2017 theater in review: Reflections on a powerful year

Best of 2017 (inside)

If you’re a theater fan, 2017 was a very good year. If you’re an American, depending on your point of view, 2017 was a terrifying year. Quite often, it seemed, the theatrical stage and the national stage were in direct conversation.

In the San Francisco Bay Area, the year was dominated by the juggernaut known as Hamilton, the musical that signaled new hope in diversity, inclusion and making new conversations and new rules even while the country regressed in unfathomable ways. The first touring production of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Pulitzer- and Tony-award winning musical kicked off at San Francisco’s Orpheum Theatre as part of the SHN season and played to packed houses for five months before heading down to Los Angeles. The show itself was as thrilling and important and satisfying and moving as everyone said, and we couldn’t enter the ticket lottery often enough (let alone win the ticket lottery). [Read my Hamilton review]

It’s hard to compete with the sheer magnitude of Hamilton, but local stages held their own, especially when it came to conversations about race.

My two favorite local productions of 2017 both happened to be directed by Eric Ting, the artistic director of the California Shakespeare Theater, and both happened to attack the issue of race in American in totally different and quite unconventional ways. An Octoroon at Berkeley Repertory Theatre saw playwright Branden Jacobs-Jenkins take an old play and blow it to smithereens as a way to illustrate just how poorly we have dealt with the ramifications of slavery in this country. The play, under Ting’s expert direction, was funny and disturbing and confusing and startling and altogether extraordinary. [Ready my review of An Octoroon]

On his own Cal Shakes turf, Ting turned to Oakland native Marcus Gardley for black odyssey for the year’s most moving theatrical experience. This loose adaptation of Homer translates the “soldier returns” story to the African-American experience and moves through time and history and mortals and gods with poetic ease and powerful impact. Music and dance elevate the emotional level, and the super cast made it all soar. The show was a wonder and needs to be shared, somehow, from coast to coast. Happily, Cal Shakes will remount black odyssey next season (Sept. 25-Oct. 7). Don’t miss it. [Read my review of black odyssey]

On a smaller scale, but with no less emotion, humor and inventiveness, two other local productions told stories of what it means to be black in America. Shotgun Players produced Kimber Lee’s drama brownsville song (b-side for trey), a play that deals with the emotional aftermath of violence and the defiance of hope. [Read my review of brownsville song (b-side for trey)]

And San Francisco Playhouse sparked a blaze in the fall with Robert O’Hara’s wild Barbecue, a play that literally flips race on its ear and has a splendid time doing so (special shout-out to director Margo Hall, who also dazzled as an actor in black odyssey and also managed to stand out in the cast of this production as well). [Read my review of Barbecue]

Another hot topic that received some astute theatrical attention this year is immigration. Crowded Fire Theater and TheatreWorks both tackled the topic with energy and imagination. Crowded Fire’s production of You for Me for Youby Mia Chung blended elements of Alice’s trip down the rabbit hole to illuminate the different experiences of North Korean sisters, one who is stuck in the country and the other who makes it to America. The fantastical and the devastating lived side by side in director M. Graham Smith’s memorable production. [Read my review of You for Me for You]

At TheatreWorks, The Four Immigrants: An American Musical Manga saw local composer Min Kahng turn Henry Yoshitaka Kiyama’s 1931 comic The Four Immigrants Manga into an irresistible musical that, for all its exuberance, still managed to convey the darkness and weight of the immigrant experience. [Read my review of The Four Immigrants]

It was interesting this year that two theaters emerged in San Francisco as homes to a compelling variety of work and became the kind of theater spaces where you pretty much want to check out whatever comes to their stages no matter what you might (or might not) know about the shows themselves. American Conservatory Theater’s The Strand Theatre on Market Street hosted two of my favorite shows of the year – small shows that ACT could never have done so successfully in the much larger Geary Theater. In March, Annie Baker’s fascinating John blended domestic drama and ghost stories into three gloriously offbeat hours with a cast headed by the sublime Georgia Engel. [Read my review of John]

And later in the year at the Strand, another quiet show, Small Mouth Sounds dove underneath the New Age calm to see what drama lies beneath. Comedy ensued in this mostly wordless play by Bess Wohl. [Read my review of Small Mouth Sounds]

Then there’s the Curran Theatre, which used to be a stopping place for Broadway tours but is now, under the stewardship of Carole Shorenstein Hays, something more – a carefully curated collection of extraordinary theatrical experiences. There are the Broadway tours, like the sublime musical perfection of Fun Home [Read my review of Fun Home] but also the experiences you won’t find anywhere else, like Taylor Mac’s overwhelming and gobsmacking and deliriously delightful 24-Decade History of Popular Music.

That’s a pretty dynamic year right there, but I would be remiss not to mention the roaring good time (amid imperfections) of the Broadway-bound Ain’t Too Proud, the Temptations musical at Berkeley Rep [read my review]; Peter Brook’s elegiac and stunning Battlefield at ACT [read my review]; and the deeply moving revival of Paula Vogel’s The Baltimore Waltz at the Magic Theatre. [read my review]

Amid so much that is disturbing in our world, I am heartened by the ever-reliable level of theatrical art-making here in the Bay Area. There’s challenge as well as comfort, belly laughs and punches to the gut (metaphorically speaking of course) and perhaps best of all, real engagement. Not every time, certainly, but often enough that it’s clear our local artists are paying close attention and doing what they can to make change while they entertain.

Fences comes home to the Curran Theatre

FENCESDenzel Washington is Troy Maxson and Viola Davis is his wife, Rose Maxson, in the screen adaptation of August Wilson’s Fences. The Paramount Pictures release, which Washington directs as well as stars in, opens Christmas Day everywhere. Below: Washington’s Troy walks home from work with Jim Bono, played by Stephen McKinley Henderson, a veteran of Wilson’s plays. Photos courtesy of Paramount Pictures

Hard to know which was more exciting: the art or the venue. Let’s go with both.

The Curran Theatre formally reopened Thursday, Dec. 15, after more than a year of renovations and refurbishments, and it’s gorgeous. In shades of elegance and Curran red, Carole Shorenstein Hays’ palace has once again cast open its doors.

The first official event, preceding the January bow of the Fun Home tour (get tickets now), was a homecoming of sorts. Thirty years ago, Hays launched August Wilson’s Fences, a play that would go on to win a Pulitzer Prize and sweep the 1987 Tony Awards. But before its Broadway glory, the play bowed at the Curran, and this week, the play returned in a manner of speaking. Denzel Washington directs and stars in the movie adaptation of the play, and the film had its San Francisco premiere at the Curran followed by a panel discussion with Washington, members of the cast (sadly, the busy Davis was absent due to work commitments) and Costanza Romero, a costume designer and Wilson’s widow.

There were more San Francisco roots in play: Washington spent some of his formative years nearly 40 years ago studying with the Curran’s neighbor, the American Conservatory Theater and worked across the street at the now-shuttered soup emporium, Salmagundi’s. After the movie screening and the panel discussion, Washington did something he said he’d always wanted to do but never imagined he could: he took a bow on the Curran stage.

It was a well-earned bow, certainly for Washington’s extraordinary body of work, his two Academy Awards and the stature he holds as one of the best of the best. But it’s also well earned for his achievement in Fences, a beautiful adaptation of the play that feels opened up (but not too much and not egregiously) and keeps the focus on the language and the performances, all of which are stellar. Music and underscore are used sparingly because, as Washington said, “the magic of August’s words, those are the notes. You don’t need an orchestra for Shakespeare. There’s Williams, Miller, O’Neill, Albee and Wilson. August’s work is rich, deep and wide.”


One reason the performances are so good may have to do with the fact that most of the cast (minus the younger actors who got too old) were in the 2010 Broadway revival that, once again, nabbed a passel of Tonys, this time for best revival and for its stars, Washington and Davis. Their chemistry and connection can be felt, even on screen, which is rare. And the supporting cast is just as good, especially Stephen McKinley Henderson, who plays best friend and fellow Pittsburgh garbage man to Washington’s Troy Maxson. Mykelti Williamson as Troy’s war-wounded brother Gabe does such finely tuned, extraordinary work it would seem his performance was always destined to be captured on screen. Russell Hornsby is Troy’s older son, Lyons, and Jovan Adepo makes a remarkable big-screen debut as Troy and Rose’s son, Cory.

Washington says he has fond memories of seeing the original Broadway production of Fences starring James Earl Jones, Mary Alice and Courtney B. Vance, so when producer Scott Rudin and Paramount Pictures approached him about seven years ago to talk about a movie, he was interested, but he wanted to do the play first. That’s how the revival was born. Now, six years later, Washington and his “core squad,” as Washington calls them, have returned. It’s rare for a movie adaptation to feature so many members of a stage company, but Washington says, “I remember when I was in A Soldier’s Play and when they made the movie, they used me and Adolph Caesar from the original cast but passed over another actor, Samuel L. Jackson. When it came time to make Fences, I thought, why should I go anywhere else? The band was tight. We had 114 some performances. It would be hard to get in the band.”

So, with his dream cast, Washington decided to film the movie in the actual location where it (and all of Wilson’s work) takes place: the Hill District in Pittsburgh. The choice lends even more richness to a film that is already dense with drama, remarkable language and performances that stun.

Washington says he felt Wilson, who died in 2005, on the set with him. There’s a scene toward the end of the film, when much of the cast is assembled, and a gate in the yard opens by itself. “That happened on its own,” Washington insists. “I knew August was with us and that we were all right.”

There will be more Wilson adaptations for the screen. The playwright’s epic 10-play cycle about African-American life in the 20th century, one play per decade (Fences is the ’50s), has been optioned by HBO with Washington producing. The idea is to do one play from the cycle each year for the next nine years. “We already have a script for Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom [set in the 1920s and the only one of the plays not set in Pittsburgh].”

Before taking that bow onstage at the Curran, Washington added, “This work, these plays, these movies – this is what I was meant to be doing at this time in my life.”

Fences, rated PG-13, opens wide Dec. 25.

[bonus trailer]

Bay Area theater 2015: some favorites

2015 illustration

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).

So here are some thoughts on memorable work I saw this year – and I will add as a caveat, I didn’t see as much as I should have (or as much as I used to for that matter), and I must express some pride that as we head into 2016, this old Theater Dogs blog will celebrate its 10th anniversary, and that makes me mighty proud. This is a labor of love, and I want it to be that first and foremost, a way of celebrating and promoting the riches we have here.

• The Curran Theatre is reborn. For me, the theater event of the year was actually a series of events comprising Curran Under Construction, a reintroduction of the fabled theater by its owner, Carole Shorenstein Hays not simply as a stop for touring shows but as an important player in the theatrical culture of the city. While the theater undergoes renovation in its lobby and restrooms, Hays invited audiences to enter through the stage door and sit on stage to experience one after another shows of extraordinary power and diversity. She began with The Event, a horrifyingly relevant exploration of mass violence, grief and understanding, and moved on to the wildly different but equally thrilling The Object Lesson with Geoff Sobelle blending materialism and memories in a magical way. Dave Malloy’s Ghost Quartet offered whisky, haunting music and one of the year’s best, most immersive stage experiences. Steve Cuiffo is Lenny Bruce brought a favorite son back to San Francisco, and Stew and Heidi Rodewald put their own rock-blues spin on James Baldwin in Notes of a Native Son. Every event at the Curran, including the speaker series hosted by the Curran’s resident literary star, Kevin Sessums, has been glorious and fascinating and involving. What more could you want from theater? (read the original posts here)

• Central Market gets a jewel of a theater in ACT’s The Strand. The Curran wasn’t the only re-birth this year. American Conservatory Theater spent a whole lot of time, money and effort bringing some class to the evolving Central Market area. The new Strand Theater is spectacular and should prove to be a key component in the cultural life of San Francisco. (read the original post here)

• Just Theater blows us away. Again. After A Maze last year, Just Theater became a company I wanted to pay attention to, and boy did that attention pay off. With Jackie Sibblies Drury’s We Are Proud to Present a Presentation About the Herero of Namibia, Formerly Known as Southwest Africa, from the German Südwestafrika, Between the Years 1884-1915 the company emerged as a producer of provocative, impactful work that should attract as big an audience as possible. This play within a play (within a rehearsal) tackled race, history and personal drama in ways that felt mind bending and heart racing.(read the original post here)

• We got to see Angela Lansbury live on stage. Even if she had just stood on stage and waved, that would have been something, but no, Dame Angela, the legend herself, gave a true and truly funny performance as Madame Arcati in the Broadway touring production of Noël Coward’s Blithe Spirit as part of the SHN season. At 89, she defied any signs of age and offered pure magic. Extraordinary. (read the original post here)

Hookman splatters expectations. Playwright Lauren Yee offered abundant surprises in this “existential slasher comedy,” which is the best possible description of this electric one-act play from Encore Theatre. (read the original post here)

• Tuneful time travel in Triangle. The most heartfelt new musical I saw this year was Triangle at TheatreWorks, a time-twisting tale involving tragedy and romance. Curtis Moore and Thomas Mizer have crafted a smart, melodious show that feels original and scaled exactly right (the cast of six feels much bigger, as do the emotions). (read the original post here)

• There’s still life left in Scrooge after all. There’s absolutely no reason that the new musical Scrooge in Love should not become a holiday perennial. Creators Kellen Blair, Larry Grossman and Duane Poole have crafted an utterly charming musical sequel to A Christmas Carol with songs you actually want to hear and characters you root for. Of course having Jason Graae as Scrooge is a big Christmas bonus, so kudos to all at 42nd Street Moon for breaking away from the classic or forgotten musicals and presenting something fresh and fantastic. (read the original post here)

• Alice Munro should love Word for Word. There’s no better theater company than Word for Word and no better writer than Alice Munro, so…mic drop. This was sublime from beginning to end as director Joel Mullenix and a cast that included the wondrous Jeri Lynn Cohen, Susan Harloe and Howard Swain brought two Munro stories to life, one from 1968, one from 2012. There was humor, heart and exquisite writing. (read the original post here)

• Cathleen Riddley lays it bare in Tree. Riddley can always be counted on for a strong performance, but in this powerful Julie Hébert family drama at San Francisco Playhouse she was riveting and heartbreaking as an older woman losing touch with herself and her family. (read the original post here)

• And then the drama comes flooding in. My favorite set of the year was G.W. Skip Mercier’s design for Tarell Alvin McCraney’s Head of Passes at Berkeley Repertory Theatre. Water played a big part in the design of a house in marshy Louisiana territory where the forks of the Mississippi meet. There was a storm, a leaky roof and then a deluge of biblical proportions. And boy was it fun to watch. (read the original post here)

• Hypocrites pummel Pirates perfectly. Probably the most fun you could have in a theater (and not mind getting beaned by a beach ball) was Chicago troupe The Hypocrites’ wild and wonderful take on Gilbert and Sullivan’s The Pirates of Penzance. Berkeley Rep had the smarts to introduce the Bay Area to this smart, enterprising company, and I hope we haven’t seen the last of their inventive, energetic take on interactive theater. (read the original post here)

Curran brilliance continues with stunning Ghost Quartet

Ghost Quartet 1
The performers of Ghost Quartet are, from left, Brittain Ashford, Gelsey Bell, Dave Malloy and Brent Arnold. The play/concert/musical/event continues through Oct. 31 at the Curran Theatre as part of the Curran: Under Construction Series. Below: Composer/performer Malloy at work. Photos courtesy of the Curran Theatre

Before I rhapsodize about the incredible Ghost Quartet now at the Curran Theatre as part of the Curran: Under Construction series, can I just say how extraordinary this series has been so far? This is the third show following The Events (review here) and The Object Lesson (review here), and so far, producer Carole Shorenstein Hays is batting a million (I don’t know sports).

At this point, Hays’ curatorial skills have proven so wonderful I’d show up anywhere she told me was worthwhile. At some point in this ongoing series of shows set entirely – audience and all – on the stage of the Curran while it undergoes refurbishment, there will likely be a show that doesn’t blow my mind, but I have no doubt it will at the very least be interesting and worthwhile.

The experience of being on the stage, which has been creatively reconfigured for each show, is surprisingly cozy and intimate – the world’s nicest black box theater. Coming through the stage door at the side alley is exciting, and the staff is always welcoming. Hays is a brilliant producer, but I can’t imagine this impeccably produced series is making loads of money, so I think about this series as her gift to San Francisco audiences. For that we should be incredibly grateful.

Ghost Quartet 2

Ghost Quartet heralds the return of Dave Malloy, who made a strong impression when he was a Bay Area resident working with Banana Bag & Bodice on projects like Shotgun Players’ Beowulf – A Thousand Years of Baggage. He decamped to Brooklyn nearly a decade ago and in the interim has produced a major work of genius, the unconventional War and Peace musical Natasha, Pierre & the Great Comet of 1812.

With Ghost Quartet, which was developed at Berkeley Repertory Theatre’s Ground Floor, he’s working in chamber mode, but his fervent intellect, passion for literary mash-up and melodic gifts are out in full force. the audience is seated on three sides of a performance area covered in Persian carpets. The stage’s curtain is up, so the empty Curran auditorium is on full view, with the lowered chandelier becoming sort of a character in the 90-minute piece (all the design is by Christopher Bowser, and it’s low-key spectacular).

Malloy on keyboards and Brent Arnold on cello (and other marvelous stringed instruments) are situated on opposite sides of the center-facing section of audience, while Brittain Ashford and Gelsey Bell on vocals and various harps and things, face forward with their backs to the open auditorium. The central playing area isn’t much used, which means the music surrounds you and the theatrical aspect feels less presentational and more like an active experience of being told an extraordinary story.

So what exactly is Ghost Quartet? I can’t say I got it all, exactly. There’s a multi-layered story thickly interwoven with threads made of Poe’s The Fall of the House of Usher and of the New York Post’s infamous cover photo of a man about to be killed by an oncoming subway train. There are fairy tales (with a nod to Sondheim and Lapine’s Into the Woods) and murders and ghosts and reincarnations and tributes to Thelonious Monk and a conjuring of Arabian Nights. It doesn’t all completely make sense, yet in the moment, amid the music and the performances and the cozy atmosphere and the way the story circles back on itself, it all makes perfect sense somehow.

The evening is broken into four “sides” (as in record albums), and just before we get to Side 3, the audience gets to participate in one of the recurring themes: whiskey (or section got Evan Williams Kentucky bourbon and my fellow audience members were generous with their pours). Just when the night couldn’t get any better – WHISKEY! – the lights go out, and the story unfolds in the dark. I heard some people got uncomfortable in the darkness (ghost stories win), but I loved it. I could have listened to the rest of the show in the dark and been ecstatically happy if they’d started it over again at the end.

But the lights do come back on, and the show comes to its thrilling, interactive conclusion that is sweet and eerie at the same time. The song is the traditional murder ballad “The Wind & Rain” slightly tweaked by Malloy, and it’s hard to imagine a more stirring finale.

These four performers are astonishing. Everybody sings and plays, but the bulk of the dramatic work is handled by Ashford and Bell. They’re so good (and so, for that matter, are Arnold and Malloy) that even when things don’t entirely make sense or you miss a lyric here and there, it doesn’t matter. You’re in good hands, and these performers will deliver you exactly where they want you to go – and that place is likely to blow your mind in the best possible way.

[bonus videos]
Enjoy “Any Kind of Dead Person,” one of the livelier numbers from Ghost Quartet and “Starchild,” one of the most beautiful.


Dave Malloy’s Ghost Quartet continues through Oct. 31 as part of the Curran: Under Construction series at the Curran Theatre, 445 Geary St., San Francisco. Tickets are $25-$50. Visit www.sfcurran.com.

Curran Theatre roars back to vibrant life


Carole Shorenstein Hays is doing something very exciting with the her jewel of a theater, the Curran Theatre. The 93-year-old neighbor to the Geary Theater in San Francisco’s Union Square neighborhood is undergoing refurbishment, but most of the improvements are happening front of house, which leaves the stage available. So Hays, formerly of Best of Broadway and SHN, has launched a performance series called Curran: Under Construction, which brings smaller but notable performances to the Curran stage, where the audience also happens to be seated. You enter through the famed stage door, which was used in the movie All About Eve, and enjoy an intimate theater experience on the stage itself.

The series opened this week with an astonishing British import: the Actors Touring Company production of The Events by David Greig and directed by the company’s artistic director, Ramin Gray.

Before the show began, as audience members found a seat on the risers facing out toward the empty theater, the most striking image was of the grand chandelier, usually hung high above the seats, was lowered to the level of the balcony as if for cleaning or, perhaps, simply to be admired.

IMG_3821 (1)

But as the show began, a curtain slowly rose to block out the theater and train focus on the long playing area where actors Lesley Hart and Clifford Samuel performed Greig’s powerful examination of a (fictional) mass shooting event in a church. We don’t find out all the details, and what actually happened is offered in bits as the 100-minute drama unfolds.

Sharing the stage with these astonishing actors is a choir. There will be three different choirs performing through the show’s short run through Saturday, Sept. 26, and for opening night, it was from Most Holy Redeemer Church under the direction of Victor Cervantes.

Almost instantly, we are pulled into the story by virtue of the show’s rawness. There is a lighting design and sound design and all the usual professional elements, but the overall feeling here is one of pure, raw theater, performed without veneer. The chorus on stage is used in many different ways, and their freshness to the material (they’re following along with scripts) adds to the sort of primal vitality of the experience.

The central character is Claire, a priest who runs a choir that happens to feature people of many different races and cultures. For that reason, the choir is named on a list decrying state-funded multiculturalism created by a racist politician. A troubled young man who admires the politician and his entirely backward stance on race and foreigners, singles out the chorus from the list, arrives with a gun and opens fire.

Claire survives the attack but feels like the events caused her to lose her soul. The show itself represents a deep dive into her stream-of-consciousness as she strives to regain that soul and to somehow come to terms with the killings and the killer himself.

Without being maudlin and without sacrificing humor, The Events delves into the human psyche to ask: why would someone do this and how does someone possibly recover from its destruction? It’s a heavy, heavy show, but it doesn’t feel that way. Perhaps it’s the music (by composer John Browne and music directed by Joe Bunker at the piano) or the sheer energy and commitment of Hart and Samuel that lifts the show and keeps it from feeling like a helpless freefall into the ever-present violence that so permeates our culture (especially in this country).

It’s a rich, moving experience, made all the more exciting for being the inaugural show in this Curran: Under Construction series. Construction has rarely been so enriching.

Upcoming performances include:
The Object Lesson (Oct. 14-18)
Ghost Quartet (Oct. 23-31)
Steve Cuiffo Is Lenny Bruce (Nov. 19-21)
Notes of a Native Song (Dec. 3-5)
Story Pirates’ Greatest Hits Show (Dec. 12-20)
Taylor Mac: A 24-decade History of Popular Music 1776-1836 (Jan. 17-31)

For information visit www.sfcurran.com.

SHN/Best of Broadway’s new season

Megan Hilty (left) as Glinda and Eden Espinosa as Elphaba from the original LA company of Wicked. Photo by Joan Marcus

Old friends, new winners mark 30th anniversary season

Carole Shorenstein Hays and Robert Nederlander’s new SHN/Best of Broadway season marks a milestone: 30 years of bringing Broadway to the Bay Area.

The new season, announced today, kicks off in February 2009 with a “third time’s the charm” production of Wicked, the monstrous hit musical that had its world premiere at San Francisco’s Curran Theatre. This time around, the musical about the witches of Oz, will play the Orpheum Theatre.

In March of 2009, Grease is the word. This is the production directed and choreographed by Kathleen Marshall that got famous for being the first Broadway musical to cast its leads on national television (through the NBC show “Grease: You’re the One That I Want.” This is also the production that marries the original stage version with the movie version, so songs such as “Hopelessly Devoted to You” and “You’re the One That I Want” are included.

Things get exciting in April 2009 with a world premiere musical. Ever After, with a book by Marcy Heisler and Theresa Rebeck, music by Zina Goldrich and lyrics by Marcy Heisler, is directed by Doug Hughes (a Tony winner for Doubt). Ever After, which plays the Curran, is based on the 1998 movie starring Drew Barrymore and is a new twist on the Cinderella story by banishing all the bibbi-dee-bobbi-dee boo elements and focusing on a spirited young woman defying societal constraints.

In August of 2009, the theater scene gets hot with Tracy Letts’ August: Osage County, this year’s Pulitzer Prize winner for drama. The Steppenwolf production (currently scorching Broadway) is directed by Anna D. Shapiro. The San Francisco production at the Curran Theatre kicks off the national tour.

A final show is yet to be named, but is described in press materials as a “Broadway blockbuster.” The show will be revealed, according to the Web site, in July.

Not part of the season but a “special attraction” is the umpteenth return of a Bay Area favorite: Andrew Lloyd Webber’s The Phantom of the Opera. The show will run Nov. 26 through Jan. 4 at the Orpheum. Tickets go on sale Sept. 7.

For the new SHN/Best of Broadway season, subscriptions are $170 to $551. Call 415-551-2050 or 877-797-7827 or visit www.shnsf.com for information.

Listen to a podcast about the new SHN/Best of Broadway season here.

Bay Area defines NYC culture

Even 3,000 miles away, San Francisco helps define New York.

This according to New York magazine, whose 40th anniversary issue pays homage to the so-called 196 (why 196? why not 212 or a more conventional 25?) “most essential New York works of art from the past 40 years” that best defined the city since the magazine’s birth 40 years ago.

The only producer to have two shows included on the list is San Francisco’s own Carole Shorenstein Hays, the force behind SHN/Best of Broadway, whose two entries on the list were August Wilson’s Fences and Richard Greenberg’s Take Me Out (labeled on the list as “the argument starter”).

Also on the list, shows such as Hair, Company, A Chorus Line, Chicago, Jennifer Holliday singing “And I Am Telling You I’m Not Going,” AIDS plays The Normal Heart and As Is, The Heidi Chronicles, Angels in America (also a show that started in San Francisco), Rent, The Lion King, The Producers, the 2005 revival of Sweeney Todd, Tom Stoppard’s trilogy The Coast of Utopia and the current Broadway musical In the Heights.

Congratulations to Ms. Shorenstein Hays, and let’s keep showing those New Yorkers what for.

Here’s the article.

Photo from the New York Times.

Building `Fences’

We’ve seen San Francisco’s Best of Broadway announcing shows in recent weeks, then canceling them. The Wiz disappeared, then Whistle Down the Wind, then the new Irish musical Ha’penny Bridge.

Well, when you can’t book a great show, you produce one. At least that’s what SHN/Best of Broadway head Carole Shorenstein Hays is going to do. She broke into the world of Broadway producing in 1987 with August Wilson’s Fences, and she has announced plans to revive the show this fall.

Suzan-Lori Parks, the Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright of Topdog/Underdog (which Shorenstein Hays produced), is slated to direct.

Read the New York Times’ coverage here.
Read the San Francisco Chronicle’s coverage here.

For information about Best of Broadway, click here.