Center Stage with Pat Launer on KSDS JAZZ88
AIRDATE: JANUARY 1, 2010
‘ Tis the season for looking through the retrospectoscope . Which means it’s time to peek behind the curtain to see what kind of theater year 2009 was.
A very prolific one, for one thing. There were more plays to see – I broke all my own records, attending 245 productions. And there were many more readings on off-nights – a chance to try out new work, or gather together a stellar cast for a one-night showcase. Some of the most memorable readings of the year were Cygnet’s “Assassins” and North Coast Rep’s “My Name is Asher Lev.” Hopefully, they’ll return as full productions.
Now, you may know that San Diego is nationally known as a breeding ground for new shows; we’re the number one exporter of musicals to Broadway. Well, 2009 was a banner year. The Old Globe staged two world premiere musicals — “ Sammy” and “The First Wives Club” – and one gutsy hip hop tuner, “Kingdom,” which it presented first at Lincoln High School . The La Jolla Playhouse commissioned a stunning new adaptation of August Strindberg’s “Creditors,” premiered a new musical, “Bonnie and Clyde,” helped shepherd the inventive play with music, ”Peter and the Starcatchers ,” and also opened “Memphis” on Broadway, a musical that got its start at the Playhouse last year.
In spite of the economy, the incredibly resilient and interminably optimistic local theater folk kept creating exciting productions. Still, probably as a reflection of the tough times, a number of theaters presented reprises of shows that had proven popular and successful for them before, like Cygnet’s “Bed and Sofa” and “Hedwig and the Angry Inch,” Moxie’s “Dog Act,” and “The Hit” at Lamb’s Players Theatre. Even “Wicked” and “The Lion King” made return visits, but Broadway San Diego knows that those perennials could come back again and again, and still delight huge crowds.
On the dark side, there seemed to more deep, disturbing dramas than usual, shining a spotlight on the unsavory underbelly of humanity, from “Killer Joe” at Compass Theatre to “Red Light Winter” at Triad Productions, to “ Topdog /Underdog” at UC San Diego.
And of course, since theater is a Great Escape, there were plenty of shows that were just plain mindless, fun flights of fancy, like “The Musical of Musicals, The Musical” at SDSU, “The Little Dog Laughed” at Diversionary Theatre and “Four Dogs and a Bone” at New Village Arts .
What were my favorites of the year? Well, if I told you that, I’d undermine all the excitement of the 13th annual Patté Awards for Theater Excellence, where I celebrate the best of the best of local talent. So come to the Pattés on January 18, or listen for the awards results right here on KSDS Jazz 88. In the meantime, have a Happy — and Dramatic — New Year!
©2009 PAT LAUNER