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Sonoma County Gazette

Theater - Performing Arts

Theatrical entertainment is alive and well in Sonoma County, with over 23 venues offering everything from musicals to one-man shows, drama, comedy, new works, and more. Our region is blessed with an abundance of live performance, including community, educational, and professional companies. With so much to choose from, Jeanie Smith provides previews and features for our print edition to showcase upcoming productions, and posts reviews on the website all month long of shows currently running. See the most recent reviews on this page, or search JEANIE SMITH.

For past reviews, search ALEXA CHIPMAN (2018-2019) or HARRY DUKE (2017-2018).

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2019-09-12Sep 12, 2019

All these years of seeing Transcendence Theatre Company shows, and I’d never been to a Gala, the last show of every summer that runs only three performances and caps off the season. Thankfully, after last weekend I can now say I’ve remedied that error, and thoroughly enjoyed it. It’s definitely TTC’s signature style, with outstanding song and dance in original arrangements, but specifically featuring Broadway hits both classic and new, making it an end-of-season gift for patrons.

2019-07-26Jul 26, 2019

While selecting the shows for next season we noticed a trend. The main characters find themselves in a similar position. They all have a choice to make. Do they abide by the rules, expectations, conventions and traditions or do they break from them? So, we decided to challenge our own rules.As you know by now, Left Edge is committed to bringing the absolute best and boldest plays to Sonoma County. Plays which have never been pro duced here before and are fresh.

2019-07-26Jul 26, 2019

Flynn Creek Circus’ 2019 show, ‘Out of Hat’ brings internationally award-winning performers to an intimate setting for a truly authentic theater experience. The show delivers explosively entertaining acrobatics, aerial stunts and feats of skill that require decades of passionate dedication. 

2019-07-25Jul 25, 2019

Live theatre is alive and well in Sonoma County, with over 20 venues offering quality entertainment, from blockbuster musicals to intimate plays and everything in between. With so much happening, I can only highlight a few of the gems I’m looking forward to seeing on our prolific stages this Fall. So many, so little space!

2019-07-16Jul 16, 2019

Possessing some of the finest hummable songs in musical theatre, My Fair Lady has charmed audiences since 1956, and sometimes been called “the perfect musical.” But anyone who sings “I Could Have Danced All Night” in the shower knows how deceptively difficult Frederick Loewe’s score can be, especially with that high note at the end. Fear not, the production at Sonoma Arts Live has Sarah Wintermeyer as Eliza, who will regale you with her superb delivery of all those “Loverly” songs, with a voice of liquid gold and her spunky charm. 

2019-07-15Jul 15, 2019

The biggest show of the year, the Monte Rio Variety Show will take place at the Monte Rio Amphitheater on Thursday July 25. Join us for a special evening of music, comedy and theater. With a uniquely wide range of acts, from Jazz to Classical, from Country to Rock, the Monte Rio Variety Show has been a Russian River tradition for 108 years.

2019-07-15Jul 15, 2019

Imagine yourself watching an Imaginists show… and enjoy the rare treat of ensemble-devised theatre meant to entertain, engage, and empower you, with timely topics— all for free in Santa Rosa parks during July. Founded by Brent Lindsay and Amy Pinto, The Imaginists have been in Santa Rosa for nine years, intentionally pushing boundaries and providing original theatrical art that interacts with community in new and exciting ways.

2019-07-14Jul 14, 2019

Anyone looking to liven up the midsummer doldrums should head on over to theCloverdale Performing Arts Center for “a hilarious evening of murder and mayhem” in the form of their stage production of The 39 Steps.I’ve used the words “fast” and “fun” more than once in this review. I could change a few to “rapid” and “amusing” but the meaning would be the same. Fasten your seat belts for this play. It’s not a bumpy ride, but a wild one and you’ll be laughing all the way. 

2019-07-03Jul 3, 2019

One of Shakespeare’s so-called “problem plays,”Measure for Measure is not often produced, defying genre classification and posing an enigmatic ending. But the current production in Marin deftly dispels any doubts about the entertainment potential of the play, giving us an amusing, touching, and rousing rendition that is surprisingly resonant for today. Clever staging and excellent performances along with some original elements makeMarin Shakespeare Company’s 30th anniversary something to happily celebrate.

2019-06-23Jun 23, 2019

One of the most difficult musicals to produce, with a challenging score and staging demands, West Side Story still merits the effort, delivering a cautionary tale that resonates all too well in today’s troubled times. The current production at 6th Street Playhouse gives the show an energetic and emotional rendering, reminding us why it continues to be powerful and worthwhile.

2019-06-16Jun 16, 2019

The production represents fulfillment of a long-held dream of the group’s founders Amy Miller, Brad Surosky, and Stephan Stubbins, who seemed to always know, or perhaps hope, that one day their company would reach a point where it would be possible to mount their favorite musical of all time, and do it as only TTC can do it. That means pulling out all the stops with a tremendous cast, nimble orchestra, and a fresh take on staging and choreography, and the result is truly memorable, a fantastic performance full of delights.

2019-09-08Sep 8, 2019

There’s a great story in the program of how the play Nuts took Santa Rosa by storm in 1983 when presented by the new Actors Theatre in a downtown storefront. It’s a warm tale of a populace hungry for meaningful art, rewarding a fledgling theatre company with sold-out performances and acclaim. Left Edge Theatre, the later stepchild of that same group, chose to revive Nuts, defying their own rules to share a play about rules-breaking, fitting in the context of their current season. 

2019-06-09Jun 9, 2019

Remember the Men’s Movement, that took American culture by storm in the ‘80s? Men drawn to male-bonding and group drumming would meet in the wilderness somewhere for a weekend retreat, baring their souls and gaining a new perspective on their masculinity, sometimes fueled by drink or drugs and powered by pseudo rituals for self-examination. Well, the Movement is alive and well, sort of, in the world premiere of local playwright David Templeton’s newest play, Drumming with Anubis, currently running at Left Edge Theatre in Santa Rosa.

2019-06-05Jun 5, 2019

William Shakespeare’s ‘Macbeth’ is saturated with a mystical, charged atmosphere of shrouded moors and supernatural omens echoing through castle halls. In this unique adaptation by Avilynn Pwyll, magick takes center stage through the antics of witches and Lady Macbeth’s dark arts. 

2019-05-29May 29, 2019

Emily Dickinson was an extraordinary woman who had the courage to live as she liked, regardless of expectations. “The Belle of Amherst” celebrates her story through the voice of a single actor, portraying fifteen different characters. It is a quiet, intimate play; the poet interacts directly with the audience, even offering them her famous cake. She reminisces about childhood antics, lost love and her passion for nature. Starring Jennifer King.


2019-05-22May 22, 2019

Women Take Center Stage in the Classics. Gioacchino Rossini’s ‘The Barber of Seville.’ the upcoming Cinnabar Theater production and Macbeth, The Witches’ Cut’ is an edited version of William Shakespeare’s play that focuses on female characters at the Curtain Call theater.

2019-05-21May 21, 2019

The visual spectacle of vibrant gowns (designed byPamela J. Johnson) and fairytale landscapes (projections byChris Schloemp) will delight all ages. There are captivating touches of stagecraft magic, such as a terrifying dragon and Cinderella’s transformation from rags to a princess. This is a feast for the eyes.   

2019-05-14May 14, 2019

‘Lungs’ is an unusual play with jarring, realistic dialogue that feels like eavesdropping on a private conversation.Duncan Macmillan’s writing captures the unreasonable, messy arguments that couples have about relationships, depression, and the daunting task of raising a child.

2019-05-07May 7, 2019

Tantalizing connections are just out of reach in the experimental ‘This Random World’ bySteven Dietz. A series of vignettes follow seven characters who have fleeting interactions, without realizing that there are actually reasons for them to build deeper relationships. The audience is in the know, but not the characters, creating a strange and mesmerizing dichotomy. For example, Tim and Gary have an awkward conversation about red licorice while waiting at the hospital, completely oblivious to the fact they are both ex-boyfriends of the same woman.

2019-05-06May 6, 2019

Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck is an important part of the American canon of literary works. Cloverdale Performing Arts Center’s production of this classic will be a comfort to those who know the story and a pleasant discovery for those who don’t. This production proves how powerful live theater can be.


2019-05-01May 1, 2019

‘Born Yesterday’ is an animated, empowering story of what happens when women are given the education and space to become their best selves. It has moments of silliness and horror, maintaining a healthy balance between the two. Have a few laughs and enjoy this talented ensemble at Sonoma Arts Live.


2019-05-01May 1, 2019

Left Edge Theatre offers a Season Showcase presenting snippets of potential plays for the upcoming season, and ‘This Random World’ was an audience favorite from last year. Director Phoebe Moyer. ‘Billy Nobody’ is a flamboyant romantic comedy centered around vivacious Aurora (Elizabeth Henry) and Billy (John Rowan), who has allowed the pressures of responsibility and toxic relationships to transform his worldview into one of fear. Written by local playwright Stanley Rutherford, it uses ordinary situations like frustration at the Big Value checkout stand to create a relatable setting. Sharon Hawthorne is the director, 

2019-09-04Sep 4, 2019
Brilliant. That’s the word that popped into my head at the end of Eureka Day, presented by Spreckels Theatre Company in Rohnert Park. Absolutely brilliant, timely, prescient, smart, and utterly captivating is this relatively new play by Bay Area playwright Jonathan Spector. It’s also touching, heart-wrenching, and even unsettling in its unsparing observations of current times. Spreckels’ production features a terrific cast and crisp staging to match, and is a definite Don’t Miss.
2019-04-24Apr 24, 2019

Looking back at a life filled with regrets, a family struggles to reclaim their sense of identity and repair damaged relationships. Vanya and Sonia spend their hours sniping at each other, wishing they had taken more risks in their youth, while Masha has taken her career to the extreme, never stopping long enough to nurture genuine love. In a whirlwind arrival, Masha appears on the doorstep with her newest boyfriend, Spike, announcing that they are all to attend a costume party. In the ensuing clashes and revelations, the estranged siblings gain a new appreciation for each other and hope for the future.


2019-04-24Apr 24, 2019

Benjamin Pither is portraying Joe Copeland, one of the ranchers. “He and his family are on the brink of losing everything if the rain doesn’t come” Pither explains. “Joe is fueled by the newfound faith he brings to the town and begins to cling to his belief in the impossible.”

2019-04-22Apr 22, 2019

Impressive artistry and movement take center stage in the annual ‘Spring Dance Concert’ at Sonoma State University. Esteemed choreographers gather to create moving, contemporary works with the students, who embody them wholeheartedly. In the final weekend, the ensemble is joined by a group of alumni who will perform “Perceptual Realities” in addition to the core dance pieces    

2019-04-09Apr 9, 2019

The San Francisco Film Festival opens April 10th and goes to April 23rd. For those of you who enjoyed last month’s Sonoma International Film Festival and the Sebastopol Documentary Film Festival, this one is much bigger and more celebrities attend. The highlight for me at Sonoma was meeting Julia Ormond, who came for her opening night premiere of “Ladies in Black”Opening this month at your local theater is “The Best of Enemies” starring my friend and recent Oscar winner Sam Rockwell and Taraji P Henson. The true story of the unlikely relationship between Ann Atwater, an outspoken civil rights activist and C.P. Ellis, a local Ku Klux Klan leader. Could Sam earn his third Oscar nomination in 3 years? Let’s hope! It opens April 5th. Also opening this weekend is “Shazam!” starring Zachary Levi. A fun superhero movie where teenager Billy Batson tests out his newfound powers. For my live theater fans there is “Jesus Christ Superstar” directed by the very talented Lesley McCauley who has been directing at the Junior College for over 20 years. And so much more...

2019-04-02Apr 2, 2019

Community is faith at its strongest, and for settlers in the remote Appalachian Mountains, it is everything. When an Episcopal bishop arrives to properly civilize them, he is met with wary skepticism. Superstition, not theology, rules their tiny valley. Leaving behind his companion Starns as Deacon, the bishop continues his mission elsewhere. So begins an intense narrative of blood rituals, passion, and salvation.

2019-09-01Sep 1, 2019

Little Shop of Horrors, the musical that put Howard Ashman and Alan Menken on the musical theatre map in 1982, has been around long enough that chances are you’ve seen it before— but don’t let that stop you from seeing the superb production at Cinnabar Theater in Petaluma— a truly refreshing, entertaining and superior production of this zany and lovable show.

2019-08-30Aug 30, 2019

For a real blockbuster, there’s the classic Gypsy, filled with memorable songs and Broadway performer Kathy Fitzgerald. See what all the fuss was about with that icon of the Broadway belt and head to Sonoma Arts Live for Merman’s Apprentice. Left Edge Theatre breaks their own rules (and why not?) regarding age of play and prior stagings in order to present the contemporary classic Nuts. At Main Stage West, see Body Awareness, one of American playwright Annie Baker’s earliest plays (2008). This year’s festival at Pegasus Theater Company running September 13-28 features six plays, with six local actresses playing all the roles.

2019-08-26Aug 26, 2019

This is one very funny play— aided by a group of excellent actors who know how to deliver comedy and are nicely suited for their roles, keeping the audience laughing throughout the two hours.6th Street Playhouse scores big with their season opener in the newly named and refurbished Monroe Stage (formerly the Studio). Start your September theatre binge with a contemporary comic riff on identity, secrets, and truth— oh, and books, too.

2019-08-12Aug 12, 2019
The hallmark of Transcendence Theatre Company since their earliest shows has been the musical revue, that they do so extremely well— mixing Broadway and Pop, standards and the newest hits, in modern and fresh arrangements and staging. Add triple-threat performers from professional stages around the country, and you have a sure-fire formula for a thrilling success of a show. Those Dancin’ Feet is another notch in the TTC belt, emphasizing dance and choreography alongside superb vocals, with energetic and entertaining effect. 


2019-08-12Aug 12, 2019

Tucked away in a converted warehouse in a Napa business/industrial area is a gem of a theatre producing quality shows for those willing to make the short hop. Lucky Penny Productions, the brainchild of co-founders Barry Martin and Taylor Bartolucci, has been going strong for ten years now, mounting classics, contemporary works and musicals for delighted audiences. The Tasting Room, a revival from 2018 written by Martin himself, showcases some of the company’s associate artists and delivers happy hilarity that locals will especially appreciate.

2019-07-29Jul 29, 2019

For those of you who like to see movies in the theater, you will be happy to know there are seven amazing movies opening this month in theaters. Starting with “The Farewell”. It stars Awkwafina as a granddaughter who is devoted to her grandmother who she finds out is dying. Fans of “Oceans 8” and “Crazy Rich Asians” will love Awkwafina in a dramatic role. It opens August 2nd.

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