One of the most frequent questions I get when I tell people that I write about theatre in San Diego is “San Diego? Is there a lot of theatre there?”
Which I think is a disservice because San Diego is one of the BEST cities for theatre, for creativity, and for thinking outside the box. Have you noticed that we are always hosting World Premiers, or sending things off to New York, or doing reimagined versions of classics that push boundaries of how we think and evaluate those shows? That is part of what makes this city one that is a pleasure to cover each year.
Since this is the time of year that “best of” lists start popping up like weeds, here are few of theatrical items that I think deserve a shout out for 2016
“Come from Away” – La Jolla Playhouse
I loved this show so much, it is set to open on Broadway at the Schoenfeld Theatre in February (official opening March 12th) but it made it premiered here at the La Jolla Playhouse. Showing another side of the 9/11 attacks, this show tells the story of the tiny Newfoundland town of Gander that took care of people from all over the world that ended up stranded in their town when all flights were diverted from the US. It speaks to the fact that even in the face of unspeakable tragedy and terror, humankind’s strength is in our way better nature; in how we elevate instead of denigrate, and how we care for each other is how we create a better world. www.lajollaplayhouse.org
“Lizard Boy The Musical” Diversionary Theatre
A comic book inspired musical about a boy who looks like a lizard, is looking for love, has to fight a villain, and defend the world from dragons? Sign me up! Yes, it may have been my two nerd worlds colliding, but this was one of the most innovative and fun musicals I have seen in a while. Performed by a cast of three friends, this show was creative, touching, with a fun folk inspired score, and that cello!! Who knew what the world really needed was more cello? Written by Justin Huertas, and directed by Brandon Ivie I hope this show continues its epic hero’s journey. www.diversionary.org
“Gypsy” – The Cygnet Theatre
As I noted in my review of this show in August, iconic shows can be tricky. What made this one stand out to me was the way this cast and direction highlighted Rose’s ambition and ever growing desperation as a tangible thing, and one whose fuel is the family that eventually gets burnt out before her drive reaches its goal. The Cygnet continually makes the decision to approach theatre from a different angle to make their audience not only connect but to think. Their adventurous and exciting spirit highlighted take that “Gypsy” is less about entertainment and more about desperation and need for validation. Think of it as the first reality show. www.cygnettheatre.com
“Miracle on 34th Street: A Live Musical Radio Play” – San Diego Musical Theatre
I am not normally one that is a huge fan of the overly saccharine holiday shows that tend to come out at the end of the year. I am a fan of tradition, but when it’s an avalanche of sugary traditions everywhere you turn it can seem like sensory overload; which is why I found this show to be such a delightful treat. Its talented cast, beautiful set, holiday story, and creativity all added up to a production that offered the perfect mix of bubbly fun and festiveness to spark the holiday spirit. www.sdmt.org
Special Theatrical Mention:
Shakespeare’s First Folio came to San Diego
Proving a good book can always survive and inspire, this 17th century book is one of the few surviving books that contained Shakespeare’s 36 plays for the first time. Brought to San Diego by the Old Globe and the San Diego Public Library, people had a chance to see this book (opened to the “Hamlet” speech everyone knows “To be or not to be”). “First Folio! The Book That Gave Us Shakespeare” this was the only California stop on its nationwide tour, and it showed that the power of Shakespeare, and books, never truly go out of style.
What were some of your San Diego highlights in 2016?