Friday, April 7, 2017

Spring fling offers theatrical gems on play-loving San Diego boards

Bryant Hernandez, Kenia Ramirez and Jennifer Paredes are modern-day muskateers in "Into the Beautiful North," at
San Diego Repertory Theatre.  The play's quest is inspired by the films "The Magnificent Seven" and "Seven Samurai." 
The Lyceum in Horton Plaza is home
to San Diego Repertory Theatre where

a provocative new play just opened.
From left, David McBean, Richard Baird, Benjamin Cole and James Saba
 playing multiple roles in NorthCoast Rep's "Travels with My Aunt." 

NorthCoast Repertory Theatre offers quality work in a
 small space with David Ellenstein's able artistic direction.


KEN JACQUES and courtesy theater marketing departments

WE ARE BINGING on an orgy of fabulous San Diego theater.
The cause of our bacchanal is a feast of fine productions -- three this week and three next.
Sean Murray, center, both directs and stars in "On the Twentieth Century"
at Cygnet Theatre in Old Town. Murray's versatility has won him leading
roles in "Man of LaMancha," "Sweeney Todd" and "Little Shop of Horrors." 
From cutting edge drama set in our own southern California, to time honored chestnuts that still bring the house down, to fresh new comedy with an edge and original musicals, San Diego delivers. No other mid-sized city has birthed as many Broadway bound works -- "Memphis," "Billy Crystal's 700 Sundays," "Dracula, the Musical," "Jersey Boys," "The Who's Tommy," and more.
AS DEVOTEES of the boards, we're celebrating -- drinking it all in, if you will. We love our treks to Los Angeles -- to the Ahmanson and Mark Taper. Our Broadway forays in New York City are a favorite tradition. But San Diego is not only a city of eternal sunshine -- it offers quality theater year round. We see more than 100 plays a year -- at least a play a week. There's always a new production, and this column deals strictly with theater.
Add to the mix world class dance, symphony, opera and comedy.
Sam Woodhouse directs an entertaining, often touching new
play with San Diego connections at SD Repertory Theatre. 
 THIS MONTH, we are experiencing a rousing bounty of delights. Here's a selection of "can't miss" entrees from our theatrical feast:

Cygnet Theatre's variety is enhanced by Sean Murray's able
artistic direction and a charming Old Town space.
SAN DIEGO REPERTORY THEATRE: At once funny and touching, "Into the Beautiful North" takes a fresh look at the immigrant story.  Three Mexican friends decide to enter the U.S. in search of strong men who will rid their besieged village of drug bandidos. Luis Alberto Urrea wrote the novel from which Karen Zacarias adapted her finely tuned drama. Fine actors, beautifully cast and directed by Sam Woodhouse tell this engaging contemporary tale following the director's keen insight into what makes characters act, react, form loyalties and follow their passions. Through April 23.

*CYGNET THEATRE: "On the Twentieth Century." Cygnet's production of this gem is energetic and fun, an old-fashioned musical with fabulous performances, set on a train bound from Chicago to New York. Clever use is made of Cygnet's stage and space, with a delightful backdrop, inventive design and fun movie footage into which the "Twentieth Century" characters are cleverly dropped. As the hijinks unfold, we enjoy snappy choreography, perfect period costumes and gorgeous wigs as the train speeds toward its destination with a Bible toting proselytizer and plenty of goofy doings afoot.
La Jolla Playhouse is gearing up for a Jimmy Buffett musical.
 Sean Murray and Eileen Bowman in leading roles are hysterical as the one-time lovers. Flawless supporting players dance delightfully in and out. The entire cast is gangbusters -- the cream of the crop of Cygnet regulars. A vintage homage to the theatrical days of yore. Through April 30.

Singing and dancing their way through a blind date and beyond, a cleverly
staged meeting unfolds in "First Date" by San Diego Musical Theatre.
Giles Havergal adapted the Graham Greene novel about eccentric Aunt Augusta who swoops in to shake up the life of her staid bourgeois banker nephew.  Four actors play 20 roles in the journey with the Rep's imaginative artistic director David Ellenstein at the helm.  The plot involves CIA agents, Nazi collaborators, a Turkish general and a sojourn to Paraguay. Watch for our reaction soon. April 12 through May 7.

*SAN DIEGO MUSICAL THEATRE: "First Date" at Horton Grand Theatre is an energetic regional premiere, an inventively staged contemporary musical comedy.  The clever story references current digital technology and language placing Aaron and Casey on their first date in a bistro. There, restaurant patrons become the couples' "others" -- exes, parents, best friends. The music is delightful, the singers in top form, the head waiter a familiar face (recently the star of SDMT's "The Producers.") Aaron's and Casey’s inner critics transform other diners and themselves. Singing, dancing, scheming, wisecracking, soul searching lead to the discovery that they do have potential after all. Bravura performances all around. Through May 7.
Veteran actors and singers dress the stage in "The Geeze and Me" at
the Tenth Avenue Arts Center in downtown San Diego.

*RAG LADY PRODUCTIONS: "The Geeze and Me" is a world premier, a high-energy, moving and irreverent musical about the woes of aging. The original work features short, memorable songs -- lovely ballads to rock 'n' roll, blues and boogie -- expertly delivered by a well tuned ensemble including the aging counselor who elicits their stories. The eclectic blend of songs -- from bawdy to beautiful -- unfolds with fun choreography. The perils, challenges and perks of changing bodies, rearranged priorities, illness, loss, loneliness and growth spell an engaging evening at the theater, presented with chutzpah and a cutting, comic edge. The production is musically directed by B.J. Robinson. Hedges Capers and Nancy Locke Capers collaborated on this delightful work. Through April 29. 

Jimmy Buffett tunes are on tap at
La Jolla Playhouse in a world premiere.

LA JOLLA PLAYHOUSE: "Escape to Margaritaville." Whether you're a Parrothead or not, this new world premiere musical sounds enticing as a shot of tequila and a shaker of salt on a scorching day . Original songs and favorite Jimmy Buffett classics tell the story directed by Christopher Ashley. The romantic tale features Tully, a part-time bartender who sings (of course he does!) and a career-minded tourist who steals his heart and forces a re-evaluation of his thinking. May 9 through June 18.

A classic of the American musical theater songbook
comes to Welk Resort for a long likely sold-out run.
WELK RESORT: "The Music Man." Fast-talking Harold Hill cons the people of River City, Iowa, into buying musical instruments and uniforms and forming a band, although he knows not a note of music. Marian the librarian turns him into a respectable citizen in this classic of the American theater. Barbershop tunes, lovely ballads and the rousing "Trouble" and  "76 Trombones" on tap. (I know every lyric and so do thousands of you!) May 5 through July 23.
A Greek restoration team took care with each stone and slab
in a major restoration effort of the tomb of Jesus in Jerusalem.
UP NEXT: Holy Days in Jerusalem this year take on a special significance.  The Church of the Holy Sepulchre and its sacred tomb, believed to be the burial place and resurrection scene of Jesus, have undergone an elaborate restoration and facelift. We visit the city and the church, and invite you to join us. Remember to explore, learn and live and catch us here each weekend for a lively new take on the arts, travel and nature.


  1. Wow. I am on my way.

  2. We live in Los Angeles, too, and don't begin to have the fresh variety of this San Diego mix. And you don't have to fight 10-lane traffic to enjoy. Lucky you!

  3. New York Theater BuffsApril 11, 2017 at 12:33 PM

    Had no idea San Diego had that stellar history of "Broadway bound" works. Cookie landed in the perfect place!

  4. Indiana Joneses in CaliforniaApril 14, 2017 at 1:46 PM

    Looking forward to your Holy Land insights. Checking your recommendations off one by one. All great!