‘Always, Patsy Cline . . .’ (Sonoma Arts Live) Danielle DeBow’s Patsy was as heartbreaking as Karen Pinomaki’s Louise was amusing in director Michael Ross’ labor of love. Excellent costume and set design work (also by Ross) along with outstanding live music accompaniment under the direction of Ellen Patterson made this a memorable evening of musical theater.
‘A Chorus Line’ (Novato Theater Company) Few small theater companies would take the risk of producing a vehicle that requires triple-threat performers in most roles. Director Marilyn Izdebksi’s decades of experience in dance and choreography and terrific casting were key to this production’s success.
‘Hands on a Hardbody’ (Lucky Penny) The perfect-sized musical for the Napa company’s small space, there wasn’t much room for anything else once they got the pickup truck that’s central to the story onstage. Director Taylor Bartolucci and choreographer Staci Arriaga had just enough room for a nice, diverse cast to beautifully tell the atypical story.
‘I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change’ (Raven Players) The cavernous Raven Theatre in Healdsburg was converted into a quaint black-box space where director Diane Bailey let loose four talented performers to tell musical stories about the arc of human relationships. It worked really well.
‘Illyria’ (6th Street Playhouse) Shakespeare. Ugh. A Shakespeare musical? Groan. A really entertaining musical production based on Twelfth Night? Surprising! Director Craig Miller’s swan song was a clever adaptation of the Bard’s comedy, which combined excellent vocal talents and the musical direction of Lucas Sherman to produce the best sounding show I’d seen at 6th Street in a long time.
‘Peter Pan’ (Spreckels Theatre Company) There’s no better stage in the North Bay on which to see a large-scale musical than the Nellie Codding Theatre at Spreckels. Flying around on wires is so much more impressive in a 550-seat theater, and Sarah Wintermeyer’s winsome performance as Peter was good enough for me to set aside my long-standing beef with always casting a female in the role.
‘Scrooge in Love!’ (Lucky Penny) A fairly new play (this was only its third production) that’s good enough to become a Christmas standard. A great lead performance from Brian Herndon was supported by a top-notch ensemble in this reverential continuation of the Dickens classic.