Thursday, October 28, 2021

Theater's Southern California comeback marks return to the boards

Celebrating a joyous return to live theater at San Diego Repertory Theater are, Bruce Keller and
Christene "Cookie" Meyers, here before the house filled at the Lyceum Theater in San Diego.


Masks are mandatory in San Diego theaters.
Covid vaccination card, or negative test proof is
required here at Northcoast Rep and elsewhere.

(and courtesy theater marketing departments)

AFTER 18 MONTHS of dark houses, bare stages and empty seats, live theater is making a rousing comeback in southern California.
San Diego is blessed to have more than a dozen active, enchanting theater venues and we are grateful returning members of the audience. Streaming and video productions kept us going through the purgatory of pandemic, but there's nothing like live theater. So we give thanks for the talented actors, directors, designers and volunteers whose patience and persistence kept hope alive.
Happily, after a year's absence, we offer our annual autumn roundup, this time showcasing the return of live theater with what's on the boards in our theater loving San Diego area.
Fine acting and captivating direction mark
"Mother Road," by San Diego Rep at the Lyceum.
: "Mother Road" is the spectacular opener, through Oct. 31 on the Lyceum stage downtown.  It's a continuation and spin on Steinbeck's "Grapes of Wrath," speculating on the legacy of the Joad family 100 years after the Dust Bowl.  An accomplished, well cast ensemble and evocative writing mark this spellbinding production, enhanced by Sam Woodhouse's creative direction. The smart, eight-show season includes Second City's sassy "She the People" running Nov. 18-Dec. 5, followed by Tony winning "The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time," "The Great Khan," "Twelfth Night," (an intriguing musical version), and the gifted Herbert Siguenza in his original portrait of biochemist Isaac Asimov. Woodhouse will direct a yet unannounced season finale, which promises the Rep's usual electric, thought-provoking theatrical experience. 
NORTHCOAST REPERTORY THEATRE: As the first San Diego theater to announce a full 2021-22 season, this inventive theater is delighting crowds with a truly original work. "Ben Butler" continues the 40th season of this Solana Beach treasure. Set in the Civil War, it features a brilliant escaped slave
Richard Baird, left, as Major General Benjamin Butler, spars
with Brandon J. Pierce as Shepard Mallory in "Ben Butler."
and the equally bright, compassionate but pompous general he asks for asylum.  It's an engaging work brimming with humor and intelligence, showcasing fine acting, skillful direction and an imaginative story. The Civil War doesn't suggest humor, but this tour de force offers verbal sparring reminiscent of Neil Simon's best. It is winning raves for its originality and humorous twists. Northcoast's docket includes two west coast premieres plus a world premiere musical, says the company's ambitious artistic director David Ellenstein, who also deftly directs "Ben Brown."  The intimate house offers excellent seating and the season's pleasing mix includes a new romantic musical comedy, the sassy musical parodies of "Forbidden Broadway," Harold Pinter's Tony-winning "The Homecoming," and a work inspired by Sherlock Holmes' tales. Laughs, thoughtful dialogue, familiar comforts and new challenging pieces on tap.  
David McBean as Albin in Cygnet Theatre’s production
of “La Cage aux Folles, held over with sell-out houses.
CYGNET THEATRE.  Capping a rousing extended run, "La Cage Aux Folles" is selling out its final two weeks, through Nov. 7. It will be followed Nov. 23-Dec. 26 by Cygnet's ever engaging holiday musical tradition, "A Christmas Carol" with artistic director Sean Murray's clever adaptation.  "Life Sucks" follows, billed as  "a brash reworking of Chekhov’s 'Uncle Vanya,' featuring a group of old friends, ex-lovers, estranged in-laws, and lifelong enemies gathered to grapple with life’s thorniest questions. "Water By the Spoonful," "Mud Row" and "Natasha, Pierre and the Great Comet" cap the spirited, varied Cygnet season into August of 2022.
The approach to La Jolla Playhouse in evening heralds the
new season which opened to kudos with "The Garden."
Patrons are excited about the upcoming "The Yellow House"
 a spin on the life of famed artist Vincent Van Gogh.
 La JOLLA PLAYHOUSE. Carrying on this venerable, top drawer theater's dedication to the unique is a new play, "To the Yellow House." Its Nov. 16-Dec. 12 run follows the hit, "The Garden," a beautifully rendered, ground-breaking production, praised for its touching story of a mother-daughter alienation and reconciliation. "To the Yellow House" set in Van Gogh's colorful Paris, imagines a visit by the down-and-out artist to his brother's home. Always ahead of the curve ("Come From Away" began its Tony-winning life here), the LJPH season continues with a world premiere musical, "Bhangin' It," March 8-April 17. Digital wonders await with "Wow" shows to enjoy at home. Click on the website's "Without Walls" for more.
Cynthia Gerber plays poet Emily Dickinson in “The
Belle of Amherst” playing Lamb’s Players Theatre.
"The Belle of Amherst" is winning praise for its lovely staging and brilliant acting by Cynthia Gerber as poet Emily Dickinson. It plays through Nov. 14.  Then the popular and musical version unique "A Christmas Carol," with Lamb's own adaptation, running Nov. 27-Dec. 26. "The Hound of the Baskervilles" promises creative staging of a Sherlock Holmes classic, Jan. 29-March 20. "Million Dollar Quartet" is an inventive spin on the meeting and jamming of Johnny Cash, Elvis Presley, Carl Perkins and Jerry Lee Lewis, April 2-June 12, then "RESPECT" features the music of girl singers of the 1960s, Sept. 10-Oct. 30.
The new season of San Diego Musical
 Theater offers a well tuned quartet. 
  The new season  begins in 2022, with "Catch Me If You Can," opening Feb. 11. Billed as "a splashy high-flying spectacle based on the hit film." The musical comedy about a globe-trotting con artist is followed in May by "In The Heights," the innovative musical which introduced Lin-Manuel Miranda to the world. It is followed by "The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee," then perennial favorite "Little Shop of Horrors."  SDMT's lively "A Christmas Story" closes the 2022 season. The popular grassroots enterprise made its name with romantic comedy and favorite musical theater offerings thanks to musical-loving founders Gary and Erin Lewis who launched the endeavor in 2006. It has a loyal following for its varied repertoire. 
NEW VILLAGE ARTS.  This delightful 99-seat theater in Carlsbad opens its 20th anniversary season with "1222 Oceanfront:  A Black Family Christmas," Nov. 19-Dec. 26. The musical promises "a joyous
New Village Arts promises a lively holiday show,
in Carlsbad, then will collaborate during a major
renovation with Oceanside's theater. 
mix of original holiday songs with traditional carols re-imagined." During renovation of its Carlsbad home, NVA is collaborating with Oceanside Theatre Company in temporary residence there. The ambitious Carlsbad venue produces year-round musical events, showcasing local bands and musicians, intimate cabaret and concert readings of Broadway musicals. The Oceanside collaboration includes "Desert Rock Garden," marking the 80th anniversary of the creation of the World War II Japanese-American internment camps and a friendship forged in the Topaz Relocation Center.
Diversionary Theatre has a new look, and a slate
of four intriguing works with LGBTQ themes.
DIVERSIONARY THEATRE. Two world premieres and a pair of west coast premieres  highlight the new, enhanced season at the nation's third oldest LGBTQ theater.  Creativity is the force of this small, mind-challenging venue which opened season 36 in a newly renovated space, including a cabaret. Diversionary's stories espouse love, honesty, humor, and hope.  "Homecoming" is the umbrella theme, with the next play, "Azul," a memoir love story set in Castro’s Cuba, spanning three generations. A mother's Alzheimer’s inspires daughter Zelia to explore her heritage. With her wife by her side, Zelia excavates family secrets and discovers a love that led her mother’s beloved auntie to remain in Cuba. Spanning two countries and three generations, Azul runs Nov. 18-Dec. 19.
MOXIE THEATRE: Watch this ground-breaking company which opened its season with "The Mineola Twins," and has kept alive and engaged by streaming shows. 
Its mission is to present diverse and honest looks at the female gender and the world. Moxie's delightful "Handbagged" -- about British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher ("Mags") and Queen Elizabeth II ("Liz,") -- was acclaimed  "B.C." (before Covid.) The new season opener won raves so we eagerly await a world premier, "Sapience," about communication, and "Mother of the Maid," about Joan of Arc's mother.  Imaginative Moxie works on tap.
A gifted trio of local actors is headed by
Rosina Reynolds, left, in "Iron."
ROUSTABOUTS THEATRE CO.: This talented, daring company features some of San Diego's finest actors and has produced a range of funny, touching and acerbic pieces. After streaming, Roustabouts makes a "live" comeback with "For Whom the Southern Belle Tolls,," by award winning playwright Christopher Durang.  Silly fun is on tap  for certain Nov. 13-Dec.4, with gifted actor Phil Johnson directing (company co-founder and brilliant in "A Jewish Joke") and a talented local cast. Roustabouts attracts the best talent around and the season continues with "Iron," set in a women's prison, slated for June, 2022.
Jason Lorhke wins praise
for his fine Neil Diamond
tribute show at Welk Theatre.

WELK RESORT THEATRE. The theater, at 8860 Lawrence Welk Drive in Escondido, has returned to live audiences with bands and variety shows scheduled into 2022. Its musical theater performances will resume in January with "Nunsense" opening Jan. 14 for a run through March 27. Acclaimed tribute artist Jason Lohrke performing his acclaimed Neil Diamond show “I Am Neil I Said” in March 2022. Eagles tribute band The Long Run will perform “The Long Run: Experience the Eagles” in June 2022. "Spamalot" and "Elf, the Musical" are also on tap in 2022. Highly recommend the resort's excellent tribute shows. Lorhke really captures Neil Diamond's spirit.
SCRIPPS RANCH THEATRE. Creative use of space on the campus of Alliant International University provides a welcoming forum for an interesting, diverse season including "Heisenberg," opening mid-January. Set in London, the 2015 play features an unlikely romance between a bubbly New Jersey woman and 75-year old Irish butcher who's ready to call it a day. Its title was inspired by German physicist Werner Heisenberg’s 1927 uncertainty principle: that it’s impossible to precisely measure both the velocity and position of a particle in motion. An ambitious five-part season awaits. 
WITH THIS BOUNTY, pandemic purgatory ends and we're back on the boards with a bang-up, eagerly anticipated season.
We've been made aware even more how essential the lively arts are to our mental and physical well being.
 IT'S BEEN a difficult, long period for artists and performers. So please support your local theaters wherever you live. And remember that a pair of theater tickets is an excellent gift.
The magic of  Lewis and Clark Caverns is next up.

UP NEXT: Lewis and Clark didn't discover the magical Montana caverns named after them, but they were very near this geological wonder as they explored the route from Saint Louis to the Pacific. We take you there -- but please watch your heads -- as we go road tripping in Big Sky Country, Montana! Remember to explore, learn and live and catch us each week for a fresh spin on travel, family, the arts, nature and more. Please tell your friends and share the links:

1 comment:

  1. So lucky to have this glut of theatrical riches. Wow!