Rejoice, my pretties. The fall theater season is shaping up to be so magical that the return of "Wicked" just didn't make the cut for this fall preview. Don't get me wrong, the Bay Area has had a torrid love affair with the Oz prequel ever since the insanely popular blockbuster made its world premiere in San Francisco in 2003. Certainly, many a theater buff will flock to its South Bay premiere as part of the Broadway San Jose series Aug. 27 through Sept. 14.
BERKELEY REPERTORY THEATRE
Kathleen Turner stars as the irrepressible and outspoken journalist Molly Ivins in "Red Hot Patriot," opening in November at Berkeley Repertory Theatre.
But there's simply far too much bewitching fare out there this fall for a return engagement to get top billing. From high-flying spectacles such as Cirque du Soleil to sizzling solos shows from Mike Daisey and Kathleen Turner, the theater scene is bursting with enchantment. Drama junkies will get their fix with Daisey's epic Shakespearean romp "The Great Tragedies" and Enda Walsh's demented family drama "The New Electric Ballroom." Broadway babies will get their show tune on with Diane Paulus' hit revival of "Pippin" and the always deliciously macabre "Sweeney Todd."
Of course, many of these hot tickets will sell out in a flash (read: "Wicked," $44-$96; 800-982-2787; www.broadwaysanjose.com), so you had better pay attention to the man behind the curtain. Consider this your cheat sheet to the top five coolest shows this season, plus a bonus pick. "Red Hot Patriot": Oscar winner Kathleen Turner channels the spirit of journalism legend Molly Ivins. The brassy actress turns up the heat in this 75-minute one-woman show, which pays tribute to the fearless and witty Ivins, a twangy Texas newspaper scribe who was never afraid to reveal that the emperor had no clothes. The trailblazing pundit, who famously dubbed George W. Bush "shrub," fed the country's hunger for political satire in a period of growing cynicism. For her part, Turner has emerged as a formidable stage actress, particularly in the electrifying Broadway revival of "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?" opposite Bill Irwin (who will coincidentally be starring in the vaudevillian "Old Hats" at ACT this fall). Details: Nov. 21-Jan. 4; $29-$89; 510-647-2949, www.berkeleyrep.org "Pippin": Innovative director Diane Paulus has become the toast of Broadway with fresh and imaginative revivals of classics such as "Porgy and Bess" and "Hair" as well as the Cirque hit "Amaluna." Now she reinvents the anthem to youth that is "Pippin" with a high-flying circus flair (acrobatics by the Montreal-based Les 7 Doigts de la Main) and a female emcee in the role originated by Ben Vereen. Details: The highly gymnastic, Tony-winning revival runs Sept. 23-Oct. 19 at San Francisco's Golden Gate Theatre; $45-$210; 888-746-1799, www.shnsf.org Mike Daisey: Uber monologuist Mike Daisey, who has regaled Bay Area audiences with tales of everything from Amazon.com and P.T. Barnum to Steve Jobs, prompting raves and controversy in equal measure, returns with his epic take on the Bard. In honor of Cal Shakes' 40th anniversary, the solo show meister will perform the world premiere of "The Great Tragedies: Mike Daisey Takes on Shakespeare." Daisey will riff on four plays in repertory -- "Romeo and Juliet," "Hamlet," "Macbeth" and "King Lear" -- at the Bruns Memorial Amphitheater in Orinda. Details: Oct. 2-12; $40-$45; 510-548-9666, www.calshakes.org "Kurios": The unstoppable Cirque du Soleil swings back into the Bay Area with the U.S. premiere of this eerie tale of curiosity, fantasy, steampunk and poetry, "Kurios -- Cabinet of Curiosities." The French Canadian juggernaut of eye-popping spectacle, which has dropped jaws across the globe with a cavalcade of hits from "Quidam" and "Totem" to "Amaluna," will pitch its signature blue-and-yellow tent Nov. 14-Dec. 31 at San Francisco's AT&T Park, but extension is a possibility. Details: $53-$135, www.cirquedusoleil.com "The New Electric Ballroom": The adventurous Shotgun Players will stage this twisted drama from acclaimed Irish playwright Enda Walsh, best known for "Once" and "The Walworth Farce." Three aging sisters long for youth and freedom, even as they find themselves choked by the bonds of family, locked into the grim rituals of the past. Directed by Barbara Damashek. Details: Sept. 8-Oct. 5; Berkeley's Ashby Stage; $8-$30; 510-841-6500, www.shotgunplayers.org "Sweeney Todd": Stephen Sondheim's dark masterpiece about the demon barber of Fleet Street gets revived by TheatreWorks, directed by the deft Robert Kelley. If you're a Sweeney devotee, you can't miss a chance to sink your teeth into this savory deconstruction of capitalism, greed and revenge. Or as Sondheim puts it: "The history of the world, my sweet, is who gets eaten and who gets to eat." Details: Oct. 8-Nov. 2; Mountain View Center for the Performing Arts; $23-$73; 650-463-1960, www.theatreworks.org
Contact Karen D'Souza at 408-271-3772. Read her at www.mercurynews.com/karen-dsouza, and follow her at Twitter.com/karendsouza4.