It Feels a Bit Like Broadway in the Bay Area by Kevin M. Thomas, @ReelKev

Darren Criss in "Hedwig and the Angry Inch"

Darren Criss in “Hedwig and the Angry Inch”

Theatre in the Bay Area is literally singing the sounds of Broadway.

“Hedwig and the Angry Inch” may be finished on Broadway, but some of the New York cast as taken the show on the road.

Darren Criss, from TV’s “Glee,” played the role towards the end of its New York run, and brings his own style and stamp on the role made famous by creator John Cameron Mitchell and Tony winner Neil Patrick Harris.

With Criss being a San Francisco native, he makes a proud homecoming in the flamboyant role of Hedwig, a German male who shares his stories of a botched sex change and being the Svengali to a young singer who goes on to have a big career, leaving Hedwig in the dust to perform at Sizzlers across America.

The story unfolds almost as a one man show, with Criss talking to the audience like a performer would do at a concert between songs.

The story is somewhat localized for a San Francisco audience and Criss does a great job at delivering the punch lines with relish and adding a true tenderness to some of the more heart breaking stories from Hedwig’s life.

Lena Hall is also on hand, re-creating her Tony winning role. She has a great voice, accompanying Hedwig every step of the way and finds her own moments to shine, especially in her big reveal towards the end of the show.
“Hedwig” plays in San Francisco at the Golden Gate Theatre through Oct. 30 and then moves to  Los Angeles’ Pantages Theatre Nov. 1-27. Get information and tickets at www.hedwigbroadway.com.

As the door opens to “Hedwig,” it will close soon on some other exciting shows.Theatre in the Bay Area is literally singing the sounds of Broadway.

"Little Shop of Horrors"

“Little Shop of Horrors”

The Ray of Light Theatre company is always up for a challenge. Their recent “The Wild Party” was likely one of the best productions they ever put on. Now they are taking on one giant monster with their current production of “Little Shop of Horrors,” which plays on the Victoria Theatre through October 8.

Their reputation has kept the show sold out for much of its run, so now is the perfect time to get tickets before the show closes soon.

Taking on this show in San Francisco is truly a bold move as a few years ago Nick A. Olivero’s Boxcar Theatre production of the show was truly the pinnacle of productions, better than the Broadway and Off-Broadway original – and I’ve seen them all.

I have followed this from a cult film with Jack Nicholson to the 1980s Off-Broadway sensation to, years later, its turn on Broadway.

Now it’s in the hands of Ray of Light. It doesn’t surpass the Boxcar production, but it’s a winning and fun show all the same.

Artistic director Jason Hoover further establishes himself as a capable stage director  as he keeps the show fluid and flowing,  and does a great job at showcasing the ever-growing man-eating plant, which is the centerpiece of the show.

He has gotten great performances out of his cast as well. Sam Faustine makes a sexy and awkward Seymour who plays well off Mary Kalita’s Audrey. Both appealing and wonderful.

But the show is truly elevated by a knock-your-socks off supporting cast including Jessica Coker who, for the first time in memory, is the first woman to do the voice of Audrey II. Her voice is one of San Francisco’s greatest treasures and she does not disappoint. Katrina McGraw as one of the street urchin vocalists challenges Coker as the show’s big voice diva, making the audience feel lucky they don’t have to vote for best voice,  but can just relax and enjoy them both.

Then there’s Brendon North, who makes his ROLT debut as Orin, and other roles. North – where have you been? You are funny, charming, witting and have a wonderful voice. You really reach our funny bones in your fast changing characterizations!

While this is closing soon, ROLT is already to bring back “Rocky Horror Show,” with D’Arcy Drollinger, which was a big hit last year.

Get information and tickets to both at www.rayoflighttheatre.com.

"Pride & Prejudice"

“Pride & Prejudice”

Another show that is getting national attention is “Pride & Prejudice – The Musical.”

The show, from Mill Valley’s IAM Theatre group, also ends soon, playing through Oct. 9 at San Francisco’s Southside Theatre at Fort Mason.

Besides running to get tickets, this show is noteworthy as this is a national premiere of a show written by Bay Area’s own Josie Brown (book) and Rita Abrams (music and lyrics).

The Jane Austen novel has had many film incarnations but rarely as a live musical, with this production debuting in London, and finally coming home to the Bay Area.

The show with its simplistic but well designed sets and costumes has some really great melodies and some memorable songs that make this a show to seek out when it (hopefully) makes a return engagements,  and perhaps a deserved production in New York.

The songs, which I am still humming, not only are catchy and wonderful, but they do a great job at advancing the plot and story, in particular the first act’s “Five Daughters,” paints a great portrait of the Bennet family and the second act’s “That Would Be Me,” puts Lady Catherine on her own pedestal in the matter of three minutes.

The cast is for the most part really good. Rather than dwell on those who aren’t standouts, let’s focus on the positive.

David Crane as Mr. Darcy is spot on with his regal accent and captivates us even more when he sings. His beautiful and strong voice is a true find.

Brittany Law’s Elizabeth would make her onstage parents Geoffrey Colton and Kathy Deichen proud – and all three are harmonious and memorable, while helping to elevate the already wonderful story,  and its excellent songs.

While this doesn’t effect the review in any way, it is noteworthy that the creative forces behind the show are all women (much like Broadway’s “Waitress.”)

Besides Austen being a female and the show’s book and songs by women, it’s directed by Lexie Papedo Gasparini and produced by Kathy Deichen,  and women are also its musical director (Rita Abram) and choreographer (Nicole Helfer).

Hoping the show will stay around or go on tour, but just in case, get tickets now at www.iamtheatre.org.

One Response to “It Feels a Bit Like Broadway in the Bay Area by Kevin M. Thomas, @ReelKev”

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  1. Rita Abrams says:

    Dear Kevin,
    Thank you for this wonderful write-up! We are determined to honor your wishes and bring it back!
    With gratitude from Rita Abrams, composer/lyricist