Theater Notebook: Stage shows we don’t want to miss in 2021

 Cygnet Theatre's "La Cage aux Folles"
A scene from Cygnet Theatre’s 2020 production of “La Cage aux Folles,” which closed after one preview performance due to the pandemic. It will return in 2021.
(Courtesy of Karli Cadel)

Some of the postponed 2020 productions will be part of some companies’ 2021 seasons


It’s been nearly 10 months since San Diego theaters set up ghost lights on their stages, with the hope that one day soon live theater would return. No one could have predicted how long it will take for curtains to rise again. But with the vaccine now a reality, many theaters are hoping to reopen next summer or fall.

Because of the unpredictability of the pandemic, most San Diego theaters haven’t published any firm production plans for this year. But a handful of local companies have listed some tentative plans on their websites, so I’ve picked the shows I am most looking forward to seeing in 2021:

“La Cage aux Folles”

Cygnet Theatre

This effervescent comedy musical — with a killer cast of local pros, including Lance Arthur Smith as Georges and David McBean as Albin — only got one preview performance onstage before the pandemic shut the show down. Cygnet Artistic Director Sean Murray said that with all of the scenery and costumes already built, “La Cage” will be the first show the company stages in 2021, whenever that will be.

“The Remarkable Mister Holmes”

North Coast Repertory Theatre

North Coast’s Artistic Director David Ellenstein and local actor/playwright Omri Schein are collaborating with composer Daniel Lincoln on this world premiere musical comedy murder mystery inspired by Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes stories. Set to run July 21-Aug. 15.

“Harlem Duet”

Coronado Playhouse

Canadian playwright Djanet Sears’ award-winning 1997 play is the time-traveling “rhapsodic blues tragedy” about the troubled relationship between a Black couple in 1928 Harlem, before the man, Othello, leaves his wife, Billie, for a White woman named Mona. The characters were inspired by Shakespeare’s “Othello” but the story is original. Kandace Crystal will direct the play slated to run March 19-April, most likely online.

Modesto Flako Jimenez of New York's Oye Group
Modesto Flako Jimenez of New York’s Oye Group is creating a San Diego version of the site-specific play “Taxilandia” for La Jolla Playhouse in 2021.
(Courtesy of Oye Group)


La Jolla Playhouse

Created for the Playhouse’s ongoing all-digital Without Walls Festival, the first phase of this socially distanced show is now under way. Created by Modesto Flako Jimenez of New York’s Oye Group, it’s described as a site-specific play within a tour of San Diego. In a series of salons, Jimenez is interviewing local community leaders for location ideas. From those meetings, Jimenez will write a script and map out a driving route that will take audience members to communities affected by gentrification, where they’ll explore issues of social stigma, race, class and culture. The project will not launch performances until social distancing orders lift but the public can still sign up for the final salon forums on Jan. 14 and 23.

“Puccini: Live from Florence”

San Diego Repertory Theatre

Playwright/pinaist/actor Hershey Felder’s will present the world premiere of this solo play about the Tuscan composer Giacomo Puccini. Opera singers will join Felder for the autobiographical solo show about the man behind “La Bohème,” “Tosca” and “Turandot.” This will be Felder’s seventh broadcast from his home in Florence, Italy. Live-cast at 5 p.m. March 14.

“The Gardens of Anuncia”

The Old Globe

One of eight postponed shows still listed on the Old Globe’s website for future production is this autobiographical world premiere musical directed and choreographed by 81-year-old Broadway legend Graciela Daniele, with a book, music and lyrics by Tony Award nominee Michael John LaChiusa. The play begins in Daniele’s girlhood in Juan Peron’s Argentina, and it pays homage to the family of women who helped Daniele follow her artistic dreams in America. No dates announced.

Cynthia Gerber will star in the solo show "The Belle of Amherst" at Lamb's Players Theatre this spring.
(Courtesy photo)

“The Belle of Amherst”

Lamb’s Players Theatre

Veteran Lamb’s Players performer Cynthia Gerber will play 15 characters in William Luce’s rarely produced 1976 solo play about the famous 19th-century American poet Emily Dickinson. It’s slated to run May 15-June 27.

“Day of Absence”

Common Ground Theatre

New artistic director Yolanda Franklin is making bold and thoughtful choices in her play selections for San Diego’s oldest Black theater. Douglas Turner Ward’s provocative play is a “reverse minstrel show” satire performed by Black actors in White-face makeup. It imagines what would happen in the Deep South if all of its Black citizens disappeared. The play has been announced for a February run in an outdoor production.

“Aging Magician”

San Diego Opera

Postponed from spring 2020, this choral opera by Paola Prestini and Rinde Eckert is the story of a dying clockmaker who imagines himself a magician who must pass along his prized book of magic before he dies. The show features the Brooklyn Youth Chorus, Grammy-winning Attacca Quartet and puppetry. Slated for two performances in March.

Pam Kragen writes about theater for the San Diego Union-Tribune. Email her at

 San Diego Opera's "Aging Magician" rescheduled to spring 2021
A scene from San Diego Opera’s “Aging Magician,” planned for March 2021 at the Balboa Theatre in San Diego.
(Courtesy of Jill Steinberg )