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Your Guide to the Best Plays and Musicals in the Bay Area This Summer

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This summer, Bay Area theater offers something for everyone. Whether you’re seeking out experimental offerings, a tried-and-true Shakespeare classic under the stars, or some hefty song and dance Broadway style, the Bay Area’s summer has you covered.

Here are 10 shows in the Bay Area from June to early September that are not to be missed.

Fact-checking and copy editing take center stage in ‘The Lifespan of a Fact’ at Aurora Theatre this summer. (Aurora Theatre)

The Lifespan of a Fact

Aurora Theatre, Berkeley
June 21–July 25, 2024

Jim Fingal is a newly minted Harvard grad who takes a job at a consequential magazine as a fact-checker. That consequence has softened, however, since the magazine is now hanging by a thread. An essay from mega-talent John D’Agata, about a teen boy’s suicide, could change the magazine’s fortunes.

There’s one major problem — the actual facts of the story are shaky at best, placing both characters into a battle between truth and fiction. (The play’s heralded 2018 Broadway run featured actors Bobby Cannavale, Daniel Radcliffe and Cherry Jones.)

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There’s no better time to support Aurora, a gem of a small theater in Berkeley. Like many theaters post-pandemic, the company faces a major funding shortfall, and are in an active campaign to save their artistic outlet.

Jonathan Rhys Williams is Lawrence Jameson and Keith Pinto is Freddy Benson in the San Jose Stage production of ‘Dirty Rotten Scoundrels.’ (San Jose Stage)

Dirty Rotten Scoundrels

San Jose Stage
June 5–30, 2024

Based on the popular 1988 film and directed by Stage Associate Artist Johnny Moreno, this French Riviera con caper follows two men who compete for the heart of a wealthy American heiress. Featuring a jazzy score from composer David Yazbek (The Full Monty, The Band’s Visit), the Stage is digging into another example of what they do so well — the quirky summer musical.

Bridgette Loriaux is Beatrice and Johnny Moreno is Benedick in ‘Much Ado About Nothing.’
(Marin Shakespeare Company)

Much Ado About Nothing

Marin Shakespeare Company, San Rafael
June 28–July 28, 2024

In this wild Shakespearean romp, Beatrice and Benedick engage in a war of words while the soldier Claudio falls for the fair Hero. After the requisite bickering commences, love is discovered, vows are exchanged and all is well.

Popular Bay Area director and educator Domenique Lozano handles the direction, with Bridgette Loriaux playing Beatrice and Johnny Moreno tackling Benedick. And while the play’s the thing, renting some cushions and plopping them down inside the spacious seating area for a show under the North Bay stars can’t be beat.

Preshow pro tip – enjoy a Cubano sandwich at Sol Food down the street while taking in some salsa beats from the live band that plays on the sidewalk.
And if you’re looking for even more Shakespearean comedy under the summer stars, the return of Cal Shakes in Orinda to regular theater programming includes the 50th anniversary production of As You Like It at Bruns Memorial Amphitheater in September.

Ryan Williams comes to Oakland for the role of Tommy DeVito in the Woodminster Summer Musicals production ‘Jersey Boys’ in July.
(Ryan J. Zirngibl)

Jersey Boys

Woodminster Summer Musicals, Oakland
July 12–21, 2024

The story of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons has had productions all over the world, with Broadway and off-Broadway productions still running while multiple national tours stop often in the Bay Area. (The production made its regional premiere via the first national tour in December of 2006 at the Curran Theatre in San Francisco.)

There are several reasons for the production’s popularity, namely the non-stop hit parade that is the music of Valli and songwriter Bob Gaudio, whose handshake agreement lasting decades is the stuff of legend. But the one thing that could usurp the show’s quality is the venue itself, nestled neatly within Joaquin Miller Park in the idyllic Oakland hills. When night falls, it’s one of the most picturesque views in the Bay.

Octavio Solis’ ‘Mother Road,’an adaptation of ‘The Grapes of Wrath,’ explores the story of Martín, a descendant of the Joad family. (Anne Hamersky)

Mother Road

Berkeley Repertory Theatre
June 14–July 21, 2024

Octavio Solis, who spent decades in the Bay Area before moving to Oregon, makes one of his frequent Bay Area returns with Mother Road. The story is a spinoff of The Grapes of Wrath, taking the story’s iconic blue-collar hero Tom Joad and offering the new narrative of his descendant named Martín, a Mexican-American migrant worker.

Terminally ill William Joad learns of Martín as an heir to the family farm, and together they return to Oklahoma, the site of the Joad family’s perilous journey that serves as the soul of the original source material. Solis’ realism and poetic sensibilities are placed in the hands of the Rep’s associate artistic director David Mendizábal, who will direct the piece.

Playwright Naomi Iizuka is spending the bulk of her summer in San Francisco, with the world premiere of her play ‘Garuda’s Wing’ debuting in June, and her translation of Shakespeare’s ‘Richard II’ opening in August.
(Magic Theatre)

Garuda’s Wing

The Magic Theatre, San Francisco
June 5–July 23, 2024

Playwright Naomi Iizuka is getting cozy inside the iconic theater space at Fort Mason for the entire summer, kicking things off with a ghost play. It’s an international investigation, and an intergenerational exploration, set across locales such as Jakarta and Borneo. A search unearths murder, while exposing the effects of revolution and colonialism. Lorraine Hansberry Theatre artistic director Margo Hall directs.

To further expand on Iizuka’s time in San Francisco, her translation of the intense and timely Richard II, directed by Santa Clara University professor Karina Gutierrez, follows in August.

Former TheatreWorks Silicon Valley artistic director Robert Kelley returns for the world premiere of ‘Being Alive: A Sondheim Celebration’ this June in Mountain View. (David Allen)

Being Alive: A Sondheim Celebration

TheatreWorks Silicon Valley, Mountain View
June 5–30, 2024

Since Stephen Sondheim’s passing in November of 2021, the master composer and lyricist has continued his dominance over every ounce of the musical theater landscape. Now, longtime collaborators Robert Kelley, who served TheatreWorks as artistic director for 50 years, and resident musical director William Liberatore are offering up another new take on Sondheim’s wonderful life.

TheatreWorks is a perfect spot for this world premiere, considering Sondheim is the company’s most produced composer. Expect many of Sondheim’s most iconic hits to make their way onto the stage, performed by a stellar six-person cast. (And for those who need even more Sondheim, the 2022 Broadway revival of Company, in which the single 35-year-old Bobbie is gender-swapped for a woman, lunches at BroadwaySF’s Orpheum Theatre in San Francisco for the month of June.)

Playwright Michael Wayne Turner III will perform as Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in ‘The Ghost of King’ in Oakland.
(Oakland Theater Project)

The Ghost of King

Oakland Theater Project
June 6–23, 2024

Michael Wayne Turner III is both the creator and featured performer of this exploration of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., digging into the famed civil rights leader and his tireless advocacy to ensure that the underclass are given justice and opportunity.

Oakland Theater Project is doing what they do very well — develop, develop, develop — and Turner weaves the life and conflicts of King together with his poetry and most memorable speeches. Details and research inform this insightful deep dive into the iconic leader and orator, gunned down in 1968 a few months past his 39th birthday.

Heikki Koskinen and Nan Busse in “Happened Change,” an entry in this year’s San Francisco Fringe Festival, running at the Exit Theatre in August.
(Steve Bronson)

San Francisco Fringe Festival

The Exit Theatre, San Francisco
Aug. 9–25, 2024

The 33rd installment of San Francisco Fringe is all about quirky, poignant fun that exists off the beaten path from run-of-the-mill theatrical fare. Many of the shows are of the solo variety, and Exit Theatre’s festival continues to provide voices and opportunity for theater makers to sharpen both their art and their voices. This year’s festival features a whopping 45 performances of 15 different shows.

In ‘Everybody’s Talking About Jamie,’ Romelo Urbi plays the title role of Jamie, a 16-year-old high schooler in Sheffield who privately dreams of drag queen stardom. (Shane Ray)

Everybody’s Talking About Jamie

Ray of Light Theatre, San Francisco
June 1–23, 2024

British denizens fell in love with the luminous 16-year-old gay teen Jamie, who was a fixture on London’s West End toward the end of the past decade. Sadly, Americans had to wait. Despite a critically acclaimed 2021 film version, productions of the musical in the United States have been scarce.

In June, Ray of Light Theatre gives the Bay an opportunity to fall head over stiletto heels for Jamie, an outcast who dreams of becoming a fabulous drag queen and finding superstar status on the biggest stages. It’s a tender story that shows what allyship and acceptance can mean to a young person looking to soar within their individuality in every aspect of life.

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A delightful local cast steps in for this one, with Romelo Urbi taking on the title role, and the entire production is led by director Alex Kirschner. Fittingly, the show’s opening night coincides with the annual start to Pride month across the nation.

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