MY TOP TEN MUSICALS AND PLAYS FOR 2022 - SF GREATER BAY AREA By Vince Mediaa
Best Play SAN JOSE STAGE Best Musical SHOTGUN PLAYERS
THIS WAS THE SEASON OF “THE UNDERSTUDY” AND THE DIFFICULT COVID COMEBACK 2022
The 2022 Bay Area theatre community struggled back this season with some amazing plays and musicals. A huge part of the success of theatre “post covid” are the aspiring superb understudies. A group of talented actors who wait in the wings to be called on. As many actors fell ill this season, the understudies kept the lights on and seats filled.
There are so many shows that have stuck with me, from the gothic gloom of PASSING STRANGE at the Shotgun Players to the soaring songs in San Francisco Playhouse “AS YOU LIKE IT.” The special wizardry of “HARRY POTTER and the Cursed Child” at The Curran to the spellbinding dance and fairy tale romance in Berkeley Rep’s “GODDESS.”
Here is my Top Ten list of memorable shows; two lists one for musicals and plays
BEST MUSICALS 2022
1) My pick for Best Musical of 2022 is 'Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812' written by local favorite Dave Malloy and directed by Patrick Dooley and Erin Mei-Ling Stuart - with an immersive set designed by Nina Ball. This electropop opera is based on a scandalous slice of Leo Tolstoy’s War and Peace. This is still on stage through Feb 5th.
2) MOULIN ROUGE THE MUSICAL - The national tour visited Sf this fall and easily proved itself as “The Musicals of Musicals”. The show is based on the 2001 film Moulin Rouge! directed by Baz Luhrmann and written by Luhrmann and Craig Pearce. This production of Moulin Rouge! The Musical is a celebration with a book by John Logan. Its non stop pleasure, but many criticize the production for its jukebox pop.
3) ALLEGIANCE - The Palo Alto Players came back strong for their 2022 season with a powerhouse cast and production team. THE 75TH ANNIVERSARY OF EXECUTIVE LAW 9066 IS THE TRAGIC STORY OF ACTOR GEORGE TAKEI’S PERSONAL ACCOUNT OF ROOSEVELT'S WWII ORDER. Directed by Vinh G Nguyn
4) RENT - LandmarkMusicals immersive production directed by Jepoy Ramos - was impressive - I had to attend at least four productions of RENT this season. Landmarks production was my favorite. AD Jon Rosen for the first time had sold out crowds. Covid hit this production, but the gender fluid cast kept the “Season of Love” perfect.
5) PASSING STRANGE Shotgun Players opens their 30th season after two-years in the dark. The riveting Stew is back in the East Bay with his 2008 Tony winner PASSING STRANGE at the Ashby Stage. This powerhouse musical first premiered at the Berkeley Rep down the street from the Shotgun in 2007. Directed by William Hodgson.
6) RAGTIME Theatre Works delayed production evokes passion, hope, the definition of “family”, with themes of the power of love, redemption and forgiveness. Themes that represent threads of the American social fabric. A truly vibrant but fragile tapestry of the American Dream. The opening weekend crowds were on their feet with applause at the end of each show. Directed by Robert Kelley, Music Director William Liberatore
7) HARRY POOFTER AND THE CHAMBER OF SECRETIONS The SF Oasis honored the exit of the Harry Potter play at the Curran Theatre - with this brillant and very funny gender fluid musical version of Potter. Featuring the best of the SF Oasis drag performers. Written, Directed and Produced by Elsa Touche, Intensive Claire and Otter.
8) KINKY BOOTS MUSICAL Ray of Light Theatre returns after close to three years of bringing their lavish bright theatre to SF Mission. In fact the haunted Victoria Theatre had to change the bulb in their ghost light to bring this Tony honored show the “red for love” knee high KINKY BOOTS. Directed and choreographed by the TBA honored Alex Rodriguez and musical direction by the flawless Ben Prince.
9) HADESTOWN Musical Part of BroadwaySF 2022 Season This Musical is the latest stage adaptation of the famous story. This modern retelling, of doomed love in Orpheus and Eurydice with the myth of Hades and Persephone into a visual upscale tale about love and sacrifice, set in the desolate underworld of Hadestown. The memorable rousing close of the musical - is one of the best I have seen. Music, lyrics, book by Anaïs Mitchell. Directed by Rachel Chavkin.
10) GODDESS, a new musical Broadway bound celebrated its World Premiere at the Berkeley Rep. The Music in this production is god's life force as the first act opens the dancers choreographed by Darrell Grand Moultrie bounce with pure energy and create a rousing uplifting blast of new theatre rythems. Book by Jocelyn Bioh. Music and lyrics by Michael Thurber. Additional material by Mkhululi Z. Mabija. Directed and conceived by Saheem Ali.
BEST PLAYS OF 2022
1) AUGUST OSAGE COUNTY - The San Jose Stage Company celebrates season 40. My pick for best play; Tracy Letts’ August: Osage County, winner of the 2008 Pulitzer Prize for Drama and Tony Award for Best New Play. Kenneth Kelleher directs a superb, searing ensemble in this powerhouse production, which proves to be a toxic-love comedy and is intensely tragic. This is the great American drama of the 21st century that easily stands beside "Long Day's Journey Into Night," "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof" and "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?"
2) WAITING FOR NEXT Writer director Jeffrey Lo ruled Bay Area stages this season - staging three of his new plays; Waiting for Next, Zac and Siah Or Jesus in a Body Bag, and Balikbayan Box. He also directed Vietgone, The Paper Dreams of Harry Chinand and The Great Leap; he dominated my top ten list and I honor and respect his contribution to Bay Area Theatre. In WAITING FOR NEXT we get a view of Lo as young man facing his life’s discoveries. Directed by Leslie Martinson written by Jeffrey Lo and produced by CITY LIGHTS Theatre in San Jose.
3) VIETGONE CITY LIGHTS Theatre in San Jose exciting production of writer Qui Nguyen award honored play. Director Jeffrey Lo recognizes the diverse Vietnamese community in San Jose. “The influence that the Vietnamese American community has on our city is undeniable. I hope you will help us uplift this beautiful community and this story in the way it deserves.” said Lo. The Vietgone sequel opens at the American Conservatory Theatre this spring 2023.
4) WUTHERING HEIGHTS Emma Rice and her company Wise Children brought their stage adaptation of Emily Bronte’s classic novel to the Berkeley Rep following a run in New York at the London Bristol Old Vic. It is humorous, the songs are important, the puppetry works effectively and has plenty of the warmth, charm that you can expect from Director Emma Rice.
5 THE TEMPEST - This impressive production was directed by Oakland Theatre Project Executive Director and Co- AD, Michael Socrates Moran, who says “in this play we have attempts of rebellion, assassination, liberation, and revenge.” Moran staged this as a frame - the Tempest begins where it ends. He says “in our retelling we begin at the end in a dreamscape where Caliban awaits us to visit him upon an island that can only be found in the theater.” The OTP is one of the reasons why Theatre in the Bay Area is so innovative and daring.
6) A NICE FAMILY GATHERING - The best family comedy play of the season. Written by Phil Olson, directed by Kimberly Ridgeway, at Altarena Playhouse, Alameda, California. The comedy featuring a clever local cast - makes sure by show's end that you call home to wish your loved ones cheers and hugs.
7) FEFU AND FRIENDS - Presented by The American Conservatory Theater at the Stand Stage. María Irene Fornés' groundbreaking 1977 Fefu and Her Friend still stands strong in 2022 - The play's reputation comes from its structure - four short scenes are performed simultaneously in different spaces throughout the Strand Theatre. The audience is split into four groups to watch those scenes in different orders.
8) LEAR - CAL SHAKES World premiere production at the Cal Shakes Theater. This “Lear” is set in SF’s Fillmore District during the 60s, a heyday for flower power music and hippies, a time when Black displacement was draining the lifeblood of the Filmore and Hunters Point. Directed by Eric Ting and Dawn Monique Williams.
9) MEN ON BOATS Palo Alto Players staged the 2015 Off-Off-Broadway Men on Boats by Jaclyn Backhaus. A tale of American folklore with the voices of women actors who identify as gender fluid and non-binary. The non-male actors of varying ethnic and racial backgrounds take an historic adventure on the Colorado River. Directed by Lee Ann Payne.
10) BALIKBAYAN BOX by Jeffrey Lo at Berkeley's TheatreFIRST - Full of love, confusion, tradition, expectations and of course some sweet Filipino Snacks. BALIKBAYAN BOX is a new play by Bay Area local favorite Jeffery Lo that asks “how many ways can you define love?”. This is the classic “first date” story that is full of emotion, fear, past experiences and the race to the American Dream. Directed by Michelle Talgarow.
OTHER MENTIONS INCLUDE;
OTHER MENTIONS; DREAM HOUSE Shotgun Players, MEET JOHN DOE San Jose Stage, THREE TALL WOMEN Pear Theatre, FOLLIES SF Playhouse, IN THE HEIGHTS Berkeley Playhouse,
SPELLING BEE Landmark and CCMT, THE BANDS VISIT Broadway SF, SCHOOL OF ROCK Palo Alto Players, and LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS Berkeley Playhouse and Theatre Works.