Bay Area Weekend: “Ragtime,” “Cats,” Celebrating “Ulysses”

The Bay Area is packed with plenty of great in-person shows this weekend, with some intriguing old classics returning to the stage. Here is a partial overview.

Be sure to check the show or venue’s website for COVID safety precautions before going to a show.

“Ragtime” returns

Every time someone puts on a production of “Ragtime,” it’s a big deal. The musical is an adaptation of EL Doctorow’s historical novel that captures a changing America at the turn of the 20th century, with a book by acclaimed playwright Terrence McNally and music and lyrics by the team of composers Stephen Flaherty and Lynn Ahrens. The story follows an African American family, an immigrant Jewish family, and a white suburban family as their lives intersect. A variety of historical figures, from illusionist Harry Houdini to author and intellectual Booker T. Washington to anarchist Emma Goldman, are thrown into the mix for good measure.

Twenty years ago, Robert Kelley, then artistic director of TheatreWorks Silicon Valley, directed an acclaimed production of the show (just a few years after its Broadway debut). And now Kelley, who has since stepped down as AD, returns to lead a new version of the musical opener this week. Apparently, the production and cast were somewhat compacted for this production, but you wouldn’t know that from the A-list actors reunited for the show. Broadway performers Leo Ash Evans, Christine Dwyer, Nkrumah Gatling and Suzanne Grodner are among the cast, as are Bay Area favorites Michael Gene Sullivan and Keith Pinto. And although the action takes place more than a century ago, the themes of the musical – racism, hatred of immigrants, the piercing chasm between rich and poor – are more relevant than ever.

Details: In preview until Friday; the main race is June 4-26; Mountain View Center for the Performing Arts; $25 to $90;

3 other theatrical classics take the stage

Here are three more shows Bay Area theater fans should know about.

“Cats”: Andrew Lloyd Webber’s iconic 1981 musical about TS Eliot’s collection of poems, ‘Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats’, was reportedly viewed by over 75 million people. The tour version performed at San Francisco’s Golden Gate Theater for a short duration features new direction and the show’s original choreography. Details: Until June 5; $56 to $174 (subject to change);

Romelo Urbi stars in “Little Shop of Horrors”. (Berkeley Playhouse)

“Little Shop of Horrors”: The darkly comical story centered on a plant that ruthlessly devours human flesh and blood has spawned two blockbuster films as well as a musical that is currently playing at the Berkeley Playhouse. Details: Until July 3; Julia Morgan Theater, Berkeley; $29 to $44 (subject to change);

“Man of the Channel”: San Jose Playhouse brings to life the 1965 classic by Dale Wasserman (book), Mitch Leigh (music) and Joe Darion (lyrics), adapted from the famous Miguel de Cervantes novel “Don Quixote”. The musical features one of the most beloved showtunes of all time, “The Impossible Dream.” Details: In today’s and Friday’s previews, the main race is Saturday through June 26; 3Below Theaters and Lounge, San Jose; Previews $25, main series $45-$55;

— Randy McMullen, staff member

Classic Picks: The Don Returns; Bates is back

A revival of Mozart’s opera and a new work by Mason Bates complete the week’s classic offering. Here is an overview.

San Francisco Opera: Get ready for dark deeds and desperate love, heart-pounding music and big emotions, and – dare we say it? vengeance – when the San Francisco Opera’s new production of “Don Giovanni” opens, kicking off the summer season. The production marks the latest installment in a multi-year exploration of Mozart’s Da Ponte operas, which began with Michael Cavanagh’s acclaimed productions of ‘The Marriage of Figaro’ and ‘Cosi fan tutte’. Cavanagh returns to lead a cast led by Canadian baritone Etienne Dupuis in the title role, with Luca Pisaroni as Leporello, Romanian soprano Adela Zaharia as Donna Anna and Nicole Car, replacing the originally scheduled Carmen Giannattasio , as Donna Elvira. Details: June 4-July 2; War Memorial Opera House, San Francisco; $26 to $398;

New Bates Concerto: Featuring Daniil Trifonov as soloist, the West Coast premiere of Mason Bates’ Piano Concerto highlights performances by the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra this weekend. Ruth Reinhardt conducts the orchestra in this symphonic co-commission; the program also includes Lotta Wennäkoski’s “Helsinki Variations” and Dvorak’s Symphony No. 5. Details: 2 p.m. today and Sunday; 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday; Davies Symphony Hall, San Francisco;

The left rib plays Berio: Titled “Myth and Memory”, Luciano Berio’s 1964 song cycle is based on folk songs ranging from “Black is the hair color of my true love” to “Azerbaijan’s love song”. This weekend, the Left Coast Chamber Ensemble presents the work in “Myth and Memory: Berio Folk Songs with New Companions”, combining the Italian composer’s cycle with works commissioned by Chris Castro, Seong Ae Kim, Hiroya Miura, Linda Catlin Smith and Ingrid Stoelzel. Soloists include soprano Nikki Einfeld. Details: 7:30 p.m. June 5 at Mills College, Oakland, 7:30 p.m. June 6 at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music; $30 to $35 general; students $10-$20;

—Georgia Rowe, correspondent

Dance Choice: “Sleeping Beauty”, plus

Here are three productions Bay Area dance fans should know about.

San Jose Dance Theater principal dancers Mariana Zschoerper and Augusto Cesa perform in “Sleeping Beauty.” (San José Dance Theater)

“Sleeping Beauty”: San Jose Dance Theater’s new Artistic Director, Mark Foehringer, rose to prominence early on with his new company, as choreographer and director of the company’s revival of this famous ballet, set to Tchaikovsky’s classical score. The production at San Jose’s Hammer Theater Center this weekend includes a full-length version as well as an hour-long edition for parents with young children. Details: The full version is 7:30 p.m. Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday ($50-$60), the kid-friendly version is 11 a.m. Saturday ($15);

The “laboratory” of Diablo Ballet: Diablo Ballet has established a dance lab program designed to give local choreographers the space and resources to create new work. Dance fans can see some of the fruits of the project when the Lab’s first corps of choreographers – Milissa Payne Bradley, Marika Brussel, Diablo Ballet dancer Amanda Farris and Nol Simonse – present works in progress on Sunday. Details: 2 and 4 p.m., Diablo Ballet Studio Theatre, Pleasant Hill; $20;

“Flamenco Intimo”: Choreographer and director Siudy Garrido has won accolades for her contemporary take on the more than 200-year-old art of flamenco. On Sunday, she brings her dance company, Siudy Garrido Flamenco Company, to San Francisco to perform her latest work, “Flamenco Intimo,” with live music and singers. Details: 6 p.m.; Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, San Francisco; $55 to $95;

— Randy McMullen, staff member

Happy birthday, ‘Ulysses’

It was on February 2, 1922, on the occasion of the 40th birthday of author James Joyce, that his novel “Ulysses” was officially published (it had already appeared as a serial in the literary journal The Little Review between 1918 and 1920). With its stream-of-consciousness prose, sharp humor, and liberal use of literary devices, the book is to this day considered a masterpiece of modernist literature. Although “Ulysses” is celebrated each year with events and gatherings on June 16, the date the novel is set, this year’s centenary has inspired more ambitious celebrations. In the Bay Area, for example, Joyce fans are invited to participate in Bloomsbay, a month-long series of events named after the novel’s protagonist, Leopold Bloom, orchestrated by the Consulate General of Ireland, San Francisco Public Library, Mechanics Institute, Irish Culture Bay Area, United Irish Cultural Center and Irish Studies Prgram at UC Berkeley.

A mix of streaming and in-person events, Bloomsbay will serve up everything from an exhibition of books inspired by “Ulysses” at the main branch of the SF Public Library (Wednesday through June 30); several discussions and presentations centered on Joyce and his masterpiece; a screening of the documentary ‘Shalom Ireland’ and a follow-up discussion on the Jewish community in Ireland and its impact on the novel (Sunday); a performance of a song cycle inspired by “Ulysses” conducted by Golden Globe-nominated composer Brian Byrne at the Feinstein nightclub in San Francisco (June 14); a virtual presentation by Daniel Mulhall, Irish Ambassador to the United States, on his book “Ulysses: A Reader’s Guide” (June 17) and much more. Organizers point out that the events are designed to appeal to Joyce worshipers as well as first-timers. You can find the full list of events at

– Bay Area News Foundation

Summer fun at BAMPFA

The Berkeley Museum of Art and the Pacific Film Archive have unveiled a sizzle of a summer program that shines a light on world cinema of today and yesterday and also throws in some indelible classics.

The season begins with “The films of Marta Meszaros” from Friday to July 20. Now 90, the Budapest-born director/screenwriter has been a creative force since her feature debut, 1968’s fiery ‘The Girl’. Fittingly, it’s the first of 11 films to screen and rewards audiences with the presence of a distinctive female anti-hero – played by singer Kati Kovacs – a rebel who decides to dig up her family roots. It projects at 7 p.m. Friday. The series also serves up 1969’s “Binding Sentiments,” about a strained relationship between a widow, her son, and his girlfriend (7 p.m. Sunday); and 1973’s spiky look at the divide between haves and have-nots, “Riddance,” which follows a textile worker who poses as a college student once she falls in love with an upper-class student (19 a.m. June 15).

There’s also a treasure trove of gems to watch, including Jean Vigo’s 1934 romance “L’Atlante” (7pm Saturday), considered by some to be a French masterpiece; and Charlie Chaplin’s 1925 classic “The Gold Rush,” which will not only play at the Barbro Osher Theater (2:00 p.m. June 25) but also outside (August 4).

Details: Most screenings $10 to $14; complete program and more information on

—Randy Myers, Bay Area News Foundation

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