Much in the way that Star Wars: The Force Awakens was the most talked-about movie of 2015, the North Bay theater scene already has its share of shows that are receiving major advance buzz.
Stephen Sondheim’s dark-tinged musical fairy tale Into the Woods is staged often but rarely well. The music is hard, the cast is large, and there is an actual giant in it. Marin County’s Theater-at-Large, which staged the show in November in Novato, gave us one of the good ones. Riding in on a magical wave of thunderous praise, Into the Woods will be materializing in an encore run at Spreckels Performing Arts Center (www.spreckelsonline.com), where the mirth and mayhem of Sondheim’s tricky script and score will have even more room to work their complex wonders (Jan. 8–17).
And like a two-headed ogre, or ghostly doppelganger, Into the Woods will be staged again, in a completely different production, as part of Sonoma State University’s spring theater season (www.sonoma.edu/theatreanddance). Directed by Marty Pistone, with musical direction by Grammy-nominated Lynn Morrow, the double-dose of Sondheim (Feb. 4–14) is just adding to the buzz.
One Man, Two Guvnors, lauded worldwide as one of the funniest shows ever written, made a huge splash last Spring in Berkeley. Now, under the direction of Carl Jordan, its coming to 6th Street Playhouse (www.6thstreetplayhouse.com), where artistic director Craig Miller will be taking the role that made late-night-television’s James Cordon a star in London and New York. Running Jan. 15–Feb. 7, the show—about a manic fellow who hires himself out to two different employers for one very confusing day —will offer Miller a true tour-de-force opportunity to show off his comedic skills.
At Marin Theater Company (www.marintheatre.org), August Wilson’s mesmerizing masterpiece Gem of the Ocean will finally get its first North Bay production from Jan. 14 to Feb. 14, directed by Daniel Alexander Jones. The tale of an extended post-slavery family in 1904 Pittsburgh, the Tony-winning story blends magical realism and grounded, indelible characters in a tale woven around the 285-year-old Aunt Esther, who offers a haven to a troubled young vagrant named Citizen Barlow.
Though a clever series of hair-cutting videos, a conspicuous electric chair in the lobby and outrageous advance word-of-mouth, anticipation is building for Main Stage West’s (www.mainstagewest.com) presentation of Amanda Moody’s hit one-woman-show Serial Murderess, running through Jan. 17. The alternately shocking and hilarious show—about real-life women convicted of murder—is nothing short of electric.