BWW's Best of NorCal 2013 (Harmony's Picks) and What to Look Forward to in 2014

The 2013 BroadwayWorld San Francisco audience choice awards saw a fantastic number of nominations for Northern California, from Fresno's Good Company Players to Modesto's Gallo Center to Broadway Sacramento. If only enough time existed to see every show. Here are a few of my favorite productions from 2013.


1776 - I have to admit, when I originally watched the film version of "1776," I thought the show slow and boring, but "1776" is one of those shows you have to see in person to love. And once you've seen it done well, the film doesn't seem so bad. Earlier this year, American Conservatory Theatre's patriotic co-production quickly turned "1776" into one of my new favorite musicals. The musical timing and cast chemistry blended to perfection with witty humor and endearing characters.

LITTLE ME / SUGAR - Comedic standout of the year, Broadway performer Jason Graae starred both in Sacramento Music Circus' tap-dancing spectacular "Sugar" and San Francisco's 42nd Street Moon production of "Little Me." Audiences found Graae dressing like a woman to hide from gangsters in one show and playing a multitude of different characters in the other. With their hilarious stories and energetic casts, both productions made my Best of 2013 list, but Graae deserves a category all his own.

A LITTLE PRINCESS - It's not too often that you get a new musical outside of Broadway that really sticks with you, especially if it's based on a classic source. But Sacramento Theatre Company's debut of Eric Rockwell's beautifully composed "A Little Princess" featured a well-paced story with unforgettable characterizations of the young orphan girl's hopes and dreams. Here's to hoping this royal show gets the royal treatment. I would love to hear its gorgeous music grace Northern California again.

IOLANTHE - In August, Lamplighters Music Theatre gave its best performance of the season with the most whimsical choreography of the year and my personal favorite creative costuming of the year in Gilbert and Sullivan's "Iolanthe." The silly love story, which involves fairies and half-mortals, called for a playful and flawless cast that included Molly Mahone, Cary Ann Rosko, F. Lawrence Ewing, John Brown and Sean Irwin.

THE WHIPPING MAN - Marin Theatre Company presented an incredibly raw production of Matthew Lopez's "The Whipping Man" with Bay Area favorites L. Peter Callender and Nicholas Pelczar. Set after the end of the Civil War, the play deals with controversial issues of race, abuse and religion, but manages to do so in a manner that is both thought provoking and tactful.

THE HOBBIT - Back in February, the small community gem Playhouse Merced turned its intimate stage into the Shire and other favorite locations from J.R.R. Tolkein's "The Hobbit." No big budget film, but in some ways more enjoyable, the production's perfect cast featured a dedicated and melodramatic Jeshamon Volkerts as Gollum and the charming next-door-neighbor Jake Levi Nelson as Bilbo Baggins. Stephen Mouillesseaux and Zachary Ellis also deserve best actor nods for their turns as Thorin and Gandalf. With such a success behind them, I look forward to Playhouse Merced's next classic, "The Three Musketeers" in April 2014. One more play, several touring shows, honorable mentions and 2014 highlights after the jump. Click "Page Two" to read more.

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Harmony Wheeler A theater lover since childhood, Harmony Wheeler has done Marketing and Public Relations work for Sierra Repertory Theatre, Hillhouse Opera Company and other companies. She graduated with high honors from Biola University with her degree in Journalism and an emphasis in Public Relations. In addition to working for the Gallo Center for the Arts, MJM Entertainment Group, Biola University Marketing and Communications, 6th Street PR, and Zimbabwe Gecko Society, Wheeler has written for The Modesto Bee, The Chimes, Static MultiMedia,, TUFW Alumnus Magazine, Christian Book Previews, The Christian Communicator, and Church Libraries Magazine. Her photos appear in The Dominican Dream, a book available for purchase through Biola University's Journalism Department. Her photography and video work can be found at To learn more about Harmony Wheeler, or to contact her for work possibilities, visit

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