By Harry Duke
Live theater continues to struggle to find its footing in a post-pandemic world.
The year was marked by audience numbers still failing to return to pre-pandemic levels, the use of understudies becoming more prevalent as a way to reduce cancellations due to Covid, the passing of some beloved members of the local theater community and the lights going out on Main Stage West, a company that often created magic on its tiny Sebastopol stage.
But as they say, the show(s) must go on, and so they did. North Bay companies continued to produce some excellent work in service of the audiences who did show up.
Here, in alphabetical order, are my Top Torn Tickets for the best and/or most interesting musicals produced in the North Bay in 2023:
Evil Dead: The Musical – Raven Players – Sometimes you just wanna go to the theater to be drenched in gallons of fake stage blood. No great message or moral to be found in this show, just a game cast willing to be decapitated and/or have their entrails tossed about on stage.
Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat – Raven Players – This early Andrew Lloyd Webber vehicle was notable for its strong vocal and character performances, and an absolutely solid live orchestra.
Kinky Boots the Musical – 142 Throckmorton Theatre – This tiny company may be Marin’s preeminent producer of large-scale musicals, and productions like this give support to that theory. A sparkling cast brought energy and genuine emotion to this joyous and life-affirming show.
A Little Night Music – Spreckels Theatre Company – A cast of North Bay veterans and young newcomers blended beautifully, delivering a very sweet and amusing take on the Sondheim classic.
Side by Side by Sondheim – Sonoma Arts Live – Sondheim again, as four very talented performers delivered a top-notch revue of some of the best (and least) known works of the musical theater titan.
Something Rotten! – 6th Street Playhouse – The affection this show’s cast had for the material and the joy they displayed in delivering it made for a tremendously entertaining evening of very amusing theater.
[title of show] – Left Edge Theatre – A show about two guys writing a show about two guys writing a show may be a bit too inside for a lot of folks, but musings on friendship, selling out and following a dream should have resonated with many. It was also very funny.
Tuck Everlasting – Spreckels Theatre Company – Stage veterans took a backseat to members of the younger generation in this well-produced, family-friendly musical which portends good things for the replenishment of the North Bay talent pool.