A Look Back at Sonoma County Theatre in 2017 (Part II) – January 10, 2018

Avoiding the typical “Best of…” lists that are commonplace at this time of year, last week I presented Part I of my 2017 “Special End of Year” Awards for local theatre. Here now is Part II:

The “One is the Loneliest Number” Award – I’ve been asked a couple of times “If you could open up a theatre company in Sonoma Country, what kind of shows would you do?” Getting past the issue that no one in their right mind would open another theatre company in this area, my answer is “one-person shows.” Why? Well, this year we had Patrick Varner as a Streisand employee, Libby Villari as a former Texas governor, Sheri Lee Miller as a ghost, and David Yen as a disgruntled Christmas elf. All were highly entertaining and each came down to a single performer and an audience.

The “No, I’ve Got Something in My Eye” Award – I found myself quite taken with two holiday presentations (that aren’t really holiday plays.) Main Stage West’s Daddy Long Legs and Spreckels’ Little Women, the Musical took me by surprise. Credit the performers for getting me to dust off the adjective “sweet” in my vocabulary.

The “Better Than It Had Any Right to Be” Award – The Redwood Theatre Company has impressed me in its short life for the energy and passion they bring to their productions. As one who has never succumbed to the cult of Star Wars, my expectations for their production of Brittany Law’s original musical parody The Farce Awakens were not high. I expected it to be a bunch of young folk in cheesy costumes with dime-store props saying silly things. That is EXACTLY what it was, and yet it was all delivered with such a sense of joy and fun that they won me over.

The “If You Build It, They Will Come” Award – Sonoma County is blessed with several excellent set designers who often do wonders with often tiny, restricted spaces. The sets for Cinnabar’s Man of La Mancha, Spreckel’s The Sugar Bean Sisters, and Main Stage West’s The Birds all grabbed your attention and transported you to another place from the moment you walked through the theatre door.

The “Just (Don’t) Do It” Award – Just because a show hasn’t been done in Sonoma County before (or in a long time), doesn’t mean it should be done. Some are chestnuts that are best left buried (The Children’s Hour), while others just aren’t very good (David Mamet’s Race.) And why do companies recycle shows that have played in the community within the past few years? You couldn’t pick one of the other 1,000 plays available?

2018 will be a challenging year for both theatre companies and audiences. The Sonoma County landscape has changed in many ways. Theatre companies that struggle even in good times face even greater difficulties now. I know our community’s support of the arts is greatly appreciated.

Again, here’s to an artistically invigorating 2018.

I’ll see you at the theatre.

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