Many L.A. residents may not get to enjoy seasonal staples like colorful autumn leaves, but one thing this city can do is throw a damn good Halloween party. Embrace the spirit of the holiday with events ranging from family-friendly to NC-17-rated. Or design a clever costume to show off at a masquerade ball or the famous West Hollywood Carnaval.
Puppetzilla Halloween Show
What is it about puppets that enchants us so? From Yoda to the Muppets to Lamb Chop, these colorful, soft characters steal the spotlight with their darling wit and expressive facial features. They're like cartoons we can touch -- they tug at our heartstrings while puppeteers pull at their wires. The tender feelings we have for these creatures follow us into adulthood, when something inside us desperately wants to hear our favorite cloth friends cursing like sailors. No one understands this better than the members of the Los Angeles Guild of Puppetry, founded in 1956. The local guild, one of the largest of its type in the nation, tours its Puppetzilla PuppetSlam for enthusiastic crowds all over the L.A. area. For Halloween, they're getting naughty. Join the guild's puppet masters for a Puppetzilla PuppetSlam Halloween at the Bootleg Theater, but don't bring the kids. Not only is the show 18 and older only, but you also can expect filthy language and NC-17 sexual content from the adorable mouths of marionettes, shadow puppets and ventriloquist's dummies. There also will be costume contests, film shorts and prize giveaways. Hosting the evening is Mike Larsen, who has been a comedy writer and producer for Real Time With Bill Maher and The Drew Carey Show. Proper training -- with all her blue makeup and floral muumuus, The Drew Carey Show's Mimi may as well have been a live-action Muppet. Bootleg Theater, 2220 Beverly Blvd., Westlake; Tues., Oct. 29, 8 p.m.; $5 in advance, $10 at the door. (213) 389-3856, bootlegtheater.org. --R.K.
An "Existential" Haunted House
Americans love horror stories, especially around Halloween. But the increasingly flashy, over-the-top effects and kitschy plotlines that drench most 3-D movie theaters and amusement parks in fake blood have made it harder and harder to be really, truly, existentially terrified, assuming you want that. But if you are so insane -- er, inclined -- that's where the artists, designers and performers of ALONE: An Existential Haunting have something really special to offer. Their big idea is that, of all the scary things in the world, maybe the scariest is being alone in the dark. Armed only with a flashlight, audience members must make their way through a dark, closed, stinky, noisy, dirty underground labyrinth populated by actors with no boundaries, who benefit from the cloak of darkness to push, pull, drag and generally scare the bejeezus out of them -- one at a time. It takes about half an hour to get through, though it's sure to feel longer. Organizers call it interactive theater, and with a team of artists on hand, the creativity of the staging is certain to impress -- but the real action happens in the scariest place of all: your own head. It's a stroke of evil seasonal genius. If nothing else, you have to love a haunted house that requires attendees to be older than 18 and sign a waiver -- especially one stating that each participant must "assume all risk and danger ... including but not limited to injury ... and extremely disturbing psychological experience. Please wear clothes that can get wet and dirty. We will not be responsible for your cleaning bills." Former fraternal order temple near the 10 and 110 freeways, dwntwn. -- address provided upon ticket purchase; Thu., Oct. 24-Sat., Nov. 2; hourly slots 6 p.m.-mid., schedule varies weekly; $40-$55. thealoneexperience.com. --Shana Nys Dambrot
Killer Queen Musical
Before she became famous for her ruthless and hilarious Madonna mockumentary, Medusa: Dare to be Truthful ("I've made so much money, my money has money now"), funny lady Julie Brown was an MTV staple, thanks to "The Homecoming Queen's Got a Gun," her 1984 Valley Girl-meets-Scarface-meets-Citizen Kane single about a high school girl who goes on a senseless shooting spree. In the video's cliff-hanger, she whispers, "I did it for Johnny." But who was Johnny? Was he a sled, like Rosebud? Was she just having a bad period? Nearly 30 years later, the singer-comedian finally answers your burning questions in Julie Brown's Homecoming Queen's Got a Gun -- The Musical, featuring Brown's hit song and other original compositions, as well as familiar '80s tunes reworked with a twist. Drew Droege -- of YouTube's Chloë Sevigny videos -- plays the gun-toting, pink chiffon-wearing Debbie, while Brown plays the best friend/narrator. If you were a cheerleader or glee club member in high school, take cover. Cavern Club Theater, 1920 Hyperion Ave., Silver Lake; Fri.-Sat., Oct. 25-26, Nov. 1-2, Nov. 8-9, 9 p.m.; Sun., Oct. 27, Nov. 3 & 10, 3 p.m.; $30. (323) 662-4255, cavernclubtheater.com. --Siran Babayan
KCRW Masquerade Ball
These days, the word "masquerade" seems to get thrown around at any event requiring even a modicum of dressing up, but when KCRW says it, it means it. The music-loving NPR affiliate's annual Masquerade Ball, now in its fifth year, combines good getups with a good cause: Every attendee will get both a haunting holiday experience and a year's membership to KCRW. Spread across five rooms of the Park Plaza, the party features music from Har Mar Superstar, Thievery Corporation's Rob Garza, Dave Sitek, Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr. and other touring names alongside 14 DJs already well known to KCRW's frequent listeners. Attendees and DJs won't be the only ones in costume, though: A vaudeville group, a retro burlesque show and a modern Gothic burlesque troupe all will take the stage before the witching hour is over. Park Plaza, 607 S. Park View St., Westlake; Sat., Oct. 26, 9 p.m.-2 a.m.; $100 presale (includes membership); 21 and older. KCRW.com/masquerade. --Kelsey Whipple
West Hollywood Halloween Carnaval
You'd better ditch the dollar-store duds if you're even thinking of competing with the 500,000 expected drunken revelers who've been getting buzzed since Labor Day at the annual West Hollywood Halloween Carnaval, better known as the "largest Halloween street party in the world." That's nearly half a million tricks -- and some treats. This year's fest, themed "One Noir Night in West Hollywood," promises six stages, 50 performers, food trucks and the always fierce costume contest. Performers include Vaud & the Villains, Lynda Kay, Better Off Blonde, Gavin Turek, Velvet Martini and DJs including Zen Freeman, Moses Truzman, Max Von Ville and Aaron Colbert. Who or what will be 2013's trendiest costumes? The royal baby? Miley Cyrus? A pregnant Kim Kardashian? (That's going to require a lot of padding on both ends.) Just don't drink and twerk. Along Santa Monica Boulevard, between Doheny Drive and La Cienega Boulevard; Thurs., Oct. 31, 6-11 p.m.; free. (323) 848- 6503, visitwesthollywood.com/halloween-carnaval. --S.B.
Eek at the Greek Concert
Any parent could attest to the discouraging emphasis our kids terminally place on all those damn screens -- PC, TV, iPad, iPhone, whatev -- but festive musical-theatrical extravaganza Eek at the Greek provides a refreshingly live experience good enough to tear teens and tots alike away from their devices. The event comes with all the chocolatey Halloween trimmings, including a trick-or-treat village, with a trove of sweet treats; such activities as crafting and face painting; a costume contest; and a program of suitably macabre musical selections -- Dukas' The Sorcerer's Apprentice, de Falla's Ritual Fire Dance, the newly composed show-tune spinoff orchestral suite Wicked: A Fable for Orchestra -- all performed by the 60-piece Symphony in the Glen Orchestra under the direction of Maestro Arthur B. Rubinstein. But the real chills come when the big-voiced, brilliant Stacy Keach reads aloud Edgar Allen Poe's thumping hunk of literary terror, "The Tell-Tale Heart," an experience certain to provide enough chilling thrills to short-circuit even the most technocentric juveniles kindle into a state of fritzed-out submission. Greek Theatre, 2700 N. Vermont Ave., Griffith Park; Sun., Oct. 27, plaza activities 3:30 p.m., music at 6 p.m. (costume contest finale during intermission); $7-$100. (323) 665-5857, greektheatrela.com. --Jonny Whiteside
Walt Disney Concert Hall's Halloween Haunt
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Long before Michael Crawford, Ramin Karimloo or Gerard Butler adopted the role, Lon Chaney was the Phantom of the Opera. You've probably seen the famous clip of him at the piano in Carl Laemmle's silent film as Mary Philbin (as opera soprano Christine Daae) creeps up from behind and steals his mask, revealing his horrific face for the first time. That face, which Chaney designed himself, may not look very scary to modern audiences, but in 1925 it was so traumatic that theatergoers reportedly screamed and fainted in the aisles. Laemmle's The Phantom of the Opera screens at Walt Disney Concert Hall's annual Halloween Haunt. As in past years, renowned musician Clark Wilson will provide spooky scoring on the Phil's massive, 6,000-pipe organ. Before the 8 p.m. show, there will be a preperformance talk with Classical KUSC personality Alan Chapman. Walt Disney Concert Hall, 111 S. Grand Ave., dwntwn.; Thurs., Oct. 31, 8 p.m.; preconcert talk at 7 p.m.; $29-$58. (323) 850-2000, laphil.com. --Sarah Diamond
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