FOLK POETS: Tika Moon, Molly Larsen-Shine and Matthew Witthaus of Healdsburg’s Raven Players’ ‘Woody Guthrie’s American Song.’ (Photo by Ray Mabry)

Live theater continued its steady march to some semblance of normalcy in 2022, but health related-closures continue to take their toll on the North Bay theater community. After a promising start to the year, evidenced by an increase in the number and scale of productions presented by local companies, the end of the year brought another round of COVID and flu-related cancellations and closures.  

But march on they did, and ’tis time to recognize the best and/or most interesting stage work done over the past year. Here are my “Top Torn Tickets” for North Bay musicals and comedies produced in 2022:

Ain’t Misbehavin’—Sonoma Arts Live—A talented cast brought energy, joy and a refreshing blast of diversity to the valley with this tribute to the music of Thomas Wright “Fats” Waller.  

Almost, Maine—Spreckels Theatre Company—A series of short two-handers on the subject of love that ran from the whimsical to the bittersweet, its simplicity made it the theatrical equivalent of comfort food.

Fun Home—Left Edge Theatre—Another welcome blast of diversity in both subject matter and casting.

The Government Inspector—Ross Valley Players—Nikolai Gogol’s takedown of the dishonesty, greed and stupidity that runs rampant in government is fictional comedic gold. Fictional?

Hair—6th Street Playhouse—Proving what shocked audiences in the 1960s can still surprise staid Sonoma County audiences today, a beautifully diverse cast let it all hang out while letting the sunshine in.

Hank Williams: Lost Highway—6th Street Playhouse—A standard jukebox musical elevated by superb live music, with the added bonus of local blues legend Levi Lloyd making his theatrical debut.

The Music Man—Spreckels Theatre Company—The curtain finally went up on this oft-pandemic-delayed production which, while a bit too idyllic in its presentation of small-town America, was very entertaining.  

Rent—Marin Musical Theatre Company & Novato Theater Company—What this show lacked in finesse was more than made up for by its cast’s energy, enthusiasm and heart.  

Sweeney Todd, The Demon Barber of Fleet Street—Lucky Penny Productions—A surprisingly robust production of this large-scale musical by this tiny Napa company.  

Two Gentlemen of Verona—Curtain Theatre—Shakespeare can often be laborious. Shakespeare can also be hilarious. Thankfully, this outdoor production of the Bard’s first work was the latter.

Woody Guthrie’s American Song—Raven Players—Bringing a musical production to Healdsburg’s Downtown Plaza had to be quite a challenge. Challenge met.

Next up, a look back at the dramas that stood out on North Bay stages in 2022.

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