Friday, November 1, 2019

Theater thrives as San Diego playhouses harvest autumn treasures

"Cambodian  Rock Band" is like no other musical. The writers of this column saw it recently at Oregon 
Shakespeare Festival. The fine production comes to La Jolla Playhouse soon.
-- photo courtesy Oregon Shakespeare Festival 
and courtesy theaters' marketing depts

FROM THE groundbreaking rock musical about a father and daughter and a southeast Asian band, to classic comedy by Neil Simon, a romantic adventure, a musical romance, historical drama and a stockingful of holiday shows, theater lovers can see a new production or two each week through year's end -- and be delighted with the mix.
 Jamie and Cathy are played with finesse by Michael
 Louis Cusimano and and Racquel Williams in Cygnet's
 "The Last  Five Years," on tap through Nov. 17.
CYGNET THEATRE. "The Last Five Years." Through Nov. 17. Billed as "an emotionally powerful and intimate musical" always energetic Cygnet features this charmer about two struggling New Yorkers in their twenties -- a novelist and actress -- who fall in and out of love over half a decade. With catchy solo turns, the music and lyrics showcase Jamie and Cathy as their relationship deepens and changes, and they face challenge both to the relationship and their individual desires.  Then Cygnet's always charming holiday musical tradition, "A Christmas Carol" with Sean Murray's clever adaptation. It runs Nov. 27-Dec. 29.
Award winning internationally
acclaimed David Sedaris' witty
"The Santaland Diaries" comes to
Diversionary Theatre.
DIVERSIONARY THEATRE. "The Santaland Diaries."  This small, mind-challenging company presents a work written by comic and essayist David Sedaris.  His humorous account of a stint working as a Christmas elf in "Santaland" at Macy's department store is a sure holiday spirit pleaser. Sedaris first read the essay on National Public Radio's Morning Edition during the 1992 holidays and the story of the very unmerry elf has become a sardonic holiday classic. Diversionary continues its excellent tradition of LGBT work. Nov. 21-Dec. 22.
The approach to La Jolla Playhouse in evening.
"Cambodian Rock Band" promises to delight opening soon.
 La JOLLA PLAYHOUSE. "Cambodian Rock Band" Nov. 12-Dec. 15. We recently saw and loved this innovative production at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. It is absolutely ground-breaking, touching, mesmerizing. Epic in its sweep, it is both play and rock concert, thrusting us into the life of a young woman with a mission: to discover family history from 30 years earlier. She knew little about her musician father who fled Cambodia during the Khmer Rouge's brutal assault on the land, its artists and thinkers. A gifted cast performs a mix of contemporary Dengue Fever hits and Cambodian oldies.
A stellar ensemble presents "Ring Around the Moon"
at Lamb's Players Theatre. A lively holiday show follows. 
 The San Diego connection is playwright Lauren Yee, UC San Diego alum, who brilliantly brings the Cambodian rock scene of the ‘60s and ‘70s to life. We're excited to see it again, a masterful story about the power of survival, family loyalty and enduring music.
LAMB'S PLAYERS THEATRE: "Ring Around the Moon." Christopher Fry’s 1950 adaptation  of Jean Anouilh's "Invitation to the Castle." A romantic adventure about love, identity and money, it's winning praise for its lovely staging, strong ensemble work and light-hearted comedy.  Through Nov. 17.  Then the popular and always unique "Lamb's Festival of Christmas" runs Dec. 5-29.

Lisel Gorell-Getz as Mags, 
and Debra Wanger as Liz at Moxie.
MOXIE THEATRE: "Handbagged." Through Nov. 17. This ground-breaking company presents works by and about interesting women in a mission to showcase diverse and honest looks at the female gender. "Handbagged" features two characters, Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher ("Mags") and Queen Elizabeth II ("Liz,") with their older and younger versions played by four talented actors. The title references the handbags of the two same-age women who ruled with purses over their wrists. The play explores who really had the upper hand behind closed palace doors. It's winning raves.
New Village Arts' intimate space is a perfect venue for
an imaginative production of "Around the World in 80 Days."
NEW VILLAGE ARTS. "Around the World In 80 Days." Nov. 8-Dec. 22  The classic tale gets a new twist with original music as the mysterious, wealthy, lonely Victorian Phileas Fogg determines to circumnavigate the world in 80 days. On this belief, he has wagered his  fortune. Will bandits, buffalo, chivalry, an unreliable but faithful valet, and unrelenting inspector from Scotland Yard keep him from his impossible task? We follow Fogg and his eccentric companions aboard steamships, locomotives, and pachyderms as they learn about love, themselves, and the unanticipated.  With original pirate rock ‘n roll music by The Shantyannes.
Lenny Wolpe, as Willie Clark and James Sutorius as Al Lewis
are endearing in "The Sunshine Boys," extended to Nov. 24.
NORTHCOAST REPERTORY THEATRE: "The Sunshine Boys," is winning raves for its delightful rendition of Neil Simon's beloved comedy, the story of two cranky old actors who reunite for a final hurrah. North Coast Rep's ambitious artistic director David Ellenstein crafts a varied lineup for the theater's 38th season which opened with "Amadeus" and includes a Harold Pinter classic. The intimate house offers not a single bad seat and this production promises laughs and a perhaps a tear with the smile.  

"A Christmas Story" promises to delight, based 
on the popular movie (seen here), at San Diego
Musical Theatre, with its ambitious season.
SAN DIEGO MUSICAL THEATRE: "A Christmas Story" runs Nov. 29-Dec. 29 after SDMT's sold-out production of "Man of LaMancha" with Robert J. Townsend as a moving Don Quixote. The lively holiday show is based on the classic film about family, a coveted gift ("you'll shoot your eye out") and growing up. The ambitious SDMT season includes the romantic comedy,"She Loves Me,"
Erin and Gary Lewis turned
a lifelong love of musical
theater into a San Diego gift.
Tony winning "Rent," always winning "Little Shop of Horrors" and more. Musical theater buffs Erin and Gary 
Lewis founded the enterprise in 2006. It features that dying breed, live orchestra, and has a loyal following for its inventive and varied varied repertoire. 
Ryun Yu plays all 37 characters in an emotionally
charged production, "Hold These Truths" at SD Rep. 
Nov. 14-Dec. 8. One-man tour de force starring Ryun Yu in a work written by Jeanne Sakata. The story tells of a Japanese-American man who spent 50 years trying to avenge the injustice done to Americans of Japanese ancestry after the bombing of Pearl Harbor. The actor plays all 37 characters in what promises the Rep's usual electric, thought-provoking theatrical experience. It comes on the heels of a brilliant comedy, "Bad Hombres, Good Wives."
Welk Resort's always popular holiday show opens
Nov. 22, a family musical entertainment.
  "The Addams Family." Through Nov. 10. New musical comedy, with fun twists but loosely based on the TV show.  Campy action and a veteran cast. "Welkhome Home Nov. 22-Dec. 29 promises swinging sounds of traditional songs, contemporary work and a perfect family entertainment. Then the Broadway classic, “A Chorus Line” is up Jan. 10-March 22. This is one of the writer's "Top 10" Broadway shows, a concept musical about Broadway dancers auditioning for spots on a chorus line. Don't neglect the resort's excellent tribute shows.

Train passengers arrive from many UK cities in York. 

UP NEXT: Train, train, train...... England style.  Come with us to trace the evolution of rail travel as transportation evolved from stagecoach to trains. We ride the rails, old and new, as Cookie and Keller  explore the United Kingdom's long love affair with rail travel.  We take you to York's fabulous Railroad Museum, then catch a vintage steam train for a delightful 90-minute journey. Next, we go inside the beautiful Orient Express cars when rail travel was elegant and try a Britrail pass to London and more.  Remember to explore, learn and live and catch us Fridays for a novel look at travel, the arts, nature and family.


  1. Fabulous roundup. Lucky you. We live in LA area and often come down for Dan Diego theater.

  2. Florida Play Lovers.November 3, 2019 at 9:59 AM

    San Diegans are so lucky. Wonderful town, great choice of theater venues.

  3. Encinitas EntertainersNovember 4, 2019 at 6:33 AM

    Fascinating blend and variety. We have LJPH tickets, never miss SD Rep and Northcoast. Love Cygnet and delighted to know of Moxie and Diversionary. SD Musical Theater a gift to us Bway musical lovers. And didn't realize Welk did such hits as "A Chorus Line." Just went to their fun website. Thanks for great tips and fun holiday picks.

  4. New Haven Play GoersNovember 5, 2019 at 3:28 PM

    One of our favorite cities and your theater "roundup" entices us to make more than an annual visit. Wonderful variety and in such a beautiful setting.

  5. Wow wow WOW. I want to see every one. We are Lambs regulars and love the SD Rep. Now we enlarge our options. Thanks so very much.

  6. Pacific Beach PlaygoersNovember 6, 2019 at 11:40 AM

    Just saw "Ring Around the Moon" which is sheer delight. Booked the Cambodian musical based on your endorsement. Never miss SD Rep, Cygnet and North coast Rep. Do you ever get up to South Coast Rep? Long drive from us but some worthy work. Keep up these nice advances. New Village Arts....will try. Love "Around the World..."

  7. Always fun to read the fall picks.