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Celebrating the best shows of 2021

 As we head towards the end of the year and look forward to a new one, it’s the perfect time to celebrate the great theatre that was made by San Diego theatres and artists. From virtual to in-person, theatre proved that art finds a way, and even a pandemic can’t keep them down.

The following list is in no particular order of what I consider some of the best shows of 2021, both virtual and in-person that were performed in 2021.

The cast of ONCE ON THIS ISLAND (Front)) Brooke Henderson (Back) Maya Washington Photo Credit: Ken Jacques

ONCE ON THIS ISLAND – Moonlight Theatre

This show had an insanely talented cast, this Caribbean fairytale was joyful, colorful, exuberant showcased powerhouse vocals. If the Moonlight amphitheater had a roof, this show would have blown it off at every performance.

THE GARDEN – La Jolla Playhouse

This beautiful world premiere play about a mother and daughter’s fraught relationship was written by and co-stared Charlayne Woodard. Along with Stephanie Berry, this play was co-directed by Patricia McGregor and Delicia Turner Sonnenberg, and not only featured some beautiful performances by gorgeous set design as well.

Caiel Noble and Ashley Graham Photo Credit – The Roustabout Theatre Co

THE MOUNTAINTOP– American History Theater, The Roustabouts Theatre, and Teenage Youth Performing Arts Theatre (TYPA)

This play imagines the last hours of Martin Luther King’s life, and featured excellent performances by Caiel Noble as King, and Ashley Graham as Camae a hotel maid who isn’t all that she seems. Directed by Kandace Crystal this play was timely, powerful, and heartbreaking all at the same time.

SONFS FOR ANEW WORLD – Teatro San Diego

SONGS FOR A NEW WORLD – Teatro San Diego

Teatro San Diego chose this show as a filmed staging for their debut production. Directed by Director Kevin “Blax” Burroughs, and with musical direction by William BJ Robinson. They found new ways for the cast to interpret the scenes and songs to bring them into 2021 in an impactful way.

DEAR JACK, DEAR LOUISE: A LOVE LETTER EXPERIENCE Photo credit: E. Reiter, materials from The Old Globe

DEAR JACK, DEAR LOUISEThe Old Globe

This virtual and interactive theatre event from The Old Globe offered a thoroughly captivating, romantic, and lovely wartime courtship experience delivered to you through World War II letters, airmail, pictures, and telegrams.

BiBi Mama in THE MANGO TREE

THE MANGO TREE – MOXIE Theatre

Written, co-directed, and performed with Bibi Mama, with Claire Simba as the other co-director, this show delivered a spirited performance. Full of family and folklore the story was vibrant, fun, and haunting.

WITCHLAND – Backyard Renaissance Theatre

It is so truly difficult to do any type of horror in live theatres, but this world premiere play by Tim Mulligan was staged in such an inventive and immersive way, and with just the right balance of humor to balance out the scares, that this was a frightfully good show.

Emily Candia, Carla Navarro and Sandra Ruiz in THE DROWNING GIRLS

THE DROWNING GIRLS – OnStage Playhouse

This one-act is based on the true events of a killer in early 20th century London, who drowned three of his young wives in bathtubs. Directed by James P. Darvas, the play was imaginative, inventive, spooky and featured Emily Candia, Carla Navarro and Sandra Ruiz as the bathing brides.

PASSION: A KETUVIM PLAY

PASSION: A KETUVIM PLAY – Turnkey Theatre

With an empathetic and engaging original work, TurnkKey Theatre premiered their second audio play with PASSION: A KETUVIM PLAY. Told through a series of letters, it explored the life of Vashti, a Persian queen who discovers strength and self-confidence through love, and the power in the word “no.

Tovah Feldshuv in BECOMING DR. RUTH at North Coast Rep Photo: Aaron Rumley

BECOMING DR. RUTH – North Coast Repertory Theatre

This filmed production brought the incredible life story of everyone’s favorite sex educator Dr. Ruth Westheimer to stage in the comfort of your own home. Directed by David Ellenstein and featuring celebrated actress Tovah Feldshuh as Dr. Ruth the show was funny, poignant, smart, and engaging, even through a screen.

The cast of HAIR

HAIR The Old Globe

Directed by James Vásquez, the cast was excellent, had fantastic vocals, and was a direct shot of energy, creativity, and was an excellent show to reopen the live shows at the Globe after a pause due to the pandemic.

Let us know what you thought were the best shows of 2021 and what you are looking forward to in the coming year. ​

Looking for reviews of these shows? Click here!

If you want to read some interviews on the making of these shows, click here!

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