Must-See Theater in San Francisco in 2019
San Francisco's performing arts scene offers top-notch quality to visitors and residents alike. This year, San Francisco's theaters will be filled with beloved classics and bold new works, high-stakes drama and toe-tapping musicals, fun for the family and more serious fare for grown-ups. Take a look through our round-up of must-see theater in San Francisco. There are even some can't-miss performances in the East Bay you should know about!
Beach Blanket Babylon (Club Fugazi, 678 Green St.)
A San Francisco institution, "Beach Blanket Babylon" a is fast-paced, topical musical revue renowned for its outrageous headgear, spectacular costumes, and up-to-the-moment pop culture characters. Everyone from Brett Kavanaugh to Beyoncé and Vladimir Putin to Lady Gaga will traverse the stage with sky-high hats and mile-high horseplay.
Paradise Square (Berkeley Repertory Theater, 2025 Addison St., Berkeley)
Through Feb. 24
The world premiere production of this musical based on the songs of Stephen Foster has been extended for an additional 8 performances. Set in the pre-Civil War years when black and Irish Americans in New York briefly found racial harmony, the show, choreographed by the legendary Bill T. Jones, features a variety of musical and dance traditions including Irish step-dancing, African traditional forms and tap, created from the fusion of these styles.
Metamorphoses (Berkeley Repertory Theater, 2025 Addison St., Berkeley)
Through Mar. 10
Spellbinder Mary Zimmerman returns to Berkeley Rep with her Tony-winning take on Ovid’s Greek myths. The playwright and director has made a career of revamping classics and reinventing ancient myths and fables with wit and poetry. This delightful production of gods and mortals features an on-stage wading pool and other enchanting flourishes.
Hamilton (SHN Orpheum Theatre, 1192 Market St.)
Feb. 12 – Sep. 8
The third national tour of "Hamilton" had an emotional kick-off in Puerto Rico, for which creator and original cast member Lin-Manuel Miranda reprised the title role. Following this, the tour comes directly to San Francisco, with Julius Thomas III taking over for Miranda. The most game-changing musical in possibly forever, Hamilton returns to San Francisco with new opportunities to buy tickets or perhaps win seats in the lottery.
Her Portmanteau (A.C.T. Strand Theater, 1127 Market St.)
Feb. 15–Mar. 31
This drama by a first generation Nigerian-American explores the multigenerational bonds of a Nigerian family living in the United States. The well-received play examines issues of immigration and identity and the ideals of the American melting pot and African heritage.
Hello, Dolly! (SHN Golden Gate Theatre, 1 Taylor St.)
Feb. 19 – Mar. 17
Broadway legend and American Theater Hall of Fame Inductee Betty Buckley stars as Dolly Levi in the Tony-winning revival of "Hello, Dolly!". Following in the feathered bonnets of Carol Channing, Barbara Streisand, Ethel Merman, Pearl Bailey, and most recently Bette Midler and Bernadette Peters, Buckley plays the larger than life matchmaker in this lauded revival of the 1964 musical.
The Waiting Period (The Marsh, 1062 Valencia St.)
Mar. 3 and 17
Brian Copeland’s first play, “Not a Genuine Black Man,” is the longest running solo show in San Francisco history. His follow-up show, first staged in 2012, returns for limited performances this March. The title refers to the 10 days Copeland was required to wait before his gun license cleared. The show is an autobiographical countdown to a life or death choice.
The Great Leap (A.C.T. Geary Theater, 450 Geary St.)
Mar. 6 – 31
Set in San Francisco’s Chinatown, this basketball drama from award-winning Bay Area playwright Lauren Yee is about an American basketball team that travels to Beijing—although it's really about identity, global politics, and the collision of cultures and generations.
Falsettos (SHN Golden Gate Theatre, 1 Taylor St.)
Mar. 19 – Apr. 14
What began as a trilogy of one-act plays about a neurotic gay man named Marvin in 1980 has become two-act Broadway musical that revolves around Marvin, his wife, lover, about-to-be-Bar-Mitzvah-ed son, their psychiatrist, and the lesbians next door.
The Jungle (The Curran, 445 Geary St.)
Mar. 26 - May 19
“A devastating, uplifting show” that arrives from its sold-out run in New York with the original cast, "The Jungle" refers to the refugee and migrant encampment in Calais France where thousands of African and Middle Eastern refugees created a self-governing society in 2015 and 2016. The Calais Jungle is recreated with immersive staging at The Curran, giving the audience a seat at the table.
The Importance of Being Earnest (Aurora Theater, 2081 Addison St., Berkeley)
Apr. 12 - May 12
A “trivial comedy for serious people,” this uproarious farce, full of wordplay and wit, is Oscar Wilde’s most popular play. The trouble with Earnest, the irresistible bad boy of London society, is that he doesn’t exist. Two pairs of young lovers scramble to untangle their own web of lies and win the approval of the imperious Lady Bracknell in what’s been called the most perfect comedy written in the English language.
Roald Dahl's Charlie And The Chocolate Factory (SHN Golden Gate Theatre, 1 Taylor St.)
Apr. 16 – May 12
In this updated version of Roald Dahl's fantastical 1964 children's novel, which became the delightful 1971 musical film, the golden ticket holders have gone all 21st century. Violet Beauregarde is a YouTube star and Mike Teavee is a Twitter addict. But they're still all gaga for chocolate and Wonka is still crazy like a fox. Marc Shaiman (“Mary Poppins Returns”) wrote the music and lyrics for this Broadway confection.
Vanity Fair (A.C.T. Geary Theater, 450 Geary St.)
Apr. 17 - May 12
Playwright Kate Hamill (The Wall Street Journal’s 2017 "Playwright of the Year") is known for lively, bold adaptations of 19th-century novels starring women. Her latest is a stage adaptation of William Makepeace Thackeray’s classic, featuring one of literature’s original “nasty women.”
The Good Book (Berkeley Repertory Theater, 2025 Addison St., Berkeley)
Apr. 25–June 9
This powerful play weaves together stories of personal faith and the journey of the Bible itself —from ancient Mesopotamia to medieval Ireland to suburban America—through the many hands, minds, hearts, and circumstances that molded this incredibly potent testament to the human spirit.
Julius Caesar (Zellerbach Hall, UC Berkeley Campus, Berkeley)
This revival of The Théâtre National de Bretagne’s “visually stunning, musically moody, and unceasingly stylish" production of "Julius Caesar" highlights the continuing relevance of Shakespeare's great political tragedy. With costumes and design that evoke the era of JFK, a live jazz trio, and provocative staging, the play’s action unfolds as the dream of a minor character, Brutus' slave Lucius.
Songs of Lear (Zellerbach Hall, UC Berkeley Campus, Berkeley)
May 11 and 12
An audience favorite at Edinburgh's Fringe Festival, Warsaw-based troupe Song of the Goat Theatre integrates movement, song, and text to mine historical works for fresh insights. The award-winning “Songs of Lear” retells the tragic king's story as a dramatic oratorio blending Corsican folk music and Gregorian chant—a production The New York Times called “viscerally awe-inspiring.”
A Midsummer Night’s Dream (California Shakespeare Theater, 100 California Shakespeare Theater Way, Orinda)
May 22 - June 9
One of Shakespeare’s most magical comedies of mischievous fairies, discombobulated lovers and a donkey-headed craftsman is all more the magical set amidst the bucolic backdrop of the Orinda hills behind the Bruns Amphitheater. Audiences can watch Shakespeare, drink wine, and nosh from their picnic baskets.
Kiss My Aztec! (Berkeley Repertory Theater, 2025 Addison St., Berkeley)
May 28–July 14
John Leguizamo’s musical mash-up of Elizabethan dialect and modern slang fuses salsa, Latin boogaloo, hip-hop, and merengue to celebrate, elevate and commemorate Latin culture. This world premiere production is based on an original screenplay by John Leguizamo and Stephen Chbosky but it is worth noting, Leguizamo himself does not perform in this production.
Beautiful: The Carole King Musical (SHN Golden Gate Theatre, 1 Taylor St.)
May 28 – June 9
Long before she was Carole King, a chart-topping music legend, she was Carol Klein, a Brooklyn girl with passion and immense talent. This top-notch jukebox musical tells the story of King’s journey from nice Jewish girl from Brooklyn to hit-maker for the biggest acts in rock ‘n’ roll to 70s singer-songwriter.
Rhinoceros (A.C.T. Geary Theater, 450 Geary St.)
May 29 – June 23
An all-new adaptation of Eugène Ionesco 1959 masterpiece of absurdist satire in which the inhabitants of a small French town all turn into rhinoceroses. It’s a wickedly entertaining comedy that explores themes of power, conformity, fascism, mass movements, and mob mentality.
Rent (SHN Golden Gate Theatre, 1 Taylor St.)
June 14 – June 23
A re-imagining of Puccini's "La Bohème," this original rock musical opened in 1996 and changed the landscape of American theatre. Two decades later, Jonathan Larson’s “Rent” continues to speak loudly and defiantly to audiences across generations and all over the world. This Pulitzer Prize- and Tony Award-winning masterpiece returns to the stage in a vibrant 20th anniversary touring production.
The Year Of Magical Thinking (Aurora Theater, 2081 Addison St., Berkeley)
June 21 - July 21
This one-woman play is the stage adaptation of Joan Didion’s critically acclaimed memoir, which won the National Book Award for Nonfiction in 2005. The book, an account of the sudden unexpected loss of Didion’s husband, novelist John Gregory Dunne, and the illness of their daughter Quintana has been called “a masterpiece of two genres: memoir and investigative journalism."
The Good Person of Szechwan (California Shakespeare Theater, 100 California Shakespeare Theater Way, Orinda)
July 3 - 21
This production marks the first time Cal Shakes has presented a play by Bertolt Brecht. The play is a fable for our times, exploring the lengths to which one must go to keep clean in a dirty world. First performed in 1943, Brecht’s parable examines morality, money, altruism, and exploitation.
Eddie Izzard: Wunderbar (SHN Golden Gate Theatre, 1 Taylor St.)
July 8 – 10
English comedian and monologist Eddie Izzard returns to his roots with an all-new show that expands on his own very unique, totally surreal view of life, love, history and his "theory of the universe." It’s about everything from talking dogs and animal superheroes to human evolution.
House of Joy (California Shakespeare Theater, 100 California Shakespeare Theater Way, Orinda)
Aug. 14 - Sep. 1
Set in a place and time something like 17th century Delhi, “House of Joy” is a tale of adventure and intrigue drawn from Indian legends and history. Epic and fanciful, this world premiere from Bay Area born Madhuri Shekar’s play is about an elite bodyguard who must choose between protecting the empire and protecting her vulnerable charge.
Anastasia (SHN Golden Gate Theatre, 1 Taylor St.)
Sep. 3 – 29
Adapted from the 1997 animated movie, "Anastasia," this dazzling new musical transports us from the twilight of the Russian Empire to the euphoria of Paris in the 1920s, as a brave young woman sets out to discover the mystery of her past.
Macbeth (California Shakespeare Theater, 100 California Shakespeare Theater Way, Orinda)
Sep. 18 - Oct. 6
The final production of the Cal Shakes season is "Macbeth," the shortest and bloodiest of Shakespeare's tragedies. In this cautionary tale of unbridled ambition, Macbeth heeds the prophecy foretold by the three witches— or does he concoct his own self-fulfilling prophesy that will destroy all that he holds dear?
Harry Potter and The Cursed Child (The Curran, 445 Geary St.)
The most exciting thing to happen to Potterheads since J.K. Rowling set down her wand, this stage play arrives in San Francisco after racking up 9 Olivier Awards in London and 6 Tonys in New York. Based on an original new story by Rowling, Jack Thorne, and John Tiffany, the two-part play begins nineteen years after the events of "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows." Harry now works at The Ministry of Magic and his son Albus is about to attend Hogwarts. The San Francisco production will mark the fourth engagement of the smash hit play, as well as its West Coast premiere.