L.A. has countless locales in which to see plays, hear music, catch screenings and experience pretty much anything one can imagine. And the best spaces are as much as about the venue itself as the entertainment offered. Whether they be historic spaces or brand-new ones, these rooms offer sights, sounds and staff that are on point, letting the diverse performances and amusements inside shine.
Best New Alt-Comedy Venue
When Trepany House at the Steve Allen Theater and NerdMelt at Meltdown Comics closed in 2017 and 2018, respectively, fans missed having a comedy venue that also staged music, film screenings, podcast tapings and variety acts. Luckily, Dynasty Typewriter opened in March 2018 and filled the void, becoming the new home for previous Trepany and NerdMelt resident shows, including the Bob Baker Marionettes, Ron Lynch's Tomorrow! and Dan Harmon and Jeff B. Davis' podcast, Harmontown. Jamie Flam, who was previously artistic director of the Hollywood Improv, co-operates with Vanessa Ragland the 200-seat space located inside the Westlake District's Hayworth Theatre, which was designed in 1926 and also houses the offices of Orange Is the New Black creator Jenji Kohan and her husband, Christopher Noxon. In only a year the theater has hosted Conan O'Brien, Sarah Silverman, Bob Odenkirk, Marc Maron, Eddie Izzard and, most recently, Hannah Gadsby's whopping 11-night residency. 2511 Wilshire Blvd., Westlake; (657) 222-6147, dynastytypewriter.com. —Siran Babayan
Best Campy Dinner Theater
Cabaret has a long and smoky history, frequently conjuring thoughts of absinthe, clove cigarettes and top hats, sometimes Champagne, Chanel No. 5 and feathered boas. Rockwell Table & Stage is a more casual, often super-campy, modern-day cabaret in the heart of Los Feliz, functioning as a restaurant, bar, dinner theater and performance space all rolled into one. From 1944 to 2000, the space held Sarno's Italian Pastry Shop, a popular neighborhood family-owned bakery, and the spirit of fresh-baked bread, tiramisu and cannoli still hangs in its aura. Eclectic acts regularly appear, such as actor Jeff Goldblum's witty and talented jazz band; musical parodies based on the likes of Edward Scissorhands, Jurassic Park and Stranger Things; and a Sunday mimosa-filled Dragtastic Bubbly Brunch, featuring a bevy of glimmering drag queens, hosted by Ross Mathews (RuPaul's Drag Race). The history of the room emanates from the walls along with the lively sound of entertainment. 1714 N. Vermont Ave., Los Feliz; (323) 669-1550, rockwell-la.com. —Nikki Kreuzer
Best Broad by the Beach
Not to be confused with The Broad art museum downtown, the Broad Stage is a multidimensional performing arts space that's like a miniature version of the Music Center, updated and relocated to Santa Monica. With just 538 seats, the Broad Stage is an intimate place to experience theater, dance, opera, jazz and chamber music. Such luminaries as Mikhail Baryshnikov, Anna Netrebko, Isabella Rossellini, Patti LuPone and Aaron Neville have traipsed across its relatively wide stage. An even smaller stage, Edye Second Space, is also part of the Santa Monica College Performing Arts Center. 1310 11th St., Santa Monica. (310) 434-3412, thebroadstage.com. —Falling James
Best Concert Hall That's Not Disney
Perched atop the remains of Bunker Hill like a collapsible suit of armor, Walt Disney Concert Hall remains one of the more striking visual symbols of modern Los Angeles, its lumpy silver curves and layers of metallic lava frozen in place mid-eruption as if by magic. But there is another amazing performance space just across the street that should not be overlooked — Zipper Concert Hall, which is part of the Colburn School. Named after the late composer-educator Herbert Zipper, who survived experiences in Nazi concentration camps and incarceration by Japanese forces in the Philippines during World War II, Zipper Hall is a cozy, intimate 415-seat theater with good sound. When not being used by faculty and students of the Colburn School, the little hall is also the site of the venerable Monday Evening Concerts series and has been used for performances by various local ensembles. 200 S. Grand Ave., downtown; (213) 621-2200, colburnschool.edu/calendar/locations/zipper-hall/. —Falling James
Best Egyptian Theater Not in Hollywood
In some ways, the Vista Theater in Los Feliz is more of an Egyptian-style theater than the Egyptian Theatre a couple miles to the west in Hollywood. While both theaters have beautiful exteriors that evoke ancient Egypt, only the Vista Theatre has an interior that continues the theme with such dramatic visual flair. Large inverted-pyramid lamps dangle from the ceiling, while rows of pharaoh heads line the walls like solemn sentinels, glowing in the dark during film screenings. Opened on Oct. 9, 1923, the Vista has undergone various changes over the past century but, in an era when so many people now experience films at home, it remains a crucial destination for cinephiles who want a fully immersive experience. At times, the setting itself is more memorable than the films flickering on the screen. 4473 Sunset Blvd., Los Feliz; (323) 660-6639, vintagecinemas.com/vista/index.html. —Falling James
Best Comedy Brigade
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There's a reason for the continued success of UCB, undoubtedly the biggest name in live comedy today, especially in improv. They're just that good. What began as the Upright Citizens Brigade troupe founded by Amy Poehler, Matt Besser, Ian Roberts and Matt Walsh in the 1990s has become a comedy institution, with theaters and schools in New York and L.A. where famous alumni have performed, trained or coached, among them Adam McKay, Aziz Ansari, Kate McKinnon, Aubrey Plaza, Ellie Kemper, Horatio Sanz, Paul Scheer, Donald Glover, Nick Kroll, Ed Helms, Jason Mantzoukas and Jack McBrayer. Even bigger names occasionally appear at the two Hollywood locations but — if you're willing to wait in a long line — you can just pop in most days of the week and catch either sketch or improv performances, even live podcasts — either affordably priced or free — including the theaters' staple shows, Asssscat and Harold Night. 5919 Franklin Ave., Hollywood; 5419 W. Sunset Blvd., Hollywood; (323) 908-8702, ucbtheatre.com. —Siran Babayan
Best Place to Sing With Elvis
The first permanent hologram theater in the world, Hologram USA was the brainchild of Alki David, who founded the theater shortly after Tupac made his posthumous debut at Coachella. Says David: "Hollywood is the perfect home for it. The entire Hollywood mythos is about bringing dreams to life, like we do everyday." Since its debut, Hologram USA has boasted more than 700 performances using cutting-edge technology, offering unique experiences for fans and tourists alike. Featuring iconic performances from Elvis to Billie Holiday, as well as karaoke nights and immersive experiences with current artists and features, the theater offers daily shows as well as a Swissx CBD chill lounge. "We want people to be able to come experience the power of holograms," David says. "Magic is happening every day at the theater." 6656 Hollywood Blvd., Hollywood; (213) 277-7072, hologramusa.com. —Erin Maxwell