Fall is usually marked by the local theatre community with a series of ambitious announcements heralding the shows each company plans to produce for their new season. COVID continues to be a factor as companies optimistically make plans while struggling to fill casts and schedule rehearsals. Some companies have reacted to the continued uncertainty surrounding the pandemic by reducing the number of productions in their season. Others continue full-force on the trek to “normalcy” by planning for complete seasons with shows that often require large casts. We shall see.
COVID protocols vary from company to company. In their desire to attract still wary audience members, many companies tout that they are “fully vaccinated”, meaning that to step foot in the building in any capacity – employee, volunteer, actor, musician, etc. – requires complete vaccination. As far as audience members, some companies still require proof of vaccination and masking to attend while others simply make a “recommendation”. Most companies list their protocols on their websites but, in many cases, they’ve been moved from a prominent position on the companies’ home pages to other, less immediately-visible areas.
So the shows go on in the North Bay with companies bringing the usual mix of familiar musicals, dramas, and comedies to their stages with an occasional step out of the norm.
Perhaps the most anticipated production in the North Bay is the Left Edge Theatre presentation of Fun Home. The musical adaptation of Alison Bechdel’s 2006 graphic novel was a big hit, both off- and on-Broadway, and will be the inaugural production at The California, a new downtown Santa Rosa entertainment venue. The show opens September 3. (leftedgetheatre.com)
Monte Rio’s Curtain Call Theatre keeps things small with A. R. Gurney’s two-hander Love Letters. This simply-staged exploration of a couple’s relationship as recounted through their writings to each other opens September 2. (russianriverhall.com)
For folks seeking a more traditional musical, Rohnert Park’s Spreckels Performing Arts Center will be presenting Meredith Willson’s The Music Man on their expansive Codding Theatre stage starting September 9. This show has one of the largest casts in the area, but it remains to be seen if there will actually be 76 trombones leading the big parade. (spreckelsonline.com)
Sonoma Arts Live goes a bit off their beaten path with Ain’t Misbehavin’. Director Aja Gianola-Norris brings artists of color together on the Rotary Stage at Andrews Hall in this tribute to the music of “Fats” Waller and the jazz and swing eras. The show opens September 9. (sonomartslive.com)
If adults acting like children is your thing, then Petaluma’s Cinnabar Theater has the show for you. It’s The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee and it goes down (and up) on September 9. (cinnabartheater.org)
Santa Rosa’s 6th Street Playhouse brings the latest iteration of the Kander and Ebb musical Cabaret to their GK Hardt Theatre on September 15. Jared Sakren directs what 6th Street describes as a “daring and provocative” production with “lavish music, erotic dancing, and an alarming finale.” (6thstreetplayhouse.com)
Healdsburg’s Raven Players venture north to the Cloverdale Performing Arts Center for a reprise of their production of The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged) for a two-weekend run beginning September 17. (cloverdaleperformingarts.com)
Then the Raven Players return to Healdsburg and open a “splatter zone” at the Raven Performing Arts Theater for their production of Evil Dead, The Musical. The blood starts flying September 23. (raventheater.org)
Sebastopol’s Main Stage West follows last season’s closing production of Jen Silverman’s Wink with a late September season-opening production of Silverman’s The Moors. Expect a little weirdness and some very dark humor in this one. (mainstagewest.com)
Santa Rosa Junior College’s Theatre Arts Department will present the theatrical adaptation of the film Stand and Deliver in the renovated Burbank Auditorium’s Studio theatre at the end of September. (theatrearts.santarosa.edu)
Napa’s Lucky Penny Productions brings Christopher Durang’s comedy Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike to their Community Arts Center stage on September 9. (luckypennynapa.com)
Mill Valley’s Marin Theater Company has reduced their season from six shows to four and plans to open on September 22 with David Grieg’s Dunsinane. Grieg’s continuation of Shakespeare’s Macbeth will be produced in partnership with Tamalpais High School’s Conservatory Theatre Ensemble. (marintheatre.org)
The Novato Theatre Company opens their season September 9 with Annie Baker’s Circle Mirror Transformation, a sort-of backstage look at the drama and discovery that goes on at drama classes. (novatotheatercompany.org)
The Ross Valley Players open their 93rd season with Picnic, William Inge’s classic look at sexuality, repression, rites of passage, and disappointment in small-town 1950’s America. It joins a plethora of North Bay shows opening September 9. (rossvalleyplayers.com)
The Playhouse in San Anselmo hosts a production of The Realistic Jones. Will Eno’s look at a pair of neighbors that has been described as a “dramatic comedy” opens on – you guessed it – September 9. (playhousesananselmo.org)
North Bay theatre patrons will certainly have plenty of options in the Fall, but it might behoove the local producing organizations to look at simultaneous runs as a possible impediment to rebuilding their audiences (let alone getting critics to their openings.)
This preview was originally published in the North Bay Bohemian, Pacific Sun, and the Healdsburg Tribune.