Sunday, January 21, 2018

"Peter and the Starcatcher"


Peter and the Starcatcher
Rick Elice, based on the novel by Dave Barry & Ridley Pearson

Dan Demers & Will Springhorn, Jr.
With tongue often in cheek, with twinkles in every eye, and with impishness in the corner of each mouth, the Hillbarn Theatre cast of thirteen romps through Rick Elice’s Peter and the Starcatcher, providing us the prequel story of how Peter Pan, the Lost Boys, Tinker Bell, Smee, and Captain Hook all ended up living forever in Neverland.

Fly over to Talkin' Broadway to read my full review:   https://www.talkinbroadway.com/page/regional/sanjose/sj109.html.


Rating: 4 E

Peter and the Starcatcher continues through February 4, 2018 at Hillbarn Theatre, 1285 East Hillsdale Boulevard, Foster City.  Tickets are available online at http://hillbarntheatre.org or by calling 650-349-6411.

Photo Credits:  Mark and Tracy Photography
 

Friday, January 19, 2018

"Sondheim on Sondheim"


Sondheim on Sondheim
Stephen Sondheim (Music & Lyrics); James Lapine (Conceiver)

Conceived by James Lapine and running in limited run on Broadway in 2010, Sondheim on Sondheim features not over fifty of the Great One’s songs from nineteen of his shows, but the musical review is also interspersed throughout with perfectly timed (to the second) interviews with Sondheim from various stages of his life.  For many in the opening night audience of Sondheim on Sondheim at the 3 Below Theatres & Lounge in San Jose (also on its own premiere night), there seemed to be little sign of disagreement with a divine proclamation made by the eight-person cast:
“God!
I mean the man’s a god!
Wrote the score to Sweeney Todd
With a nod
To de Sade.
Well, he’s odd.
Well, he’s God.”

For my complete review, please proceed to Talkin' Broadway: https://www.talkinbroadway.com/page/regional/sanjose/sj108.html.


Rating: 4 E

Sondheim on Sondheim continues through February 4, 2018, at 3 Below Theatres & Lounge, 288 South Second Street, San Jose.  Tickets are available online at https://3belowtheaters.com/.
 
 

Thursday, January 18, 2018

"The Birthday Party"


The Birthday Party
Harold Pinter


Dan Hiatt & Judith Ivey
If after twenty-five years of being Artistic Director someone is directing a play for the last time in that role, what better thing to do than throw a party, correct?  But when that party is scripted by Harold Pinter, there is no guarantee the games are not going to get a bit scary and dangerous, even if the guests are only playing “Blind Man’s Bluff.”  Carey Perloff takes her bow as director while in the A.D. role of the American Conservatory Theatre; and she earns a well-deserved standing ovation for the humor, intrigue, mystery, sweetness, pathos, and horror that she gleans out of Harold Pinter’s often obscure, contradictory, and totally magnificent script – all accomplished through a to-die-for cast and a creative team’s brilliant imaginations.

Pinter and Perloff are quite the team and together know how to lure in an audience with an opening scene that is hilarious in its innocence and silliness.  (Woe be to any Pinter-neophytes who have no idea what is about to hit them a half hour later.)  Peety Boles is a sixty-something chair attendant in a beach community somewhere south of London and is coming in for his breakfast and to read the morning paper.  Meg is serving with big smiles (and I do mean ‘big’) his Kellogg’s Corn Flakes, bubbling “Are they nice?  I thought they’d be nice.” 

Veteran Bay Area actor Dan Hiatt and two-time Tony winner Judith Ivey are together worth the price of the ticket in their roles as the married couple and proprietors of a somewhat plain and run-down boarding house on the beach.  Ms. Ivey takes the word “nice” (a word that is definitely her favorite and her most-repeated descriptor) and elongates it with her high-pitched, ever-so-pleasant voice into some version only Edith Bunker from All in the Family could come close to imitating.  She continues to ask her patient but rather unresponsive husband question after question, none of which really requires or gets much of an answer.  Their back-and-forth has 1950s sitcom written all over it but with a strange quality that even as one laughs, there is a sense of something surreal and absurd creeping into the conversation as it continues.



Judith Ivey & Firdous Bamji
After Meg begins to wonder where “Stanley” is and actually goes upstairs to get him (with our hearing only her roller-coaster laughter sounding like a teasing teen and his loud grumbles and protests), Stanley in fact appears disheveled, in wrinkled sleepwear and a bathrobe hardly hanging on to his body.  We learn that Stanley has actually been a boarder for a year (and seemingly the only one) and is a piano player who claims he has played “all over the world,” only to change that quickly to “all over the country,” and then (after a pause) to admit, “I once gave a concert.”  Morose and aggressively resistant to Meg’s playfulness and pleasantness, Stanley rejects the morning’s corn flakes complaining of sour milk and warns Meg “they’re coming ... in a van with a big wheelbarrow” and “they’re looking for someone.”  Firdous Bamji employs silence, shrugs, and stares to maximum effect to create a Stanley Webber who is a wound-up, tightly controlled (and controlling) mystery that makes us all immediately wonder why is Meg so obviously fond of him. 

The play soon begins to shift ever-so-slightly into Pinter Land, where more and more questions – often asked with no rhyme or reason and certainly getting no answers -- come in wave after wave; where references are made to unseen/unknown “they;” where contradictions pepper the landscape, and where identities of those we meet are difficult to discern as to backgrounds, reasons for their being there, and even what their actual names are.  And throughout the journey, Director Carey Perloff is clearly having a ball keeping us guessing who is in control at any given moment in situations where the tides shift and turn without much logic as to why.

Marco Barricelli & Scott Wentworth
Pinter and Perloff up the ante as two new boarders arrive, introducing themselves as Goldberg and McCann (although they are called and call themselves be a variety of other names, too).  Their entry brings a darker tone and an air of threat and a sense of impending doom into the room, even as Goldberg himself is as glad-handing and full of big smiles as a politician seeking votes.  Scott Wentworth is New Jersey, gangster sleek-and-slick as Goldberg in his tailored-to-a-‘t’ suit and perfectly combed hair while Marco Barricelli as McCann has the ominous look of a backroom roughneck in his black leather jacket; deep-set eyes; and wide, hunched-over shoulders.  Even though Stanley seems visibly irritated and concerned by their sudden presence, Meg is absolutely delighted, especially when Goldberg insists they hold a birthday party that very night for Stanley (who denies it is actually his birthday).

Firdous Bamji, Julie Adamo & Scott Wentworth
For any audience member trying to make sense of exactly what is happening and is about to happen from here on out, the undertaking will only be fruitless.  As in any Pinter play, the idea is to hold on to the chair and enjoy the ride into an unknown that may have few bearings that make sense of where we are going.  Into the mix and just to make things even more bizarre comes Lulu (Julie Adamo) whose name is a pretty good descriptor of Meg’s twenty-something, bouncy, sexy friend who quickly has eyes and more for Goldberg and who becomes part of a game of quest he plays once the birthday party begins in earnest.  Why she is there and how she fits into the story (whatever that is) is only one more of the Pinteresque elements that make this play so much fun while it is also so confounding and even disturbing.

The immense set of Nina Ball is symbolic of the entire play’s structure and underlying but skeletal message.  There is a claustrophobic feel to the one-room house we see, with walls on three sides that open up to a roof that is only a broken outline of itself, giving an sense of unsafe insecurity.  Behind the house is a humongous drift of sand, almost appearing as a silent, rolling monster that might swallow the house at any moment.  To the side and barely noticeable are two deck chairs facing an unseen sea where characters escape to relax and chat seemingly enjoying themselves (but in scenes we never really see since we are confined to witness only the rising questions and threats of the inside).  The lighting design of Robert Hand and the sound design of Darron L. West only enhance both the seaside setting and the interior’s crazy sense of kidlike play mixed with adult-felt uncertainties.  Candice Donnelly completes the picture with costumes that define the personalities and enhance both the naivite and the threats that exist side by side in this room.

Harold Pinter grew up escaping as a child the Blitzkrieg that Hitler rained down upon England.  He wrote this play as the Cold War was gearing up, as nuclear bombs were being tested, and as the McCarthy period was just coming to a close after ruining hundreds of lives.  The real and unspecified threats coming from seen and unseen sources that emerge in The Birthday Party -- while at the same time life just goes on with pots of tea and bottles of Irish whiskey to be consumed and enjoyed -- perhaps resonate in 2018 more than at any time since the play premiered forty-one years ago. The treatment given by this cast and director leaves us all scratching our heads upon leaving due to all the unanswered questions raised (like why did the chicken cross the road?).  But we are also looking over our shoulders to see what threats are perhaps out there waiting for us, too.  Carey Perloff and the American Conservatory Theatre produce a near-flawless version of a Pinter classic – one that will surely delight Pinter fans and one that will confound and perhaps be dismissed by all those who are not.

Rating: 4 E

The Birthday Party runs through February 4, 2018 on the Geary Stage of American Conservatory Theatre, 405 Geary Street, San Francisco.  Tickets are available online at http://www.act-sf.org/ or by calling the box office 415-749-2228.

Photos by Kevin Berne

Monday, January 15, 2018

"Man of La Mancha"


Man of La Mancha
Dale Wasserman (Book); Mitch Leigh (Music); Joe Darion (Lyrics)

Edward Hightower as Don Quixote
Andy Williams, Frank Sinatra, Roberta Flack, Elvis, Cher, and the Mormon Tabernacle Choir are just a few of the many who have recorded what is surely one of the most enduring standards to emerge from an American musical.  And while every emotional-laden, recorded version of  “The Impossible Dream.” may have its merits, it is actually only in the context of the Dale Wasserman (book), Mitch Leigh (music), and Joe Darion (lyrics) 1964 musical, Man of La Mancha, that the inherent depths and powers of the song can be truly experienced. 

In the current Custom Made Theatre production of Man of La Mancha staged within the company’s intimate setting where audience members sit just a few feet from the cast, “The Impossible Dream” receives as near-perfect interpretation as I personally have ever heard.  The might of the song’s words, the clarity of its message, the emotional truths gleaned for our current difficult times become stronger and stronger with each subsequent reprise.  The successful delivery of that one iconic song is just one example among many why Custom Made’s funny, touching, and impactful production of Man of La Mancha is not to be missed -- no matter how many times in the past one has seen this universally loved, oft-revived musical on much larger stages.

That Director Brian Katz’s vision for Custom Made’s production of Man of La Mancha is one of immediacy, spontaneity, and engagement becomes apparent even before a word is spoken.  Shuffling prisoners is a spartan, dungeon-like setting (designed by Daniel Bilodeau) take the cue from one person’s thumping hand and begin one-by-one to join, using the floor, boxes, bodies, and sticks as their instruments.   Together, they orchestrate an increasingly complicated, drumming/clapping melody that grows steadily in intensity and volume and one that illustrates their desperation, their defiance, and yet their determination. 

It is into that sullen but sizzling setting that playwright, actor, and tax collector Cervantes enters with his manservant, brought there (as were all the other dejected around him) as part of an ongoing, church-state-led inquisition – his crime being to foreclose a monastery for not paying its taxes.  When his fellow prisoners charge him as “an idealist, a bad poet, and an honest man” and threaten to put him on trial, Cervantes asks to speak on his own defense and do so as a “charade.”  Receiving permission from a sympathetic prisoner others call “The Governor,” Cervantes begins a transformation into a wandering knight-errant named Don Quixote, adding bushy eyebrows, scruffy beard, and hilarious but effective costume pieces (designed by Lindsay Eifert) befitting a traveling actor doing best with makeshift items from the trunk he has brought with him to this cell. 

And thus begins a play within a play as the prisoners join as actors in this charade trial.  Cervantes directs them as they enact a tale about an old man and country squire named Alonso Quijana, who through all his reading so many books about man’s injustices to others, has convinced himself that he must become a knight and “sally forth to right all.”

Dave Leon, Edward Hightower & Maurico Suarez
As soon as Edward Hightower goes from Cervantes to Don Quixote while singing “Man of La Mancha (I, Don Quixote),” his trumpeting voice, radiant face, and fearless demeanor convince us that this is a knight on a mission we all want to believe in, no matter the obvious charade and ridiculousness of it all.  That he soon fights an ogre that is actually a windmill (directed and acted with both hilarity and pathos) only endears him more to the audiences of both plays in progress – us and the prisoners who now find themselves playing various parts within a wretched, roadside inn.  The more we get into the tale, the more Edward Hightower becomes a Don Quixote whose undaunted optimism, fool-hearty bravery, and incredible naiveté are only matched by his ability to deliver in a wonderful, convincing voice immediately recognizable tunes like “Dulcinea” and of course “The Impossible Dream” (the latter, stunningly performed by Mr. Hightower as the second act opens).

Anthony Aranda, Rachel Richman, Edward Hightower & Dave Leon
Every Don Quixote is only as successful as his loyal sidekick, Sancho Panza, is, too.  Dave Leon has the looks (short, somewhat round, and eyes as wide as half-dollar coins), the demeanor (respectfully blind to and denying of his master’s insanity), and the movements (something between a goofy waddle and a overly confident swagger) to pull off a picture-perfect Sancho.  And when he delivers songs such as “The Missive,” “I Really Like Him,” and “A Little Gossip,” his combination of angelic little-boy and impish Puck approaches along with a voice not afraid to belt when needed seals the deal:  This is the Sancho Panza with whom any Don Quixote would go into battle.

Joining the two principals of the story is an entire ensemble of well-cast members, many of whom not only play one or more roles but who also play a variety of instruments from Spanish guitar and flute to viola, melodica, and euphonium (the last being Sancho’s big brass way of announcing in a few notes his knight’s entrance or in hilariously giving himself a starting key for his next song).  Mark Dietrich magnificently directs the music of this orchestra of sorts in a way that fits so well their rag-tailed nature.

Rachel Richman
Rachel Richman plays the inn’s barmaid and resident prostitute, Aldonza, whom Don Quixote immediately dubs as his life-long, sworn love, Lady Dulcinea.  When in “It’s All the Same” she describes her life of loving too many men “with hatred burning in my breast,” Ms. Richman’s voice is both seductively sinful and pitifully innocent, both madly insolent and yet dutifully worthy of sympathy.  She gradually peels away the layers of disbelief and resistance to this kind but foolish knight’s adoration and his sense of unrelenting hope when there should be none, joining with Sancho in admitting “I Really Like Him.”  Ms. Richman continues transforming in believable and moving ways her Aldonza, until in the end once a prisoner again, she leads her fellow condemned in the final, moving “The Impossible Dream” as Cervantes is led away to the fate of the real, Inquisition trial he faces.  Kudos goes to Ms. Richman for a performance displaying life-justified harshness and hate but also new-found courage to love and be loved.

Jack O'Reilly & Jenny Matteucci
Emma Onasch, Jenny Matteucci, Maurice Suarez, and Jack O’Reilly step in to play (among other roles) people from Cervantes’ household and hometown who seek to rescue him from his world of disillusionment and bring him back to what they see as reality (no matter how insane the world around them actually is).  Singing “I’m Only Thinking of Him,” they combine in an exceptionally well-directed, funny set of confessionals to their parish’s Padre (Mr. O’Reilly) in which each employs delicious facial expressions and variations of sung vocals, resulting in one of the night’s best numbers.  As the Padre, Mr. O’Reilly also particularly shines in Act One’s closing number, “To Each His Dulcinea,” as he wonders in a sweet voice that delivers quite powerfully the sentiment that is perhaps the key message of the entire musical,
“How lovely life would seem if every man could weave a dream to keep him from despair.”

And it is that message that makes this current production of Man of La Mancha so timely and relevant for an audience in which many are surely wondering how do we keep hope alive and remain to any degree optimistic when daily Tweets, threats, and executive edicts seem to be undoing everything that many of us believe to be sacred.  This wonderfully conceived and executed Man of La Mancha by Custom Made Theatre reminds us indeed that
“And the world will be better for this,
That one man, scorned and covered with scars,
Still strove, with his last ounce of courage,
To reach the unreachable stars!”

Rating: 5 E, "Must-See"

Man of La Mancha continues through February 17, 2018 at Custom Made Theatre Company, 533 Sutter Street, San Francisco.  Tickets are available online at www.custommade.org or by calling 415-789-2682 (CMTC).

Photo Credits:  Jay Yamada



"Our Great Tchaikovsky"




Our Great Tchaikovsky
Hershey Felder (Book); Piotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky (Music)

Hershey Felder
The musical chameleon Hershey Felder, who has transformed himself at the keyboard body and soul from Bernstein to Beethoven to Berlin and has at least annually for the past several years taken the Bay Area by storm, returns to TheatreWorks Silicon Valley in maybe his most emotionally gripping portrayal yet, that of Piotr Ilyich (anglicized to Peter Ilich) Tchaikovsky – a portrayal he both singly writes and performs entitled Our Great Tchaikovsky.

Please follow this link to my full review on Talkin' Broadway of this outstanding production: https://www.talkinbroadway.com/page/regional/sanjose/sj107.html.

Rating: 5 E

Our Great Tchaikovsky continues through February 11, 2018 at the Mountain View Center for the Performing Arts, 500 Castro Street, Mountain View.  Tickets are available online at http://www.theatreworks.org/box-office/ or by calling 650-463-1960, Monday – Friday 11 a.m. – 6 p.m. and Saturday – Sunday, Noon – 6 p.m.

Photo Credit: Hershey Felder Presents
 

Friday, December 15, 2017

"The Eddys: Theatre Eddys' Top Bay Area Plays & Musicals of 2017"


Theatre Eddys Presents
“The Eddys 2017”

Our San Francisco Bay Area Top Theatre Productions, 2017


This year, I attended with friends and family and reviewed 140 shows locally along with 11 shows in Ashland, Oregon (ten at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival) and 35 at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, for a total of 189 plays and musicals seen in 2017.

Of the 140 local productions that were plays and musicals (rather than operas), the most “5 E” ratings went to Berkeley Repertory Company with 6 “E’s,” followed closely by San Francisco Playhouse (5), Marin Theatre (5), and SHN (5, all touring shows and not included in “The 2016 Eddys” which represent only Bay-Area-produced shows).

Choosing “Top Lists of the Year” is made complicated by so many outstanding productions in a region blessed with so many phenomenal companies of all sizes (over 300 stages in the SF Bay Area).  Even more distressing are all the outstanding productions I did not get to see and are thus not represented in the following lists. 

And now for “The Eddys.” Theatre Eddys selects as the best of the best among the 140 local seen in 2017:

Theatre Eddys Top 10 Plays in 2017,
San Francisco Bay Area Productions

1.  The EventsDavid Grieg, Shotgun Players.
The genius of playwright David Greig particularly shines through in his instruction to a company like Shotgun Players to use a different community choir each night of the play’s performance. For Shotgun, that meant lining up almost 25 choirs and a total of 350 singers. For the Shotgun audience, it meant we got to understand the power of music to tell a difficult story and to heal wounds as well the power of watching others – not unlike ourselves -- react and comment through their music and in real time to "The Events" unfolding in front of us all.

2.  Hand to God - Robert Askins. Berkeley Repertory Theatre.
At a time we all need to be shaken up to see the devils among us (as if we were not already enough shaken by each day’s latest Tweets and Facebook headlines), Berkeley Repertory Theatre'’s production of "Hand to God" came along – a revel in hilarity, irreverence, vulgarity, and humanity and all from the mouth and wide, red-veined eyes of a puppet named Tyrone.

3.  peerless - Jiehae Park, Marin Theatre.
peerless is a brilliantly conceived production that proceeds at such whirlwind speeds through events that cause audience members to lean back in their seats in full laughter before soon moving to the edge of their seats in tight-mouthed, tense anticipation of what will happen next. 

4.  Daniel’s HusbandMichael McKeever, New Conservatory Theatre Center
After seeing the gripping, heart-wrenching (and yet at times, ridiculously funny) West Coast premiere of Michael McKeever's "Daniel’s Husband", the urgency to reassess one’s own life, relationships, and abandoned ‘to-do’ list is palpable and blood-pressure-rising. 

5.  Native Son - Nambi E. Kelley (Adapted from the Novel by Richard Wright), Marin Theatre
For more than three-quarters of a century, "Native Son" has jarred the thinking and awareness of both black and white America. As a stage adaptation, the story of Bigger is shockingly still too familiar in a present-day America that has yet to figure out how to call a halt to the seemingly inevitable destruction of too many of her young, African-American men.

6.  brownsville song (b-side for tray) - Kimber Lee, Shotgun Players.
Playwright Kimber Lee forces us not to move on too quickly without first hearing the entire story behind a headline that has a tendency to blend in with all the similar ones before and after it.  Like the other, ‘b’ side of the old 45 rpm records, she flips over the oft-played side of the murderous headline and asks us to watch and listen to who one of these young victims of urban shootings really is and to meet the family who must live forever with his loss and their grief. 

7.  Small Mouth Sounds - Bess Wohl, American Conservatory Theatre.
Six seekers of needed solace arrive for a week of forested retreat, reflection, and possible resurrection from various personal traumas and tragedies – a week where they are to refrain from any talking except when directed by their Teacher.

8.  Barbeque - Robert O’Hara, San Francisco Playhouse.
Step right in the middle of a bitingly hilarious, incisively irreverent, and deliciously raunchy look at one family, its convoluted relationships, and the individual and collective excesses, prejudices, and self-destructive behaviors of its members.

9.  The Further Adventures of Hedda Gabler - Jeff Whitty, Dragon Productions.
A hilarious, Vaudevillian-like glimpse of the afterlife of fictional characters, this is a first-class, must-see outing that will delight every lover of stage and film as the fictional stars of today and yesteryear parade before us in a wild, wiley, and sometimes totally whacky Hedda like none before her.   

10.  Luna Gale - Rebecca Gilman, Aurora Theatre.
Rebecca Gilman’s timely and important play. "Luna Gale" teaches more than entertains, leaving us with a new-found empathy for the complicated, over-loaded role of a social worker in today’s foster childcare universe. Even more, Luna Gale reminds us that at the heart of every one of those ninety cases is a precious child just wanting to be loved in a safe, caring home.

Five Theatre Eddys Honorable Mention Plays in 2017
(In No Particular Order)

--> Shakespeare in Love, Based on the Screenplay by Tom Stoppard and Marc Norman, Adapted for the Stage by Lee Hall, Marin Theatre.

--> Leaving the Blues, Jewelle Gomez, New Conservatory Theatre Center.

--> A View from a Bridge, Arthur Miller, The Pear.

--> Eclipsed, Danai Gurira, Curran Theatre.

--> A Thousand Splendid Suns, Adapted by Ursula Rani Sarma, based on the Novel by Khaled Hosseini, American Conservatory Theatre.


Theatre Eddys Top 10 Musicals in 2017,
San Francisco Bay Area Productions

1.  The Four Immigrants, Min Kahng (Book, Music & Lyrics), TheatreWorks, Silicon Valley.
The story of immigrants arriving on the shores of the Golden State is told with songs that often sound as all-American as “Yankee Doodle” – songs with notes of jazz, ragtime, country-western, and even Sousa-like march beats. The musical explores and exposes a part of San Francisco, California, and U.S. history still largely unknown today.  Within a few scenes, the resemblances to current events in America of this century-old history become increasingly surreal. 

2.  Ain’t Too Proud: The Life and Times of the Temptations, Dominique Morisseau (Book); The Legendary Motown Catalogue (Music & Lyrics), Berkeley Repertory Theatre.
This world premiere, musical history of the Temptations in one whose story and music should propel it into the same outer orbits that has kept "The Jersey Boys" so globally popular since its 2005 debut.

3.  Rags, Joseph Stein (Book); Charles Strouse (Music); Stephen Schwartz (Lyrics), TheatreWorks, Silicon Valley.
There are not adjectives enough to describe the heart and genius Robert Kelley brought to his direction of this big, complex musical that flows on the stage in a stream of scenes that never pause, never confuse, never falter. That this is a story over one hundred years old of Jewish immigrants arriving at Ellis Island may be true, but that it still rings with contemporary relevance – now more than ever – becomes strikingly clear by a director’s subtle touch.

4.  A Night with Janis Joplin - Randy Johnson (Creator & Writer), American Conservatory Theatre.
In an evening not to be soon forgotten even as pulse rates decrease to normal and the ear worms left by throbbing music eventually fade from audience ears, American Conservatory Theatre presented in rock concert fashion Randy Johnson’s (creator, writer, and director) A Night with Janis Joplin.

5.  Fun Home - Jeanine Tesori (Music); Lisa Kron (Book & Lyrics), based on the Graphic Novel by Alison Bechdel, Curran Theatre.
At times blunt and bleak, the musical that fills out the entire story of a small-town, Pennsylvania family -- while heartbreakingly sad at points -- also finds plenty of room for many chuckles and some big laughs, heartwarming memories, first-love romps, and difficult but powerful self-discoveries. 

6.  Smokey Joe’s Café, Jerry Leiber & Mike Stoller (Music & Words),
A foot-stomping, non-story review of a whopping collection of thirty-nine hits created by Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller during the 1950s and 1960s.  This show grabs hold of its audience in the opening notes, shakes them up in number-after-number’s eye-popping choreography, and then leaves them in the end with big grins and ear-worms that probably will not go away for days.

7.  The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Alan Menken (Music); Stephen Schwartz (Lyrics); Peter Parnell (Book), Hillbarn Theatre.

Based on the 1831 novel by Victor Hugo, "The Hunchback of Notre Dame" as a stage musical retains the songs of the 1996 Disney film while keeping more of the darker, more serious elements of the novel than does the movie. This is not a musical that guarantees a happy ending; but under the direction of Riley Costello, the current Hillbarn Theatre production absolutely proved to be inspiring, moving, and uplifting as well as musically stunning in every respect.

8.  Anything Goes, Cole Porter (Music & Lyrics); P.G. Wodehouse, Guy Bolton, Howard Lindsay & Russell Crouse (Original Book); Timothy Crouse & John Weidman (New Book), Pacific Coast Repertory Theatre.
Not only are the songs of Cole Porter big, perennial draws, but so are his uniquely clever lyrics, the rousing choreography (including one of the best tap numbers in all Broadway history), comical elements that make the best of Vaudeville look dull, and a multi-level love story that is full of mishaps, disguises, and many happy endings for all.

9.  Silence! the Musical - Jon Kaplan & Al Kaplan (Music & Lyrics); Hunter Bell (Book), Ray of Light Theatre.
"Silence! The Musical" is certainly not for everyone but is definitely for any one willing to go with the flow of four-letter words not usually spoken in polite company as well as subjects mostly found in slasher movies.

10.  Cabaret, Joe Masteroff (Book); John Kander (Music); Fred Ebb (Lyrics), Hillbarn Theatre.
Hillbarn’s version of this classis was boiling hot from Minute One with sexually explicit grabbing, rubbing, pinching, slapping, and thrusting of every possible body part by a cast dressed scantily in cheap bras, panties, and garters or in leather straps, pants, and boots. 

Five Theatre Eddys Honorable Mention Musicals in 2017
(In No Particular Order)

--> Evita, Andrew Lloyd Webber (Music); Tim Rice (Lyrics), Pacific Coast Repertory Theatre.

--> Patience, William S. Gilbert (Libretto) & Arthur Sullivan (Music), Lamplighters.

--> Side Show, Bill Russell (Book & Lyrics); Henry Krieger (Music); Bill Condon (Additional Book Material), Foothill Musical Theatre.

--> Assassins, Stephen Sondheim (Music & Lyrics); John Weidman (Book), Bay Area Musicals.

--> Monty Python’s Spamalot, Eric Idle (Book & Lyrics); John Du Prez & Eric Idle (Music), Palo Alto Players.

Theatre Eddys Top 3 Solo Shows in 2017,
San Francisco Bay Area Productions


1.  The Mushroom Cure, Adam Strauss, The Marsh.
There is no way anyone can walk out of The Mushroom Cure without a greater understanding of OCD and an never-to-be-forgotten empathy for its sufferers.  But everyone is also ensured to leave feeling uplifted by the true story of how this man, this comedian, and now even this new friend of ours has found in the end maybe not the cure, but certainly a way to manage, to survive, and yes, to thrive.

2.  Hershey Felder: Beethoven, Hershey Felder (Book); Ludwig van Beethoven (Music), TheatreWorks, Silicon Valley.
The narrator and performer extraordinaire relates the life story of one of the world’s most celebrated composers, Ludwig van Beethoven.  The musical pieces, much of which we all know so well, are as full of stories behind their making as their treble and bass staffs are packed with celebrated notes, sharps, and flats.

3.  Daughter of a Garbageman, Maureen Langan, The Marsh.
In her one-woman tour-de-force, Maureen Langan explores in some sincerity but mostly with full tongue-in-cheek why America seems currently to be rewarding reality show stars and not her (or you or me).  She looks at her upbringing to find out why did she grow up not realizing that “all you have to be in life is young, hot, and famous” to be successful.