Bay Area theater 2015: some favorites

Dec 22

Bay Area theater 2015: some favorites

One of the best things about the year-end exercise to round up favorite theatergoing memories of the preceding year is that it can be such a powerful reminder of how much good theater we have in the Bay Area and how many really extraordinary theater artists we have working here. Another element jumps out at me this year and that is how, in addition to great homegrown work, our area also attracts some of the best theater artists from around the world to come and share their work (at the behest of savvy local producers, of course). Herewith, some favorites from the year that was.

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Bright, shiny Christmas Story musical delights

Dec 10

Bright, shiny <i>Christmas Story</i> musical delights

I remember seeing A Christmas Story in the movie theater in 1983 (I was in high school), and since then, I've probably seen it 50 times or so (in whole or in part) on TV. It helps that TBS has been known to show it in constant rotation for days. So I have affection for the movie and for Jean Shepherd the man who created it (and narrated the movie is wonderfully droll, comforting voice). It's no surprise that this beloved Story has been adapted for the stage as a play (by Philip Grecian, which popped up at the now-extinct San Jose Repertory Theatre a few times) and now as a big old Broadway-style musical.

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Merry murderous mayhem in musical Gentleman’s Guide

Dec 03

Merry murderous mayhem in musical <i>Gentleman’s Guide</i>

You really do root for the murderer in the delightful A Gentleman's Guide to Love & Murder. That may seem an insensitive scene in these brutal, terrifying days we're living in, but the reality is that this musical comedy (based on a novel by Roy Horniman, which in turn inspired the wonderful 1949 movie Kind Hearts and Coronets) is all about karma. What you put into the world comes back to you.

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If/Then? No/Thanks.

Nov 13

<i>If/Then</i>? No/Thanks.

If/Then is not a musical I like much. I saw it on Broadway because I was enthusiastic about creators Tom Kitt and Brian Yorkey after their powerhouse effort on Next to Normal (a show that I had problems with but admired). My reaction – meh – was very much the same when I saw the show in its touring incarnation featuring much of the original cast, including star Idina Menzel.

There are some pretty melodies, good songs and affecting moments in the show, primarily courtesy of an excellent cast working hard to make something of this rather mushy tale.

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Humming the chandelier: Phantom 2.0

Aug 27

Humming the chandelier: <i>Phantom</i> 2.0

Now we have a "new" production of The Phantom of the Opera with a new director and a (mostly) new design team. Just as he did with Les Misèrables, director Laurence Connor has attempted to freshen up what was definitely becoming a stale property (albeit one that remains as popular as ever). For Les Miz he got ride of the iconic turntable, and guess what? He has made a turntable set the centerpiece of his Phantom!

Back in San Francisco as part of the SHN season, this revamped Phantom scores points for (unlike Les Miz) not...

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Delightful Matilda mostly avoids chokey

Jul 19

Delightful <i>Matilda</i> mostly avoids chokey

What is it about Roald Dahl that makes his books so ripe for adaptation? Probably the most famous book-to-screen-to-stage example from his canon is Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, which became a beloved movie musical in 1971 (with the title shifted to Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory). The 2005 remake by Tim Burton is much less beloved, and the splashy 2013 West End stage musical has been a big, long-running hit and will hit Broadway in the upcoming season.

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