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Steve Silver's Beach Blanket Babylon is the world's longest-running musical revue. Since 1974, this San Francisco institution has followed Snow White on a musical comedy quest around the world, where she runs into satirically portrayed pop culture and political celebrities, an impressive array of gigantic hats and one show-stopping musical number after another. Because the show is constantly updated with new costumes, hats and characters, it rewards repeat visits. Among the familiar faces you might see spoofed in Beach Blanket's latest incarnation: Lady Gaga, Barack and Michelle Obama, the cast of Glee, Kate Middleton and Adele. Even after nearly 40 years, Beach Blanket Babylon remains one of San Francisco's wildest evenings of live entertainment.
Set during the Salem Witch Trials of 1692 and written in direct response to the McCarthy communism trials in the 1950s, Arthur Miller's scathing indictment of extreme theocracy and human paranoia remains a timelessly relevant classic -- a master study on the inherent frailty, delicate beauty and limitless possibility of the human spirit. The Crucible won the Tony Award for Best Play in its Broadway debut and still holds a spot as one of the most popular and exciting American plays today.
The Dixie Swim Club focuses on five vibrant women who have called each other friends since their time spent together on a college swim team 33 years ago. Every year since graduation, they've kept their bond alive by spending a long summer weekend together at the same North Carolina beach cottage, leaving husbands, children and work behind to share in each other's challenges and triumphs. Spotlighting four specific weekends throughout the span of these 33 years, this poignant comedy is a blend of tender moments and raucous repartee that brings the beauty of lifelong friendships onto the stage and into the spotlight.
Don Reed's East 14th: True Tales of a Reluctant Player returns to The Marsh Berkeley. This hilarious and poignant solo show tells the autobiographical story of Reed's boyhood in 1970s Oakland. He grew up there torn between his strict, churchgoing mother's upbringing and his admiration for his enigmatic father -- who happened to be a pimp. An off-Broadway hit, East 14th was nominated for two 2008 NAACP Theatre Awards. Reed has performed, written and directed in film, television and theater across the country and was the longtime opening act/warm-up comedian for The Tonight Show with Jay Leno.
Bram Stoker's Dracula took a piece of obscure folklore and created one of the most iconic monsters of all time. The mysterious and deadly Count Dracula has enthralled readers, movie audiences and theater-goers for more than 100 years and The Shelton Theater is continuing the trend with its new stage adaptation of the horror masterpiece. This fairly faithful retelling of the novel sweeps you back to the turn of the 20th century, where naive young solicitor Jonathan Harker travels from the enlightened modernity of London to a crumbling, remote castle in Transylvania. He finds himself unwittingly imprisoned in Dracula's castle, while the Count travels to England and turns his eye on Harker's loved ones, slowly taking over their lives. When Harker's friends and fiancee learn the truth, this unlikely group of heroes must band together to stop Dracula from inflicting his dark agenda on England.
August Wilson was one of America's most celebrated playwrights, and Fences was arguably his most celebrated work. Winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Drama -- as well as Tony Awards for Best Play and, decades later, Best Revival of a Play -- Fences is a powerful drama that tells the story of Troy Maxson (portrayed by Carl Lumbly). A former star of Negro League Baseball who now makes a living as a garbage man in 1957, Maxson is a man consumed with frustration concerning the color barrier that kept him from being a success in Major League Baseball. As he struggles to provide for his family, their relationships -- infected by bitterness -- suffer. A truly significant American play, the New York Post once hailed it as "one of the richest experiences I have ever had in the theatre."
Boasting an original live score and starring a talented ensemble of actors, clowns and musicians, this brand new bio-play -- told in the story-within-a-story tradition of 1001 Nights -- celebrates the fascinating life and times of ninth-century musical and cultural innovator Ziryab. Originally from Iraq, Ziryab settled in the area of Cordoba, Spain, and is credited with not only introducing a fifth string to the traditional instrument known as the oud, bringing Persian and Arabic sounds to Spanish music, but also setting fashion and other cultural trends throughout the Islamic region. Torange Yeghiazarian of Golden Thread, the first American theater company devoted to Middle Eastern voices, wrote and directs this exciting debut production with music by Faraz Minooei.
Morris Bobrow, the award-winning creator of Shopping! The Musical, the longest-running original show in San Francisco history, is serving up yet another tasty musical revue. This one's all about food, glorious food -- with a mix of songs and sketches about eating habits and hang-ups, trendy restaurants and food trucks, cooking quirks, menu mania and much, much more. Winner of multiple San Francisco Bay Area Theater Critics Circle Awards for outstanding music and lyrics, Bobrow also created the recent Party of 2 -- The Mating Musical.
The Marsh presents Geoff Hoyle's one-man show Geezer, a look at growing old filled with Hoyle's trademark comic physicality. Geoff Hoyle trained with Marcel Marceau's teacher, Etienne Decroux, in Paris, developing his unique physical bravura comic style, a combination of the court jester, vaudeville and English music hall. He was a member of the Bay Area's Pickle Family Circus, and has gone on to work with Cirque du Soleil and Teatro ZinZanni. He also originated the role of Zazu in the Broadway production of The Lion King.
In this inspiring story of rescue and resistance, a young Jewish woman named Belle is hidden by a Catholic family as Germany occupies Italy during World War II. Centering on Belle's relationship with Maria, the young lady of the house with whom she would seem to have little in common, Giovanni is Here finds these two sharing a time of terrible uncertainty, discovering some commonalities throughout the conflict. As their relationships with their significant others and family members evolve during the course of the war, they come to understand just how much their survival depends on the ability to hold on to hope, love and laughter.
A fresh spin on several Brothers Grimm fairy tales, Into the Woods interweaves and re-imagines the stories of a number of beloved characters to examine whether "happily ever after" is really even possible. Unable to bear children, a baker and his wife are lured into completing a number of tasks by a witch who promises to grant them their wish. During their journey, they encounter Little Red Riding Hood, Rapunzel, Cinderella and Jack and the Beanstalk. With music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim and book by James Lapine, the original Broadway run won critical praise and numerous awards. The cast recording, which includes "Children Will Listen," "Giants in the Sky" and "No One Is Alone," took home a Grammy. It's set to get the Hollywood movie treatment this year in a film starring Johnny Depp and Meryl Streep.
Featuring her signature sassy stand-up and always-amusing song spoofs, If You See Something, Say Something! is the latest show from Jackie Beat, award-winning drag darling and self-professed bastard child of "Weird Al" Yankovic and Bette Midler. On a brief break from writing for the hit TV show Hello Ross, the self-described "world's biggest bitch" brings a whole new meaning to the catchy anti-terrorist slogan -- if you see something, say something -- as she delivers over an hour of hilarious new material mixed with a sprinkling of tacky classics.
Grand and uplifting, Les Misérables is a powerful affirmation of the human spirit and one of the most popular musicals of all time. Woodminster Amphitheater hosts an outdoor production of this tale of passion and revolution in 19th-century France, which won seven Tony Awards on Broadway and was made into an Oscar-nominated film. Cozy up under a blanket and watch ex-convict Jean Valjean's struggle for redemption and the young, innocent love of his adopted daughter Cosette and the student Marius are set against the tumultuous backdrop of the French Revolution. It's a celebration of the human struggle for love, justice and happiness in the face of hardship, carried forward on a gorgeous score, including the beloved songs "I Dreamed a Dream," "On My Own," "One day More," "Do You Hear the People Sing?" and more.
From Yasmina Reza, the French playwright behind Tony-winners Art and God of Carnage, comes this witty and acerbic play. Life X 3 is the story of Henry and Sonia, a married couple with a six-year-old son. On this ill-fated evening, a prominent astrophysicist who can make or break Henry's career shows up for dinner, along with his rebellious wife. The problem is, it's the wrong night and there's no food in the house (but plenty of wine). This is only the first catastrophe, as the veneer of politeness between the characters proves to be paper thin, only barely covering the tensions and power games bubbling underneath the surface. There are three ways the evening can go, and you get to see them all, as Reza reveals how the smallest change in circumstances can have a huge effect on the characters' fates.
Get ready for Shakespeare as you've never seen him performed. The Un-Scripted Theater Company is an improvisational theater troupe that combines Shakespearean-style dialogue with original music to create a new show every night. The Lost Folio: Shakespeare's Musicals features comedies, tragedies, wild adventures and epic romances turned into unscripted musicals before your eyes. A Bay Area favorite, the Un-Scripted Theater Company highlights the difference between "improv comedy" and "improv theater."
Ugly Betty meets The Terminator in this new sci-fi musical by D'Arcy Drollinger (Shit & Champagne, Project: Lohan). When lonely, put-upon secretary Eileen spots an ad for a fully functioning mechanical male companion, she takes her future by the reigns and places an order. Mr. Irresistible soon arrives on her doorstep and, true to fantasy, a romance blossoms. Just one problem: He's not her mail-order groom. He's an exterminator on a service call. Soon the official Acme Brand Mr. Irresistible comes knocking, and the humble exterminator can't compete with the custom-made dream man. But just as Eileen is settling into a state of bliss with her new perfect beau, a coworker she's been complaining about turns up dead, and Eileen becomes suspicious of her robotic Romeo. She contemplates sending him back -- where he'll be disassembled for parts -- but Mr. Irresistible catches on and begins a fight for his life. Will Eileen finally find her voice and learn where true love has been all along?
Acclaimed solo performer Mark Kenward conjures up the sights, sounds, stories and even the tastes of Nantucket via his new dramedy set on that iconic island, which boasts a New England-style picnic dinner available for purchase from the East Bay's artisan takeout restaurant Grégoire. Kenward, who's created seven well-received solo shows, sails far back into his childhood to explore the contrasts between the bright summers and harsh winters of the vacation paradise where he grew up, including delving into a shocking and violent act committed by his mother. Both haunting and hilarious, Nantucket also features guest artists with music, video and fine-art photography inspired by the island.
In 1971, San Leandro was named one of the most racist suburbs in America. Congressional hearings were held. The next year, 8-year-old Brian Copeland and his African-American family moved in. The longest-running solo show in Bay Area history, Not a Genuine Black Man is a hilarious and poignant autobiographical story about Copeland's childhood, based on his best-selling book of the same name. The engaging one-man show is an insightful look at Bay Area history and the ways in which our upbringings make us who we are.
Sometimes a boy just wants to have a little fun -- and in the case of precocious 12-year-old Rudy, he believes that's why humans were put on this planet in the first place. He stubbornly refuses to be force-fed rules and values from anyone, not from his parents and especially not from Sister Clarissa. That's the conflict at the heart of Over the Tavern, a heartwarming comedy by Tom Dudzick (Greetings!, Miracle on South Division Street) about a family struggling and growing together. It's partially based on his own childhood growing up in a Polish-American community.
Thrillpeddlers' award-winning madcap musical Pearls Over Shanghai is back to thrill and mesmerize audiences anew at the Hypnodrome. Set in gin-and-sin-soaked 1937 Shanghai, this colorful comic mock-operetta wallows in the exotic world of white slavery and opium dens, and features a lavishly costumed cast of more than 20. This special fifth anniversary revival, with book and lyrics by Link Martin and music by Scrumbly Koldewyn, also celebrates the 45th anniversary of the famed gender-bending drag troupe known as the "all singing, all dancing, all cardboard" Cockettes. Koldewyn, "Sweet Pam" Tent and Rumi Missabu, who all starred in the well-reviewed original show, return for this over-the-top production.
Catherine's father, a famous mathematical genius, has just died after a long struggle with mental illness. When Hal, one of her father's former students, discovers a groundbreaking mathematical proof in his attic, it's up to the two of them to discover its history. The mathematical mystery and their budding romance cause Catherine to question both her own genius as well as whether her own sanity is at risk. This acclaimed play that inspired the 2005 film by the same name (starring Gwyneth Paltrow and Anthony Hopkins) won the 2001 Pulitzer Prize for Drama and took home a Tony Award for Best Play.
Sir John Vanbrugh's 17th-century masterpiece, The Provoked Wife, skewers lousy marriages and the ways we deal with them with a sarcastic wit as fresh-seeming as it was when the comedy premiered over 300 years ago. In this energetic production by Generation Theatre, duels, drunken escapades and cross-dressing cuckolds abound as Lady Brute deals with the antics of her oafish husband -- and with the advances of the dashing Constant. It's all part of a lesson that, centuries later, we have yet to learn: Don't provoke your wife.
Merge a Gilbert and Sullivan operetta with the gothic world of illustrator Edward Gorey and you get some sense of the silly, spooky atmosphere of Ruddigore. A witch's curse, a hall of talking portraits and a legion of sadistic ghosts make for a delightfully ghoulish romp. Though not as well known as The Pirates of Penzance or The Mikado, Ruddigore showcases some of Sullivan's finest melodies and Gilbert's nimblest lyrics. The lightning speed and ridiculous rhymes of "My Eyes Are Fully Open" make even "I Am the Very Model of a Modern Major-General" seem plodding and slow-witted by comparison.
This quick-witted comedy comes from popular playwright and Pulitzer Prize nominee Theresa Rebeck (creator of NBC's Smash). Seminar centers on Leonard, an experienced author who has been hired by four aspiring novelists to conduct an intensive 10-week writing seminar in an Upper West Side apartment. True to Rebeck's reputation as a master of quarrelsome comedy, these students get much more for their $5,000 fee than they bargained for. They soon find themselves attending a master class in ruthless and reckless behavior where writing is a blood sport, words are deadly weapons and sex is just a tool of the trade.
A modern-day fairy-tale mix-up, Sleeping Cutie concerns a crooked businessman who tries to find a love match for his only daughter while he waits a court's decision. While Lucy spends her days sleeping and nights in clubs pursuing her dream of becoming a rock drummer, her father attempts to get his affairs in order before getting locked up for his shady dealings. If he won't be around to take care of her, then he'd better find a man who will. Written by Diane Sampson with music from Doug Katsaros, this humorous take on Sleeping Beauty features a cast of quality Bay Area actors, including Jesse Caldwell as the father and Marissa Joy Ganz as Lucy.
From torch songs to tango, Santa Cruz singing sensation Lori Rivera explores the power of love in this one-woman cabaret show. In Smoke, Rivera brings two endearing characters to life through dialogue and song. Sweet Celeste is looking for Mr. Right with a dangerously open heart. Her innocence is countered by the worldly Francesca, master of erotic strategy, who becomes a mentor to Celeste through love, loss and triumph. Rivera has performed in a cappella pop groups the Bobs and SoVoSo, and received a Gail Rich Award from the Santa Cruz County Arts Council in 2011.
Some of the country's most acclaimed playwrights address one of the country's hottest issues in Standing on Ceremony: The Gay Marriage Plays. Top writers, including Neil LaBute (reasons to be pretty), Paul Rudnick (In & Out), Moisés Kaufman (The Laramie Project) and Wendy MacLeod (The House of Yes), explore the marriage equality debate with insight and humanity. The result is a thought-provoking array of short theatrical works, ranging from raucous comedies to personal dramas.
Romance, murder and alien abduction abound in the Southern Gothic comedy The Sugar Bean Sisters. The Nettle sisters are determined to escape spinsterhood -- Willie Mae by going to Salt Lake and finding a good Mormon husband and Faye by hopping on the spaceship when the "space people" return for another visit. The past and present collide as the secrets of Buster Swamp are revealed in this "wildly funny script" (LA Weekly). An off-Broadway hit, The Sugar Bean Sisters earned writer Nathan Sanders an Oppenheimer Award nomination from Newsday for the "most impressive debut of a new American playwright," and has since become a regional favorite across the U.S.
Both charming and disturbing, The Suit combines a rich musical score with remarkably simple staging as it tells the story of a cuckolded husband who doles out an unusual punishment to his wife: He asks that she treat her lover's abandoned suit as a guest of honor in their home. Accompanying her wherever she goes, the suit becomes a whimsical yet cruel reminder of her infidelity. African melodies interweave with jazz standards to underscore this surprising, sharp-witted tale set in Apartheid-era Johannesburg, in a haunting production that integrates virtuosic musicians directly into the action.
Take a Surreal Journey with Opera Parallèle as Kurt Weill's Mahagonny-Songspiel collides with Francis Poulenc's Les mamelles de Tirésias for an original post-apocalyptic steampunk opera. In search of water and an elusive paradise across a desert wasteland, a theater troupe sings the jazz-infused melodies of Weill's short opera, co-written with Bertolt Brecht in 1927. Along the way, they come upon an audience for their performance of Poulenc's outrageously surreal satire about a man who gives birth to 40,000 babies in a single day. Surreal Journey fuses these two landmark works and brings them into the 21st century.
One of the most heated political issues of the day is the American education system. Our children are falling behind on a global scale and while everyone has criticisms, very few have workable solutions. Teach for America takes this controversial topic and turns it into a compelling drama about a young idealist who thinks she can make a difference in a troubled urban school. Instead, she lands in the crossfire among discouraged students, angry adults, and overburdened administrators. Politics, prejudice, and sex collide in this story of good intentions gone wrong. Hilarious and heartbreaking, Teach for America puts you on the front lines of our nation's battle over education.
The high-stakes world of middle-school spelling competitions takes center stage in Berkeley Playhouse's production of The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee -- along with some added audience participation and improvised moments. This musical comedy follows six overachieving would-be wordsmiths and their neurotic parents. The hilariously catchy songs capture tweenage troubles at their worst, from "Woe Is Me" to "I'm Not That Smart." And the contest teaches the valuable lesson that winning isn't the only definition of success. With music and lyrics by William Finn and a book by Rachel Sheinkin, The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee was nominated for Best Musical and five other Tony Awards in its original run, winning for Best Book of a Musical.
RuPaul's Drag Race winner Jinkx Monsoon sashays west with her Off-Broadway musical comedy hit, along with her cohort, composer Major Scales. They star as popular 1920s burlesque duo The Vaudevillians, aka Kitty Witless and Dr. Dan Von Dandy, whose careers were rudely interrupted when they were buried alive by an Antarctic avalanche. Recently thawed out by global warming, they were shocked to discover that pop stars of the recent past had hit the charts with their original songs, including "Girls Just Want to Have Fun" (written about women's suffrage) and "Drop It Like It's Hot" (originally about the invention of the electric iron). Now, they're triumphantly taking the stage to reclaim their ragtime renditions of tunes like "Piece of my Heart," "Bad Romance," "Harder Better Faster Stronger" and many more.
It's been almost twenty-five years since Romanian dictator Nicolae Ceausescu and his wife were executed, but their reign of tyranny still haunts many Romanians. Among them are Daniela, a young women arriving in New York to marry a businessman named Charlie. Daniela is trying to find herself, and being a mail-order bride was never in her plans. Still, she has dreams -- which are far better than the nightmares of life in Romania she still experiences. The ghosts of the Ceausescus appear in Daniela's visions as insatiable vampires, and offer surreal commentary on her journey towards the American Dream. Saviana Stanescu's play tackles serious subjects, but it handles them in a light-hearted and entertaining way, offering hope that Daniela, and the rest of Romania, will soon see better days.
To study philosophy or not to study philosophy, that is the question, or one of them, faced by the famed Prince of Denmark as he returns for his senior year of college, circa 1518. In David Davalos' hyper-literate comedy, Hamlet is desperately trying to focus on improving his tennis game while philosophy prof Dr. Faustus and theologist Martin Luther engage in a spirited volley to try to lure him into their schools of thought. Wittenberg, winner of the prestigious Edgerton Foundation New American Plays Award, makes its Bay Area premiere, courtesy of Aurora Theatre.