A Look Back at Sonoma County Theatre in 2017 (Part I) - January 3, 2018

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It’s that time of year again for the usual “Best of…” lists where critics review their picks for the best (and sometimes worst) in music, movies, fashion, and the like and give people at holiday parties something to argue about. For the past three years my approach has been a little different as I prefer to offer a few “Special End of Year Awards” to Sonoma County theatres and artists. Here is Part I of my 2017 awards:
The “Now You See It, Now You Don’t” Award - The Santa Rosa Junior College production of It Can’t Happen Here opened on October 6 and closed on October 8. The adaptation of the 1935 Sinclair Lewis novel about the rise of a populist blow-hard to the Presidency had a lot to say about our current political climate, but not a lot of people had a chance to see it. Its run was cut short with the closure of the SRJC campus as a result of the fires.
The “Show Must Go On” Award – There were many theatre companies that understandably postponed their runs during the North Bay fires. Cinnabar Arts and Spreckels Theatre Company went on with their scheduled openings of Quartet and Monty Python’s Spamalot. While neither facility was in immediate danger, I was conflicted about the decision. I attended both productions, enjoyed them both, and was glad they decided to open. That being said, I’m still not sure they should have.
The “Yes, There IS Diversity in Sonoma County, Dammit” Award – The Santa Rosa Junior College production of Lin Manuel-Miranda’s In the Heights proved the claim that there isn’t a diverse enough talent pool from which to cast many shows is suspect. Perhaps choosing shows in a season that speak and appeal to more diverse artists and audiences would widen the pool. Maybe it’s also time to check some artistic egos at the door and go and find them.
The “Big Things Come in Small Packages” Award – The studio theatres of Sonoma County’s largest companies often offered superior work to that displayed on their main stages - 6th Street’s Visiting Mr. Green and A Masterpiece of Comic… Timing and Spreckels’ The Sugar Bean Sisters and Little Women, the Musical for example.
The “Out of Left Field” Award – Not many people are willing to venture out to Monte Rio to catch theatre. You should give it a shot. You’re not going to get the bells and whistles other production companies may provide, but Curtain Call can do a lot with a little. They put on an excellent production of The Elephant Man with local comedian James Rowan giving an incredibly touching performance as John Merrick.
Live theatre continues to struggle in Sonoma County (as it does most any place else.) Like many residents, the theatre community did not escape the fires unscathed with some companies losing their performance space and others losing equipment, props and costumes. Numerous theatre artists lost their homes. Live theatre will go on because Sonoma County supports it but, as with every other part of our community, change is inevitable.
Tune in next week for Part II of my awards.
Here’s to an artistically invigorating 2018.
I’ll see you at the theatre.

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