Southern Californians just don’t have enough activities on their plates, do we? In Orange County, the first few months of 2020 are jam-packed with cultural and arts events guaranteed to enrich your lives and deliver not just enjoyment and entertainment but educational value as well.

Here, listed chronologically by date, are some of the events Voice of OC recommends you keep on your radar:

Lester Purry and Christiana Clark in South Coast Repertory’s ​2020 ​production of “​Fireflies” by ​Donja R. Love. Credit: Photo courtesy of Robert Schmahl/SCR


January ​5-26

Donja R. Love’s dramatic tale set in the Jim Crow South unfolds on SCR’s Julianne Argyros Stage, relating the story of a church bombing that has rocked the Civil Rights Movement to its core. Reverend Charles Grace struggles to create messages of hope that will galvanize his congregation and everyone affected by the violence – but it’s his wife, Olivia, who crafts his speeches and delivery. “Fireflies” lets us see how her ability to play the role of a supportive spouse has begun to crack under the weight of too many secrets, too many regrets, and a life lived in the shadows.

LOCATION: South Coast Repertory. TICKETS AND INFO: 714-708-5500,

Art Garfunkel Credit: Photo courtesy of SCFTA

Art Garfunkel

January 11

The extraordinary pop musician became a legendary vocalist as one-half of the unrivaled duo of Simon & Garfunkel. He has made an indelible mark on the music world as a solo artist, something Orange County audiences can experience for themselves in his Segerstrom Center concert.

LOCATION: Segerstrom Center for the Arts.  TICKETS AND INFO: 714-556-2787,

American Chinese Spring Festival Gala Credit: Photo courtesy of The Barclay

American Chinese Spring Festival Gala

January 11

The American Southern California Economic Cultural Association celebrates the Chinese Spring Festival with this gala, presented in a state-of-the-art staging. Spectacular, award-winning guest artists from China share the Irvine Barclay stage with local musicians and dancers in a gala brimming with traditional Chinese folk instruments, acrobatics and Chinese song and dance.

LOCATION: Irvine Barclay Theatre. TICKETS AND INFO: 949-854-4646,

YouTube video

John O’Hurley: A Man with Standards

January 18

Comedian, actor, singer, musical theater star and voice actor John O’Hurley catapulted from the recurring role of J. Peterman on “Seinfeld” into a busy career exploiting his versatility that has included starring on Broadway in shows like “Spamalot” and “Chicago” to being a contestant on “Dancing with the Stars.” In his one-man show, O’Hurley uses songs, humor and storytelling to deliver the kind of razzle-dazzle great entertainers are known to provide.

LOCATION: La Mirada Theatre for the Performing Arts. TICKETS AND INFO: 714-994-6310,

Music of the Knights: Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber, Sir Elton John and Sir Paul McCartney

January 18

Each member of this trio of Britain’s most legendary songwriters has been knighted by the British crown, their success in generating hit songs spanning decades. A cast of New York’s top Broadway and cabaret vocalists realizes this thrilling celebration of their talents and musical magnificence in immortal songs like “Memory,” “Circle of Life” and “Yesterday.”

LOCATION: Irvine Barclay Theatre. TICKETS AND INFO: 949-854-4646,

Itzhak Perlman Credit: Photo courtesy of SCFTA

Itzhak Perlman

January 19

The reigning virtuoso of the violin has earned and enjoys superstar status, the kind of acclaim classical musicians are rarely afforded. Itzhak Perlman is treasured by audiences the world over not just for his remarkable artistry and talent. Audiences have basked in his warmth, charm and humanity since he first appeared on The Ed Sullivan Show and was vaulted to international attention. Now, more than 60 years later, Orange County audiences can experience for themselves the joy Perlman brings to making music.

LOCATION: Segerstrom Center for the Arts. TICKETS AND INFO: 714-556-2787,

Young performers drum during the 20th Annual Little Saigon Tểt Parade in Westminster on Saturday, February 9, 2019. Credit: Photo by Scott Smeltzer, Times OC/TCN

UVSA Tểt Festival

January 24-26

Celebrated throughout the world, Tểt Nguyên Ðán, the Vietnamese Lunar New Year, is observed each year in Costa Mesa with one of the largest Tểt celebrations on record. The UVSA (Union of Vietnamese Student Associations) has organized and run a Tểt Festival for Orange County since 1982, bringing authentic Vietnamese food, fireworks, games, cultural displays and more to the more than 100,000 people who attend the event each year.

LOCATION: O.C. Fair & Event Center. TICKETS AND INFO: 714-388-6711,

Chris Botti Credit: Photo courtesy of SCFTA

Valentine’s with Chris Botti

February 14

The former trumpeter extraordinaire for Sting returns to Costa Mesa by popular demand, ready to deliver an all-new show tailored to please that special someone in your life. Botti is both a charismatic performer and a gifted instrumentalist who crosses the boundaries between pop, rock, jazz and classical – and makes it all look easy. He’ll get orchestral backing from the Pacific Symphony.

LOCATION: Segerstrom Center for the Arts. TICKETS AND INFO: 714-556-2787,

Parnassus Society presents The World of Opera: Stories of Love

February 16

The Parnassus Chamber Orchestra is led by Scott Dunn, associate conductor of the Los Angeles Philharmonic’s Hollywood Bowl Orchestra, in a program of beautiful love stories told through some of the most beloved opera music of all time. Immortal composers as Verdi, Puccini, Bizet, Offenbach, Catalani and Wagner are featured, and accompanying the vocalists and enhancing the music and lyrics’ expression are dancers from the Claudia de la Cruz Flamenco Dance Company.

LOCATION: Soka Performing Arts Center. TICKETS AND INFO: 949-480-4000,

Herb Alpert and Lani Hall Credit: Photo courtesy of the Musco Center for the Arts

Herb Alpert and Lani Hall

February 27

The husband-and-wife team of Herb Alpert and Lani Hall present a virtual Tijuana Brass medley culled from the Great American Songbook. Between them, Alpert, the famed trumpeter, and Hall, the voice of the original Brasil ’66, have 11 Grammy Awards and countless chart-topping hits – so you won’t want to miss them on their visit to the city of Orange.

LOCATION: Musco Center for the Arts. TICKETS AND INFO: 844-626-8726,

YouTube video

Chaplin’s Smile: A Musical Tribute to Charlie Chaplin

February 28

Charlie Chaplin composed almost all of the music for his films, notably those in which he portrays the endearing “Little Tramp.” This unique program juxtaposes his songs with the great composers – like Debussy, Stravinsky, Brahms and Gershwin – who influenced him. The show includes clips of Chaplin’s silent era films plus rare video footage of Chaplin conducting his orchestras in recording sessions, all accompanied by multi-Grammy Award-nominated violinist Philippe Quint.

LOCATION: Irvine Barclay Theatre. TICKETS AND INFO: 949-854-4646,

“Peter and the Wolf”

February 29

The Magic Circle Mime Company, joined by Pacific Symphony, will deliver a fun, fascinating 45-minute concert version of Prokofiev’s timeless symphonic fairy-tale that’s tailored especially for kids ages five through 11. The performances include interactive activities in the lobby featuring family-friendly arts and crafts, an instrumental “petting zoo” and opportunities to meet symphony musicians and local performing groups.

LOCATION: Segerstrom Center for the Arts. TICKETS AND INFO: 714-556-2787,

The Finest Hour: Celebrating the 75th Anniversary of the Music that Ended WWII

March 4

The music of the Greatest Generation inspired a nation, during the dark days of war and beyond them, with its everlasting songs of love and romance. Performers Davina and The Vagabonds and Hot Club of Cowtown will showcase timeless classics like “I’ll Be Seeing You” and “As Time Goes By” – the iconic tunes of Bing Crosby, Ella Fitzgerald and Frank Sinatra.

LOCATION: Irvine Barclay Theatre. TICKETS AND INFO: 949-854-4646,

Dancers of the American Ballet Theater Credit: Photo courtesy of SCFTA

American Ballet Theatre presents “Of Love and Rage”

March 5

ABT presents the world premiere of the new ballet “Of Love and Rage,” inspired by the earliest romance novel from Greek antiquity. Called “the most gifted choreographer in classical ballet today” by the New York Times, Alexei Ratmansky creates what’s sure to be hailed as the dance event of the season, based on Chariton’s novel “Callirhoe,” with Aram Khachaturian’s music performed live by Pacific Symphony. Orange County audiences will be among the first to see a remarkable new production as it’s unveiled.

LOCATION: Segerstrom Center for the Arts. TICKETS AND INFO: 714-556-2787,

Damien Sneed Credit: Photo courtesy of The Barclay

“We Shall Overcome: A Celebration of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.,” featuring Damien Sneed

March 7

In his original show celebrating Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Damien Sneed leads an electrifying ensemble of gospel singers and jazz musicians as they perform R&B classics, riveting jazz compositions and more, from the music of Duke Ellington and Stevie Wonder to traditional spirituals and music from “The Wiz.” Sneed has worked with Diana Ross, Wynton Marsalis and Aretha Franklin, commanding the stage in a thrilling salute to the iconic spiritual leader.

LOCATION: Irvine Barclay Theatre. TICKETS AND INFO: 949-854-4646,

Dana Point Festival of Whales

March 7-8 and 14-15

This festival doesn’t just offer the obvious – whale-watching from both sea and land – but four days’ worth of whale-oriented activities, including a parade, street fair, classic cars, musical performances, art displays, a “Whale of a Breakfast,” clam chowder cook-off, barbecue, pizza party, art lessons by famed marine artist Wyland, sand-sculpting competition, classic and antique boats on display, and, for kids, a fishing clinic and fishing trip and an undersea “eco carnival.” The annual festival is perhaps the most whale-intensive event on the planet.

LOCATION: Dana Point Harbor. TICKETS AND INFO: 949-472-7888,

The Siberian State Symphony Orchestra Credit: Photo courtesy of Soka PAC

Siberian State Symphony Orchestra

March 12

Direct from Krasnoyarsk, Russia, this acclaimed orchestra brings its full force and sound to Orange County conducted by music director and chief conductor Vladimir Lande and featuring Yuri Favorin on piano. The all-Russian program features Shostakovich’s “Tango” from the ballet “The Bolt,” Rachmaninoff’s virtuosic Piano Concerto No. 3, and Tchaikovsky’s moody yet triumphant Symphony No. 5.

LOCATION: Soka Performing Arts Center. TICKETS AND INFO: 949-480-4000,

John Leguizamo Credit: Photo courtesy of the Musco Center for the Arts

An Evening with John Leguizamo

March 25

Few performers have had extraordinary careers on stage and in movies and television like John Leguizamo. In his solo show, the multifaceted performer shares the passions he has felt, the struggles he has endured and the fascinating characters he has encountered during his singular career.

LOCATION: Musco Center for the Arts. TICKETS AND INFO: 844-626-8726,

Lucie Arnaz: “I Got the Job!” Songs From My Musical Past

March 28

Broadway and West End star Lucie Arnaz delivers the musical works of Gershwin, Porter, Mercer, Hamlisch and more with a fresh eye, humor, and intense passion – all filtered through her life experiences in a show that combines pop, show tunes and standards on the subject of love and relationships. This is one great evening of vocal entertainment you won’t want to miss.

LOCATION: Irvine Barclay Theatre. TICKETS AND INFO: 949-854-4646,

“The Scarlet Letter”

March 28-April 25

In 2017, the Wall Street Journal named Kate Hamill its Playwright of the Year, and now, on its Segerstrom Stage, SCR is presenting her latest world premiere. Another great female-centered classic, Nathaniel Hawthorne’s enduring masterwork receives a riveting staging: Two years after her husband goes missing, intelligent, strong-willed Hester Prynne has a child and is branded an adulteress, condemned to wear a scarlet “A” to mark her shame – then her estranged husband returns, primed for revenge.

LOCATION: South Coast Repertory. TICKETS AND INFO: 714-708-5500,

Dancers of Shen Yun Credit: Photo courtesy of SCFTA

Shen Yun

April 3

Created in 2006, this widely acclaimed epic production expands the theatrical experience across time and space, taking viewers on an enlightening journey through 5,000 years of Chinese history and civilization. “Shen Yun” features one of the world’s oldest art forms, classical Chinese dance. Combined with interactive backdrops and an orchestral score of original compositions, the show brings the enchanting beauty and profound wisdom of ancient China to life. It invites audiences to enter a world where philosophers and poets sought harmony with the Tao (the “Way” of the universe), maidens danced with ethereal grace, and warriors trained with explosive vigor. In touring the world, the show has become one of the most renowned stage productions of the 21st century – called “a must-see” by Broadway World.

LOCATION: Segerstrom Center for the Arts. TICKETS AND INFO: 714-556-2787,

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Spellbound Contemporary Ballet

April 5

The troupe brings a program of exhilarating choreography to Orange County direct from Italy – and the Philadelphia Inquirer has praised its dancers’ “chameleon-like suppleness,” touting them as “spellbinding” and “breathtaking.” The results are certain to leave audiences (pardon the pun!) spellbound.

LOCATION: Musco Center for the Arts. TICKETS AND INFO: 844-626-8726,

YouTube video

Bollywood Boulevard: A Journey Through Hindi Cinema Live

April 17-18

This singular, vibrant show takes you through a century of India’s famous film industry, which has come to be known worldwide as “Bollywood,” using dance, live music, storytelling and arresting visuals to span everything from the classics of the black-and-white era and timeless movie songs of the Golden Age to today’s foot-tapping blockbusters.

LOCATION: Irvine Barclay Theatre. TICKETS AND INFO: 949-854-4646,

Arlo Guthrie Credit: Photo courtesy of Soka PAC

Arlo Guthrie 20/20 Tour featuring “Alice’s Restaurant”

April 18

It’s been written of Arlo Guthrie that “if hindsight is 20/20 vision,” the singer-songwriter “has a vast perspective looking forward.” His shows combine the works of his dad, folk singer Woody Guthrie, with material from more than 30 albums and decades of performing and recording, creating what’s been referred to as “an astounding time capsule of music.” Modern Guitars Magazine wrote that his shows combine “well-crafted songs, homespun humor and stories of the past” – a treasure trove for lovers of mid-20th-century Americana.

LOCATION: Soka Performing Arts Center. TICKETS AND INFO: 949-480-4000,

21st Annual Newport Beach Film Festival

April 23-30

Held annually, the Newport Beach Film Festival highlights hundreds of features, shorts, documentaries, and animated films from around the world, attracting upwards of 55,000 attendees and screening more than 350 films over an eight-day period. The festival’s ongoing mission is to support the creation and advancement of innovative and artistic cinematic works from both emerging and seasoned filmmakers and, in the process, bringing the best in new, local, international and critically acclaimed cinema to attendees while embracing the passion, vision, and independent spirit of filmmakers the world over.

LOCATION: Various movie theaters throughout Newport Beach and Costa Mesa (TBA). TICKETS AND INFO:

YouTube video

Juilliard String Quartet

May 2

Since its founding in 1946, the Juilliard String Quartet has charged its performances with passionate energy and elegance, electrifying audiences worldwide in the process. Returning to Musco Center for a second consecutive year, the quartet celebrates “Beethoven and More” on the 250th anniversary of the immortal composer’s birth.

LOCATION: Musco Center for the Arts. TICKETS AND INFO: 844-626-8726,

John Williams: Maestro of the Movies

May 30

It’s “lights, camera, action!” as Roger Kalia conducts the Pacific Symphony in celebrating the treasured film music of composer John Williams. Children ages five through 11 and their families will thrill to this 45-minute performance brimming with exhilarating now-classics like the themes from mega-hit movies like “Harry Potter,” “Star Wars,” “Jurassic Park” and more.

LOCATION: Segerstrom Center for the Arts. TICKETS AND INFO: 714-556-2787,

Eric Marchese is a contributing writer for Arts & Culture at Voice of OC. He can be reached at

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