Pat Launer, Center Stage on KSDS JAZZ88
January 2, 2015
Looking back, 2014 wasn’t a banner year in local theater. It was not an unforgettable, knock-your-socks-off season. But it was solid, with plenty of good, new and provocative work, and a boatload of stellar performances.
The theater community had some notable gains and losses. After a 50-year career as mentor, teacher and director, DJ Sullivan helmed her last show and retired. Mo’olelo Performing Arts Company lost its force-of-nature founder, Seema Sueko, who became associate artistic director at the Pasadena Playhouse. In her place, we welcomed director/producer Lydia Fort. We bid a sad so-long to the North Park Theatre as a dramatic venue. We greeted consummate actor/director Richard Baird and his New Fortune Theatre, which debuted with a muscular “Henry V.” And the Globe launched a new program, Globe for All, to bring a bit of the Bard to underserved populations.
Big Names came to town to create mega-musicals: the bluegrass-infused “Bright Star” by Steve Martin and Edie Brickell at the Old Globe, and the darkened but still Disney- esque “Hunchback of Notre Dame” at La Jolla Playhouse, by musical theater legends Alan Menken and Stephen Schwartz. Both shows failed to live up to the hype, though “The Hunchback’s” set was jaw-dropping.
Two of the more noteworthy evenings in theater last year came at the Old Globe: the Fiasco Theatre’s spare, magical “Into the Woods” and the intense, inventively directed drama, “The Royale.”
Some plays with topical issues stayed with me: “Honky” and “Red” at the San Diego Rep, “Enron” at Moxie Theatre,” “The Who and the What ” at La Jolla Playhouse and “All My Sons” at Intrepid Shakespeare.
Memorable musical productions included just about everything on the Moonlight Stage last summer, as well as the haunting “Next to Normal” at San Diego Musical Theatre, “Passion” at ion theatre, and a beautifully minimal “Les Miz ” at Lamb’s Players Theatre.
The production that touched me deepest was “Spring Awakening” at Deaf West Theatre in L.A., a brilliant bilingual, signed-and-sung staging of the aching musical.
2014 may not go down in history. But, having seen 200 shows, including 30 at the superb second incarnation of the San Diego Fringe Festival, I certainly feel sated. San Diego gave us another sumptuous theatrical smorgasbord to feast on.
©2015 PAT LAUNER