Reports of the tech boom killing the Bay Area theater scene have been greatly exaggerated. San Franciscans are justly proud of being the city where “Wicked “premiered before it came to Broadway, and of nurturing the early careers of now-established Broadway stars like Darren Criss, Daveed Diggs, and Taylor Iman Jones. And in 2019, new and established companies are presenting more musicals than ever before in the Bay Area. Read on and learn about the theaters that are building bridges between the Great White Way and the Golden Gate.
The Orpheum Theatre and the Golden Gate Theatre
San Francisco licensed tours of the latest Broadway hits always stop by these theaters. Currently, the Orpheum is playing host to a sit-down production of “Hamilton” (running through January 5, 2020), while the Golden Gate will welcome tours of “Anastasia” in September and “Summer: The Donna Summer Musical” for the holidays.
In recent years, Bay Area theatergoers have come to value the Curran for presenting a mix of Broadway touring productions (“Fun Home,” “Dear Evan Hansen”) and edgier new musicals (“Ghost Quartet,” “Soft Power”). As of July 2019, this venue has come under new management, the Ambassador Theatre Group, which has a strong track record of musical-theater productions in the US and UK. First, though, the Curran will host an open run of the megahit play “Harry Potter and the Cursed Child” starting in Fall 2019.
In the past decade, this East Bay powerhouse has developed an excellent track record for bringing shows to Broadway. “American Idiot,” “Amélie,” and “Ain’t Too Proud: The Life and Times of The Temptations” all had their world premieres in Berkeley before they bowed in New York. Will the Rep’s upcoming musical “Swept Away” (with music by Americana band The Avett Brothers) follow these other shows to New York after its Berkeley premiere in Summer 2020?
TheatreWorks Silicon Valley
Winner of the 2019 Regional Theater Tony award, this Palo Alto company is well-known among Broadway aficionados for producing the world premiere of “Memphis” in 2004. Its summer New Works Festival and mainstage season have continued to develop and premiere new musicals, from “The Four Immigrants” to “The Prince of Egypt.” This August, you can see workshop productions of the new musicals “Revival” and “Iron John” at TheatreWorks, and even meet their writers and composers!
This indie theater company near Union Square in San Francisco has made a real push to expand its musical-theater offerings in recent years, and now regularly produces two musicals a season! In addition to staging Tony-winning favorites like “In the Heights” and “Man of La Mancha,” they even premiered an original musical comedy last year, the Millennial satire “Tinderella.” And Sondheim aficionados will want to visit Custom Made this summer to see his rarely-produced romantic drama, “Passion,” running through July 20.
San Francisco Playhouse
Another venue in downtown San Francisco’s busy theater district, the Playhouse tends to present crowd-pleasing musicals during the holidays and over the summer. Recent holiday shows have included heartwarmers like “Mary Poppins” and “She Loves Me,” with summertime offerings including “Sunday in the Park with George” and “La Cage aux Folles.” This summer, the Playhouse’s new production of “Cabaret” (through September 14) will transport patrons to Weimar Berlin.
Bay Area Musicals
This company was founded in 2014 to do just what the name suggests: bring more musical theater to the Bay Area! Performing at the Alcazar Theater in downtown San Francisco and the Victoria Theater in the Mission District, BAM produces favorite musicals from all eras: their upcoming season includes “Gypsy,” “The Full Monty,” and “A Chorus Line.” This summer, they’re saying “Welcome to the ‘60s” with their production of “Hairspray,” running through Aug. 11.
Landmark Musical Theatre
Landmark is another new-ish company that produces musical revivals in downtown San Francisco. Their inaugural production was the revue “Tomfoolery” in 2015, but they’ve quickly moved on to producing larger-scale shows, such as “Evita” and “The Boy from Oz.” Currently, they’re presenting a run of the charming 1920s pastiche “The Drowsy Chaperone,” through July 28.
42nd Street Moon
Founded in the 1990s to present little-known Golden Age musicals (1920-1960), the Moon has branched out in recent years to include productions of more recent shows like “The Secret Garden” and “Once.” Still, they haven’t forgotten their mission of producing unexpected and under-produced musical-theater titles. What other Bay Area company would open their Fall 2019 season with “The Hot Mikado” and follow it up with “Scrooge in Love”?
This East Bay company produces five family-friendly musicals per year on its main stage, and also offers plenty of opportunities for children to get involved in theater. Its Conservatory program offers classes for kids and teens, and stages several student shows per year. The Playhouse’s devotion to cultivating youth talent is epitomized in its current production of “Big: The Musical” (through July 28), featuring twenty Conservatory kids in the roles of young Josh and his friends, alongside a cast of professional actors in the adult roles.
Contra Costa Civic Theatre
CCCT, located in the East Bay suburb of El Cerrito, is a nonprofit community theater that stages several musicals per season, including such favorites as “Ragtime” and “My Fair Lady.” Starring a cast that reflects the real diversity of the Bay Area, their production of the Caribbean musical fable “Once On This Island” runs through July 21.
The Bay Area’s newest theater company is kicking off its inaugural season with a production of “Heathers: The Musical." Performing in a waterside venue in San Francisco’s historic Fort Mason, the Gatehouse aims to present affordable plays and musicals starring “the best performers from the top acting programs from around the country.”
Marin Shakespeare Company
Even Shakespeare-focused theaters are getting into the musical-theater game! This August, Marin Shakespeare will stage its first-ever Broadway musical: a production of “Monty Python’s Spamalot.” The zany humor they’ve honed from years of producing Shakespeare comedies should help them strike the right Pythonic tone.
San Jose Stage Company
At the southern end of the Bay Area, this well-established mid-size company produces a mix of plays and musicals each year. Their past musical-theater productions suggest a penchant for darkly-comic or Gothic material: “The Addams Family,” “Sweeney Todd,” “Hedwig and the Angry Inch.” With a track record like that, their Halloween 2019 production of “The Rocky Horror Show” sounds like a sure bet.