Ladies’ night at ACT’s Music

May 28

Ladies’ night at ACT’s <i>Music</i>

In the 1970s, Stephen Sondheim was on some kind of roll. From Company to Follies to Pacific Overtures to Sweeney Todd, the decade found at the peak of his considerable powers. He was – and is – a musical theater superhero, but in the midst of all that musical and lyrical genius, he dropped a nearly perfect show that was at once a classic musical – operetta almost – and completely contemporary.

A Little Night Music is a dazzling combination of light and funny, clever and romantic with sharp and incisive, deep and dark. The show has elegance and a light touch with an undercurrent of regret, sorrow and misery to keep it from floating away.

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Gently with a chainsaw: Heathers really sings

May 23

Gently with a chainsaw: <i>Heathers</i> really sings

Funnier and feistier than the movie on which it’s based, Heathers: The Musical is an exceedingly successful screen-to-stage adaptation, and San Francisco’s Ray of Light Theatre is just about the perfect company to produce it.

Heathers, which features a score and book by Laurence O’Keefe (of Bat Boy and Legally Blonde fame) and Kevin Murphy, (Reefer Madness, “Desperate Housewives”), is dark and damaged in all the right ways. But the musical amps up the fun factor with the ideal amount of camp. It winks and nods to the 1989 movie but...

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Young actor soars in autism musical Max Understood

Apr 17

Young actor soars in autism musical <i>Max Understood</i>

In the world of pop culture, we've had precious few insights into the world of autism. Certainly the work of Oliver Sacks and Temple Grandin (and the HBO movie about her starring Claire Danes) have provided a window, as has the novel The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon, which was adapted for the stage by London's National Theatre in 2012 before becoming a big hit on Broadway. Now local actor/director/ Nancy Carlin and composer Michael Rasbury have created a musical about a young boy with autism called Max Understood.

After three workshop productions, Max finally receives his world premiere with a production directed by David Schweizer at the Cowell Theater at Fort Mason.

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Nick & Nora and musical theater necrophilia

Apr 05

<i>Nick & Nora</i> and musical theater necrophilia

The greatest crime the musical Nick & Nora seems to have committed in its ill-fated 1991 debut was not being nearly as good as it should have been and not being nearly the catastrophe everyone had imagined. The notorious musical is based on Dashiel Hammett's final novel, The Thin Man from 1933, which was turned into the more memorable series of Thin Man movies starring William Powell and Myrna Loy as soigné sophisticates Nick and Nora Charles, who also solve crimes.

Nick & Nora has not been fully produced since its Broadway demise (72 previews and only a week of performances following the disastrous reviews), which is why we love 42nd Street Moon, the company that dusts off the flawed, forgotten and factious musicals of old and allows a contemporary audience to see what's actually there.

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Disney’s Newsies seizes its musical day

Feb 19

Disney’s <i>Newsies</i> seizes its musical day

Newsies that unlikely Broadway hit that started out as a flop movie musical, isn't so much about groundbreaking theater as it is a sterling example of how efficient Disney can be at creating solid, broadly appealing entertainment.

The Broadway production closed last fall, but the tour dances on. If ever there was a show meant for the road, it's Newsies, a high-energy, stick-it-to-the-man ode to unions of all kind (labor, romantic, brotherly). Now at the Orpheum Theatre as part of the SHN season, Newsies is the definition of crowd pleaser.

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A hitch in the getalong: Looking back at 2014′s best

Dec 22

A hitch in the getalong: Looking back at 2014′s best

Reviewing the shows I reviewed this year, I was struck by two things: first, and as usual, there’s an abundance of talented people doing great work at all levels of Bay Area theater; second, this was a lesser year in Bay Area theater. Perhaps the reason for the later has to do with the changes in the Bay Area itself – artists are fleeing outrageous rents,...

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