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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Much to love in Moon’s charming Scrooge

Dec 05

Much to love in Moon’s charming <i>Scrooge</i>

Just when you thought there was not a breath of life left in the seasonal cash cow known as A Christmas Carol, along comes Scrooge in Love! to remind us that there's still a lot of life and heart and holiday spirit left in old Ebenezer Scrooge.

San Francisco's venerable 42nd Street Moon, formed 23 years ago to present neglected or forgotten musicals, has been shaking things up of late, with the company's latest coup being the world premiere of this sequel to Dickens' Carol with music by Larry Grossman, lyrics by Kellen Blair and a book by Duane Poole. It's an absolute gem of a musical – fresh, clever, spirited and a welcome addition to the canon of holiday perennials.

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Big laughs, super star in Moon’s Little Me

May 05

Big laughs, super star in Moon’s <i>Little Me</i>

My faith in the good ol' American star-making machine is kaput. Any yahoo with a access to a "reality" show camera crew gets 15 minutes and all the nonsensical covers of ridiculous magazines they could wish for. Or singers of dubious talent get in front of a national audience singing notes by the pound with no understanding of (or interest in) the songs they're macerating.

And then you have journeymen performers like Jason Graae, who by all rights should be an enormous star, doing stellar work that is seen by far too few. I get worked up every time I see Graae perform because something is definitely not right that his dynamic performer with a golden voice and flawless comic timing hasn't already had several hit sitcoms, won a couple of Tony Awards, sold millions of albums, had a few plum roles on the big screen and written at least one tell-all memoir. In another era, all of the above would be true, but the truth is, Graae is a genius in a world of show biz that has come and gone (and may yet come again – if we're lucky).

Lest you think I'm exaggerating, go see Graae play seven leading men in 42nd Street Moon's production of Little Me.

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Faith Prince & Jason Graae: a perfectly delightful duet

Mar 22

Faith Prince & Jason Graae: a perfectly delightful duet

He says he’s been a fan of hers since he was a child. She says he makes her pee.

Quips fly fast and furious when talking to Jason Graae and Faith Prince, especially when they’re talking about each other. Graae and Prince are the latest double act on the circuit, and it’s about time. Seriously. These two have known and loved each other for years, ever since they met in college at the Cincinnati Conservatory of Music.

Now bosom buddies Prince and Graae and hitting the road together in The Prince and the Showboy (and there’s a long subtitle with their names and awards attached, see the info box below), coming to the Rrrazz Room this weekend (March 25-27) for three performances only.

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Jason Graae: the funniest best singer you’re likely to see

Mar 30

Jason Graae: the funniest best singer you’re likely to see

Collective memory will soon forget that there used to be entertainers in the grandest sense – performers who could be hilarious, could interact with audience members in wonderful (non-cheesy) ways and, when the mood was right, sing the hell out of great songs.

Sammy Davis Jr. could do that. So could Bobby Darin. And Judy Garland, and the list goes on. The entertainment world has changed a lot – of course there are still wonderful performers out there.

But I have to say, I miss the all-around entertainer, the guys and gals who could hold a Vegas stage without the need for twirling acrobats and pyrotechnics.

Broadway veteran Jason Graae is one of those old-school entertainers. You are guaranteed several things when you see him perform: you will fall under the spell of his dynamic tenor/baritone voice, and you will laugh your ass off.

We don’t see enough of this Los Angeles-based performer here in the Bay Area, but happily he’ll be at the Rrazz Room for two nights, April 3 and 4, with a brand-new show.

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New seasons: TheatreFIRST, Broadway by the Bay

Oct 22

TheaterFIRST, under the new artistic direction of Dylan Russell, has announced its 15th anniversary season, which will run from January to June 2009 and will include a staged reading series and a Harold Pinter revival. The season opens with a staged reading series from mid-January to mid-February. Plays and location still to be announced, but the readings will be at...

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