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Jean Lowerison's theater year in review

This was a great year for theater, with so much good work that I usually couldn’t name a “best.” I give my lists in alphabetical order unless otherwise noted.

Musicals were particularly good, so let’s start there.

Best Musicals

The big winner in new musicals was The Old Globe/Hartford Stage co-production of “A Gentleman’s Guide To Love And Murder,” now wowing ‘em on Broadway, and directed by Old Globe favorite Darko Tresnjak.

“The Last Goodbye,” the new musical most likely (according to me) to move to Broadway, was also at the Old Globe. This brilliantly staged “Romeo and Juliet” for the rock music crowd is likely to attract young audiences to the classic story.

And Intrepid Shakespeare Company’s terrific musical adaptation of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” [middle left photo] was particularly excellent this year.

But there were also fine productions of “In The Heights” [top left photo] at San Diego Repertory, “Mel Brooks’ Young Frankenstein” [bottom left photo] at Moonlight Stage Productions and “Assassins” at Cygnet, and terrific revivals of old standards “Chicago” (at both San Diego Musical Theatre and Welk Resorts Theatre) and “South Pacific” at Moonlight.

Best Dramas

I count nine dramatic plays as favorites of 2013 (I told you it was a good year):

“Bengal Tiger At The Baghdad Zoo” at ion

“The Bluest Eye,” a co-production between Mo’olelo and Moxie

“The Brothers Size” at the Old Globe

“Extraordinary Chambers” at Mo’olelo

“Oleanna” at Intrepid Shakespeare Company

“Pygmalion” at The Old Globe

“The Trip To Bountiful” at New Village Arts

“Venus In Fur” at San Diego Repertory
“Wit” at Lamb’s Players

Best Comedies

The comedy category was almost as good. I loved all of these:

“Birds Of A Feather” at Diversionary

“The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity” at ion

“The Importance Of Being Earnest” at Cygnet

“Lettice And Lovage” at Scripps Ranch

“The Odd Couple” at North Coast Repertory

“One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest” at New Village Arts

“Rosencrantz And Guildenstern Are Dead” at The Old Globe

Beat One-man Plays

Three actors deserve special mention for their work in terrific one-man plays.

Herbert Siguenza, who wrote and performed “A Weekend With Pablo Picasso” at San Diego Repertory, not only captivated as the 20th century genius, but demonstrated that he can paint like the master.

Daniel Beaty played Paul Robeson in “The Tallest Tree In The Forest” at La Jolla Playhouse in a riveting portrait of this son of a runaway slave who became an international star and political activist.

Jean-Michel Richard portrayed artist Vincent Van Gogh’s brother Theo in “Vincent,” a thoroughly engaging piece at North Coast Repertory.

Best Actor

Jeffrey Jones in “One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest” at New Village Arts

Steven Lone in “The Elaborate Entrance Of Chad Deity” at ion

Claudio Raygoza in both “Shining City” and “Bengal Tiger At The Baghdad Zoo” at ion

Don Sparks as Mr. Doolittle in “Pygmalion” at The Old Globe

Best Actor in a Musical

Randall Dodge in both “Chicago” and “South Pacific” at the Welk

Phil Johnson in “A Midsummer Night’s Dream, the Musical” at Intrepid

Jefferson Mays in “A Gentleman’s Guide To Love And Murder” at The Old Globe

Jai Rodriguez in “In The Heights” at San Diego Repertory

Best Actress

Caroline Kinsolving in “Venus In Fur” at San Diego Repertory

Deborah Gilmour Smyth in “Wit” at Lamb’s Players

Sylvia M’Lafi Thompson in “The Trip To Bountiful” at New Village Arts

Best Actress in a Musical

Eileen Bowman in “Pete ’n’ Keely” at Lamb’s Players

Susan Denaker in “In The Heights” at San Diego Repertory

Allison Spratt Pearce in “The Sound Of Music” at San Diego Musical Theatre

Best Director of a Play

Tea Alagic, “The Brothers Size” at The Old Globe

Claudio Raygoza, “Bengal Tiger At The Baghdad Zoo” at ion

Robert Smyth, “Wit” at Lamb’s Players

Delicia Turner Sonnenberg, “The Bluest Eye,” Moxie/Mo’olelo

Seema Sueko, “Extraordinary Chambers” at Mo’olelo

Sam Woodhouse and Kim Rubinstein, “Venus In Fur” at San Diego Repertory

Best Director of a Musical

There’s a clear winner here: Darko Tresnjak, for “A Gentleman’s Guide To Love And Murder” at The Old Globe.

Also excellent were Randall Hickman for “Monty Python’s Spamalot” at Welk Resorts Theatre, Ray Limon for “Chicago” at Welk and Sam Woodhouse for “In The Heights” at San Diego Repertory.

Best Scenic Design

Again, a clear winner: Alexander Dodge, for “A Gentleman’s Guide To Love And Murder” (he also designed two other splendid sets) at The Old Globe.

But I also really liked David F. Weiner’s set for Mo’olelo’s “Extraordinary Chambers” and Robert Brill’s design for “His Girl Friday” at La Jolla Playhouse.

Best Costume Design

Linda Cho, for “A Gentleman’s Guide To Love And Murder” at The Old Globe

Jeannie Galioto, for “Birds Of A Feather” at Diversionary Theatre

Erick Sundquist, for “Grey Gardens” at ion

Paul Tazewell, for “Side Show” at La Jolla Playhouse

Best Projection Design

John Narum, for “The Tallest Tree In The Forest” at La Jolla Playhouse

Victoria Petrovich, for “A Weekend With Pablo Picasso” at San Diego Repertory

Aaron Rhynne and Philip S. Rosenberg, for “A Gentleman’s Guide To Love And Murder”

Marc Anthony Thompson, for “The Mountaintop” at San Diego Repertory

Best Sound Design

Joseph Huppert, for “Extraordinary Chambers” at Mo’olelo Performing Arts

Chris Luessmann, for “The Wizard Of Oz” at Moonlight

Jon Lorenz, for “Wit” at Lamb’s Players

Best Lighting Design

York Kennedy, for “Other Desert Cities,” The Old Globe

Christopher Loren Renda, for “The Trip To Bountiful” at New Village Arts

Philip S. Rosenberg, for “A Gentleman’s Guide To Love And Murder” at the Old Globe

Justin Townsend, for “The Last Goodbye” at The Old Globe

Best Special Event

Locally, La Jolla Playhouse started the ball rolling with the newest thing in theater: site-specific plays presented anywhere but in a theater. This year the Playhouse presented the audience-participation show “Accomplice: San Diego” in Little Italy and a large WOW (Without Walls) Festival that included “Seafoam Sleepwalk,” a piece with a giant puppet by puppeteer Basil Twist on at La Jolla Shores beach and an Ibsen-like piece called “Hedda’ing” at the off-kilter Fallen Star sculpture at Jacobs Hall on the UCSD campus.

CircleCircledotdot got in on the action this year with an amusing “San Diego, I Love You,” centered in Hillcrest.

Last – but certainly not least – a shoutout to Kevin Charles Patterson and the organizers of San Diego’s first Fringe Festival. Long may it continue.

To read reviews by SDGLN Theater Critic Jean Lowerison, click HERE.