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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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2019-07-16Jul 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. 

2019-05-29May 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, 

2019-04-24Apr 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.”

2019-07-15Jul 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.

2019-04-22Apr 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.

2019-03-27Mar 27, 2019

The end of the world is coming to Spreckels Performing Arts Center in a shrewd, visceral comedy by Matt Lyle. “I chose Barbeque Apocalypse because it made me laugh out loud when I read it” explains artistic director Sheri Lee Miller. “It had a fresh voice…I am more and more drawn to plays about community.” “Born Yesterday” at Sonoma Arts Live is a glimpse into an era when women were often underestimated. Pompous, corrupt Harry thinks that the impressionable Billie will be easy to manipulate but discovers that his girlfriend will have none of it. “Billie Dawn is one of the most wonderful roles in theater” director Carl Jordan suggests.

Live Theater by Alexa Chipman

2019-03-24Mar 24, 2019

“Crisis demands art” cries Olympe de Gouges, an 18th century playwright and focus of ‘The Revolutionists.’ As she faces execution, clutching the platform railing as a lifeline, she gazes out at the assembled audience, fear and willful courage mingling in her eyes. This metaplay takes place in that drawn-out moment, while she processes the horror through a comfortable world of imagination. 

2019-03-19Mar 19, 2019

Think about the people you often interact with—grocery clerks, neighbors, and friends from the gym. Imagine if they suddenly turned against you out of misplaced terror.

2019-03-12Mar 12, 2019

“All the Great Books (Abridged)” is a frivolously comic attempt to cover a lengthy syllabus of classic literature in a matter of hours. Set in a high school, the lecture is led by a random assortment of faculty members—the gym coach, drama professor, and an enthusiastic student teacher, who is more interested in the “Lord of the Rings” films than deciphering “War & Peace.” Their hapless attempts to inform the audience involve slapstick skits and a plethora of costumes and props. If you sit in the front row, be prepared for buckets of water tossed around, and the occasional flying wig.

2019-03-09Mar 9, 2019

The program prompts that Only Kidding! is “a wry look at being funny and making it big.” Or not. There is often a great deal of tragedy where comedy is concerned. How many stand-up comics have we lost through the years to accidental drug overdoses and suicides?

2019-03-06Mar 6, 2019

Clover Sonoma has sponsored the Santa Rosa Symphony's series of free concerts for local students. The series of free concerts, six across three days, are expected to reach 7,000 children, parents and chaperons.

2019-03-05Mar 5, 2019

Science fiction is a rare theater genre. In playwright Jennifer Haley’s near future setting, children go to school in virtual reality and “shades” spend more time online than with their families. The neglected planet with its vice-like rules has propelled humanity to yearn for a life entirely based online, instead of dealing with harsh reality. The artificially created Nether is a place to live out fantasies, isn’t it?

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.

2019-03-04Mar 4, 2019

With political and cultural tensions rising in America, it is important to share our experiences in a way that is respectful and empowering. Fire Circle Theater was founded by friends who met at Santa Rosa Junior College with a shared vision of positive artistic expression.

2019-02-27Feb 27, 2019

Flawless harmony fills the intimate Lucky Penny theater through synchronized melodies in ‘Forever Plaid.’ This combination comedy and musical act is a feel-good performance of favorites like “Heart and Soul” and “Three Coins in the Fountain.” Held together by a minimal plot, four men step forward to give a phenomenal performance of lyrical beauty.

2019-02-20Feb 20, 2019

‘After Miss Julie’ is a tightly-written, captivating play with the steamy rhythm of a sensual tango. Raucous celebrations of the 1945 Labour party victory reverberate around the cozy kitchen of an English country manor. Christine, the hard-working, amiable cook is looking forward to a romantic evening with John, the chauffer. Instead, the bewitching lady of the house, Miss Julie, flounces downstairs, where she does not belong, and shamelessly attempts to carouse with the staff. Their consternation simply amuses her, and Julie chuckles at their “feudal anxiety.”

2019-02-20Feb 20, 2019

Are you ready for an adrenaline-fueled ride through classic literature? Santa Rosa Junior College is presenting ‘All the Great Books (Abridged).’ Over eighty works are referred to in passing, although the humor centers around well-known authors such as James Joyce and Charles Dickens. And at the Cloverdale Performing Arts Center,  ‘Only Kidding!’ delves into the competitive world of stand-up comics who are dreaming of a big break in the spotlight. From a quarreling duo to Jackie, who is desperately trying to stay relevant, director Jeremy Boucher assures that “the audience will find themselves rooting for someone. We get to see behind the scenes of a comic’s life in the green room.”

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.

2019-06-09Jun 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. 

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Cloverdale Performing Arts Center - The 39 Steps



Saturdays and Sundays - July 13, 14, 20, 21, 27, 28
Saturdays at 7:30  -  Sundays at 2:00
Students $12    Adults $25 
Suggested audience high school and older--mild adult themes and strong language.

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