I’m not sure if it’s just me, but 2016 felt like it would never end. Leaving out the loooong election cycle and depressing aftermath, the kvetches, aches and pains that my body visited on me, I estimate that I reviewed almost 100 productions this past year. Some were out of the city but for the most part most were in and around San Diego County. From Chula Vista to Carlsbad and every stop along the way, we here in San Diego have much to kvell about.
My spoiler is that I am a sucker for musicals and I was in awe of ion’s production of “Sunday In The Park with George”. Give a cheer to Melissa Fernandes as Dot. What an undertaking. I wish I could have seen it a second time.
High on the list of other musicals seen I must add New Village Arts’ “Big River” with Brian Barbarin as Jim and newcomer Reed Leevers as Huck Finn. From the very first time I saw it at The La Jolla Playhouse, when I was but a pup it has remained a favorite. NVA congrats on that and “Oklahoma”!
And speaking of musicals, San Diego Musical Theatre outdid itself with another of my favorites”, Ragtime”. Of course “Gypsy, The Musical Fable” with Allison Spratt Pearce as the adult Gypsy Rose Lee at Cygnet is another that wins high praises.
Cygnet also gave us another interpretation of “Rocky Horror Show”. Lamb’s Players Theatre’s “American Rhythm” (coming from different ends of the spectrum) rounds out some pretty awesome entertainment. As for New…The Globe’s west coast premiere of “October Sky” lit it up in grand style.
For those of us who saw OnStage Playhouse’s “Buddy Holly Story”, we left with jaws dropping as Noah Zuniga-Williams played a remarkable Buddy Holly.
I would also be remiss if I didn’t sing out praises for the casts and crews of those mentioned, and then some. They will get their one-ups-man-ship at the upcoming awards on Feb. 6th, at the Jacobs Center for Neighborhood Innovation.
We also had our fair share of fine drama. We were left on the edge of our seats with Albee’s “Whose Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” produced by Intrepid Theatre. You’ve got to give it to The Smyth’s; they hit it out of the ballpark.
Other nail bitter’s that showed up in tip -top performances included “God of Carnage” at New Village Arts Theatre and Ayad Akhtar’s “Disgraced” at The San Diego Rep. Francis Gercke was Joseph Merrick or “The Elephant Man” at New Renaissance Theatre.
“Camp David” at The Globe reenacted the Camp David accords under the leadership of then Pres. Carter. “Golda’s Balcony” was part of the Lipinsky Family Jewish Arts festival and played at The New Village Arts in Carlsbad. It starred Rosina Reynolds in a one- woman tour de force. Both events had significant historical value and some pretty fine acting.
“Way Downriver”, William Faulkner’s tribute to the strength of the Mississippi River when it caused havoc in 1927 and the fortitude of those holding on to survive. Richard Baird turned in a noteworthy performance at “The North Coast Rep.
Ion’s “The Normal Heart” broke hearts and brought us back to the 1980’s reminding us how difficult it was then (and we must be careful even today) to get funding to find a cure for AIDS. Kim Strassburger, the only female in the play, was a force to be reckoned with as Dr. Emma Brooker.
Moxie’s “The Kid Thing”, Diversionary “The Boy Who Danced On Air”, “Lizard Boy” and “The Mystery of Love and Sex” brought some new and eye opening theatre to into our lives.
Finally I would be remiss if I did not mention the legacy that was left by August Wilson as two of his Century Plays, “King Hedley” and “Seven Guitars” were shown in repertory at Cygnet. Wow! They had a busy year! Keep your eyes on Ro Boddie.
For new and exciting we got a chance to see InnerMission’s riveting “Seven Spots on The Sun”, Bill Cain’s “Equivocation” at Lamb’s and Ayar Akhtar’s “Junk: The Golden Age of Debt” at The La Jolla playhouse. The playhouse also brought us Joe DiPetro’s “Hollywood” and “Last Tiger in Haiti” by Jeff Augustin. Moonlight’s “Titanic” was well…of titanic proportions and then there was the weirdness of “The Addams Family”. All- in -all Moonlight had a great summer.
The Rep brought us laughs with Herbert Seguenza’s “Manifest Destinitis” and Moxie introduced us to Ketori Hall’s new play “Our Lady of Kibeho”. Jane Austen’s “Sense and Sensibility was made into a musical and was mounted at The Old Globe. It came on the heels of another Austen favorite “Emma” that showed at the Globe in 2011.
Oldies but goodies included “Plaid Tidings”, “Sister Act”, “Peter Pan”, “Laughter On The 23dr Floor”, (we had a chance to artistic director David Ellenstein work his magic in Neil Simon’s 1993 play), Miracle Worker”, “Cabaret”, “Fiddler on the Roof” and “Ain’t Misbehavin’” all brought audiences to their collective feet.
Above is a tiny sampler of what keeps the musical notes bouncing in my brain and the tantalizing topics that keep politics in the forefront of many a discussion and puts history in perspective. All are worthy of healthy and stimulating round tables that propel my colleagues and I to stream to the ends of the earth to bring you the news and views of San Diego Theatre.
Finally, ‘It’s fun to go out’.
The Theatre is one of the best higher institutions of learning with no residual debt. See you there.