January is shaping up as a banner month for theater openings around the region. From the modest, hardworking locals at B Street Theatre, who celebrate 20 years of sterling professional work, to an auspicious production down the road at Berkeley Rep, the offerings promise heady, engaging entertainment along with a couple of purely fun musicals and a smartly redone American classic.
The production of the dramatic memoir conceived and developed by Jonathan Moscone and Tony Taccone has been receiving national attention. The story is Moscone's, though the unique collaboration has Berkeley Rep artistic director Tony Taccone writing the play and California Shakespeare Festival artistic director Moscone directing the production.
Having already successfully premiered last summer in Ashland at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival where it was commissioned, the production now comes home to the Bay Area where the story takes place.
It's set in San Francisco in 1978 when Moscone's father, San Francisco Mayor George Moscone, is murdered at City Hall along with City Councilman Harvey Milk, and the shocking act reverberates across Northern California and the country. Milk became a gay rights martyr while George Moscone became a historical footnote in the minds of the public and the media.
While the creators make it plain that this is fiction, not biography, the story hangs on its true-life personal connections a son figuring out how to make peace with a father's looming legacy. Christopher Liam Moore leads the cast as Jon Moscone, with Peter Macon, Danforth Comins, Bill Geisslinger, Robynn Rodriguez and Tyler James Myers also in the ensemble. In previews tonight through Sunday; it opens at 8 p.m. Wednesday and continues at 8 p.m Tuesdays, Fridays, and Saturdays; 7 p.m. Wednesdays and Sundays; 2 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays. Extra 2 p.m. performances Jan. 19 and Feb. 16. No matinees Jan. 18 or Feb. 21; no performance Feb. 17. The theater is at 2025 Addison St., Berkeley. Tickets from $14.50 to $74. Information: (510) 647-2949, berkeleyrep.org.
OPENING NEXT FRIDAY
To say that Tom Stoppard's brilliant "Arcadia" has a lot going on is about as much of an understatement as can be made. The 1993 masterpiece deals with human desires of all kinds, particularly carnal and especially desire of knowledge. More specifically, Stoppard shows that there are limits to our real knowledge of the past. Big Idea Theatre takes on the challenge of illuminating Stoppard's dense text, with Benjamin Ismail directing a cast featuring Joshua Glenn Robertson, Josephine Longo, Eric Baldwin and Beth Edwards. Opening at 8 p.m. next Friday and continuing at 8 p.m. Thursdays-Saturdays and 2:30 p.m. Sundays through Feb. 4. Tickets: $13-$15; $10 on Thursdays.
At the Big Idea Theatre, 1616 Del Paso Blvd., Sacramento. Information: (916) 960-3036, www.bigideatheatre.com
OPENING JAN. 14
RUTHLESS! THE MUSICAL
Sacramento Theatre Company's season of "Mystery, Music and Mayhem" continues with the music portion and spiffy parody called "Ruthless! The Musical." The book and lyrics are by Joel Paley, the music is by Marvin Laird, and STC producing director Michael Laun directs. Referencing campy classics and backstage dramas, the play shows how far a desperately driven third-grader will go to star in the school play.
The production stars Michael RJ Campbell, Andrea St. Clair, Lauren Metzinger and Jillie Kate Randle. Graham Sobelman provides the musical direction. On STC's Pollock Stage, 1419 H St., Sacramento. Performances at 12:30 and 6:30 p.m. Wednesdays, 6:30 p.m. Thursdays, 8 p.m. Fridays, 2 and 8 p.m. Saturdays, 2 and 7 p.m. Sundays through Feb. 19. Tickets are $15-$38 (discounts for students, seniors, and groups). Half-price rush tickets one hour before each performance, subject to availability. Information: (916) 443-6722, (888) 478-2849 or www.sactheatre.org.
The B Street Family Series continues with "The Giver," a futuristic fable based on the novel by Lois Lowry. A boy grows up in a society that has no feelings or emotions. With Grant Jordan, Gary Martinez, Elisabeth Nunziato, Jason Kuykendall, Brandon McCall, Erika Lecaj and Brittni Barger. Laura Baker directs. Opens 4 p.m. Jan. 14 on the B Street Theatre B3 Stage, 2727 B St., Sacramento. Performances at 1 and 4 p.m. Saturdays; 1 and 4 p.m. Sundays through Feb. 19. Previews 1 p.m. Jan. 14 ($10); Tickets: $13-$22. Information: (916) 443-5300, www.bstreettheatre.org.
OPENING JAN. 15
ALIENS WITH EXTRAORDINARY SKILLS
B Street Theatre producing artistic director Buck Busfield celebrates his company's noteworthy 20th season of mostly new and modern theater (a not-so-easily accomplished aesthetic) by staging "Aliens With Extraordinary Skills" by the Romanian-born poet and playwright Saviana Stanescu. The comic fable about dealing with differences of all kinds stars B Street company regulars Stephanie Altholz and John Lamb along with newcomer Rinabeth Apostel. At the B Street Theatre Mainstage, 2711 B St., Sacramento. Previews at 5 p.m. Jan. 14 and 2 p.m. Jan. 15. Preview tickets $10.
The show opens 7 p.m. Jan. 15 and continues through Feb. 26. Show times are 6:30 p.m. Tuesdays; 2 and 6:30 p.m. Wednesdays; 8 p.m. Thursdays and Fridays; 5 and 9 p.m. Saturdays; and 2 p.m. Sundays. Tickets: $18-$30, $5 student rush. Information: (916) 443-5300, www.bstreettheatre.org.
OPENING JAN. 18
The master clown performer Lorenzo Pisoni brings his highly acclaimed one-man memoir "Humor Abuse" to the American Conservatory Theatre for a Bay Area premiere. Created by Pisoni and Erica Schmidt and directed by Schmidt, Pisoni recounts growing up in the Pickle Family Circus, which his father, Larry Pisoni, co-founded. In a sense this show is also coming home, as the alternative circus was founded in 1974 in San Francisco. The group influenced the rethinking of what a circus could and should be (it has no animals and doesn't use a three-ring format). Montreal's Cirque du Soleil used the Pickle circus as an important touchstone its formation. In its first years, Pickle Family clowns were Larry Pisoni, Bill Irwin and Geoff Hoyle, all internationally recognized masters of the craft. Lorenzo Pisoni's play contains powerful personal memories along with stunning physical clowning. ACT is at 415 Geary St., San Francisco. "Humor Abuse" begins previews Thursday and opens Jan. 18, running through Feb. 5 at 8 p.m. Tuesdays-Saturdays and 2 p.m. Wednesdays, Saturdays, Sundays. No matinee performances Jan. 15 or Jan. 18; extra 7 p.m. performance Jan. 15. Tickets are $10-$85 and family four-packs (four tickets for the price of two for select performances) are available through the ACT box office, (415) 749-2228 or act-sf.org.
OPENING JAN. 24
WEST SIDE STORY
You don't really need to say much more than three words: "West Side Story." It's one of the great musicals of all time, written by two-time Tony Award winner Arthur Laurents (book) and multiple Tony and Grammy winners Leonard Bernstein (music) and Stephen Sondheim (lyrics), who made his Broadway debut with the 1957 production. This national tour of the 2009 production features Laurents' Broadway direction re-created for the tour by David Saint, the associate director on Broadway. The original Jerome Robbins choreography is reproduced by Tony Award nominee Joey McKneely. At the Community Center Theater, 1301 L St., Sacramento. Evening performances, 8 p.m. Jan. 24-28; matinees are 2 p.m. Jan. 26, Jan. 28 and Jan. 29. Tickets are $19-$86. Information: (916) 557-1999, www. californiamusicaltheatre.com.
OPENING JAN. 27
"Forbidden Broadway," New York's longest-running musical comedy revue, comes to Sacramento's Cosmopolitan Cabaret for eight weeks Jan. 27 through March 14. The irreverent show parodies songs and characters from Broadway's most recognizable shows including "Wicked," "Les Misérables," "The Lion King," "Jersey Boys," "Cats," "Annie" and "Phantom of the Opera." The cast comprises Jessica Reiner-Harris, Jerry Lee, Melissa WolfKlain and Marc Ginsburg with ubiquitous accompanist and musical director Graham Sobelman. William Selby directs. At the Cosmopolitan Cabaret, 1000 K St., Sacramento. Tickets are $33-$48 ($25 tickets to preview performances Jan. 25 and 26). Evening performances are 7 p.m. Wednesdays and Thursdays and 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays. Matinee performances are 2 p.m. Thursdays, Saturdays and Sundays. Information: (916) 557-1999, www.californiamusicaltheatre. com.
OPENING JAN. 28
WATER FALLING DOWN
The B Street Theatre continues its 20-year anniversary celebration with the B3 Series production of the American premiere of Australian playwright Mark Swivel's "Water Falling Down." A father grieving the loss of his wife while dealing with the onset of aphasia (generally described as impairment of language usage) takes a trip with his middle-aged divorced son, who is trying to relate both to his father and his own distanced teenage son. With David Cramer as Dad, Kurt Johnson as Son and David Pierini directing. At B Street Theatre's B3 Stage, 2727 B St., Sacramento. It previews at 7 p.m. Jan. 27 and opens 8 p.m. Jan. 28. Show times at 7 p.m. Tuesdays and Wednesdays; 2 and 7 p.m. Thursdays; 7 p.m. Fridays; 8 p.m. Saturdays; 1 p.m. Sundays. Call the box office for selected matinee performances. Tickets are $18-$30, $5 student rush, $10 previews. Information: (916) 443-5300, www.bstreettheatre.org.
IN THE ROOM NEXT DOOR, OR THE VIBRATOR PLAY
Capital Stage brings the Sacramento premiere of Sarah Ruhl's thoughtful, very funny and maturely sexy play "In the Room Next Door, or the Vibrator Play." It's set in the 1880s, when electricity was new and doctors routinely used vibrator therapies on female patients to treat what was called "hysteria." The stellar cast features Michael Stevenson and Elena Wright as Dr. and Mrs. Givings. He administers the treatments to his patients and she is rather curious about what exactly goes on in that room. Peter Mohrmann directs, with Greg Alexander, Katie Rubin, Kirk Blackinton, Victoria Alvarez-Chacon and Shannon Mahoney rounding out the cast. At Capital Stage, 2215 J St., Sacramento; previews Jan. 25, 26, and 27 and opens at 8 p.m. Jan. 28. Continues 7 p.m. Wednesdays, 8 p.m. Thursdays-Saturdays and 2 p.m. Sundays through Feb. 26. Tickets are $18 (previews) to $38 (opening night). Information: (916) 995-5464, www.capstage.org.
OPENING JAN. 29
AUGUST: OSAGE COUNTY
Asclepius Productions presents a one-night-only staged reading of Tracy Letts' Pulitzer Prize- and Tony Award-winning "August: Osage County." This benefit for the American Cancer Society features an outrageous cast of local talent led by Janis Stevens and Patrick Murphy as the heads of the troubled Weston family with Maggie Hollinbeck, Craig Howard, Josephine Longo, Shannon Mahoney, Nanci Zoppi, Christine Nicholson, Bob Cooner and Joelle Robertson also appearing on stage. Produced by Kelly Daniells and Ian Cullity with Benjamin Ismail directing. Performance is 7 p.m. Jan. 29 at the Sacramento Theatre Company Mainstage Theatre, 1419 H St., Sacramento. Tickets are $20, general seating only. Information: www.apshows.org.