipa’s final full-length masterwork. The love-struck Harlequin pursues the captivating Columbine, whose father would prefer somebody more respectable. Amid madcap humor, a sublime score and over 250 dazzling costumes, love triumphs over all. SCFTA, Jan. 17-20. 714-556-2787 or

4. “Sweeney Todd”: South Coast Rep rarely produces musicals, but when it does, it’s a treat. In a barbershop above Mrs. Lovett’s struggling pie shop, Sweeney Todd plots revenge on the lecherous judge who wronged him and his family. In the seedy underbelly of 19th-century London, desperate times lead to diabolical schemes—and strange alliances. One of Stephen Sondheim’s most daring and ambitious musicals. South Coast Repertory, Jan. 19-Feb. 16. 714-708-5555 or

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5. Hubbard Street Dance Chicago: Now in its 41st season, Hubbard Street continues to innovate and showcase the rising stars of choreography as well as its icons. Hubbard Street’s Musco Center debut includes works by Nacho Duato, William Forsythe, Alejandro Cerrudo and Crystal Pite. Musco Center. Jan. 24. 844-626-8726 or

6. “Madame Butterfly”: Pacific Symphony’s annual semi-staged opera slot is a big one this year. Puccini’s masterpiece, “Madame Butterfly,” tells the story of a young, naïve Japanese geisha who believes that her love for a handsome American naval officer is eternal. The Pacific Chorale will be part of the production. SCFTA, Feb. 21-26. 714-556-2787 or

7. Juilliard String Quartet: Since its founding in 1946, the mighty Juilliard String Quartet has conquered the planet with an approach that’s equal parts passionate and elegant. For seven decades, it’s held its place among the world’s very best string quartets. The Orange County program includes works by Haydn, Dvorak and Kurtág. Musco Center, Feb 21. 844-626-8726 or

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8. Martha Graham Dance Company: In honor of the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment giving women the right to vote, this iconic modern dance company is presenting a special program: “Diversion of Angels,” Graham’s lyrical essay on love; “Ekstasis,” a reconstruction of Graham’s original creation of the discovery of a woman’s body; “Lamentation Variations,” in which today’s choreographers take inspiration from Graham’s iconic Lamentation; and “Errand into the Maze,” a Graham masterwork and her signature role. Irvine Barclay Theatre, Feb. 27. 949-854-4646 or

9. “Poor Yella Rednecks”: The sequel to Qui Nguyen’s mega-hit “Vietgone” will have its world premiere at South Coast Rep, directed once again by May Adrales. The story, told with hip-hop flair, picks up six years later. Vietnamese refugees Tong and Quang are building new lives in a foreign land called Arkansas. But marriage is hard​—especially when she’s having doubts and his first wife isn’t out of the picture yet. South Coast Repertory, March 30-April 27. 714-708-5555 or

10. Murray Perahia: In a career spanning more than 40 years, Murray Perahia has become one of the most sought-after and cherished pianists of our time. Perahia is celebrated for his consummate technical skills, boundless imagination and near-mystical eloquence. His interpretations of great repertoire from Bach and Beethoven to Chopin and Liszt offer timeless lessons in sensibility, sophistication and expressive intensity. Program TBA. Philharmonic Society, SCFTA, April 18. 949-553-2422 or

Paul Hodgins is the senior editor of Arts & Culture at Voice of OC. He can be reached at

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