Best Bets: Wall dancers, operatic ‘West Side Story,’ and more

The Bay Area is a hub of artistic expression, attracting artists, writers and musicians from around the globe to live, work and create. We highlight some of the offerings here.

Something’s coming, something good: Opera San Jose is closing out its season with a classic from the Great White Way, launching its seven-performance run of Leonard Bernstein and Stephen Sondheim’s “West Side Story” Saturday night at the California Theatre in downtown San Jose.

Soprano Teresa Castillo and tenor Noah Stewart are cast as the lovestruck, star-crossed pair Maria and Tony, and mezzo-soprano Natalie Rose Havens sings the role of the feisty Anita (OK by her in Amer-I-ca!).

This will be Opera San Jose’s first-ever production of a Broadway musical, and the company has pulled out all the stops to make it happen, including bringing on a full complement of Jets and Sharks to back up Riff (baritone Trevor Martin) and Bernardo (Antony Sanchez). Christopher James Ray conducts the production staged by Crystal Manich.

Performance times are 7:30 p.m. Saturday, April 21 and 29 and 2 p.m. Sunday, April 23, 24 and May 1. Find tickets, $55-$195, at or (408) 437-4450.

Things tend to go sideways whenever the dance troupe Bandaloop embarks on a new project, as they will in Uptown Oakland this weekend. (Photo courtesy Brooke Anderson)

Look, up on the building! Those loopy, gravity-defying performers in Bandaloop, the Oakland-based vertical dance troupe, will be launching themselves into the air from the side of the Art Deco style Breuner Building at Grand Avenue and Broadway in Oakland three times this weekend for a project the troupe has dubbed “LOOM:FIELD.”

In celebration of its 30th anniversary, the dance is the centerpiece of a three-part work that is designed to deepen our understanding of the interweaving of arts and industry in the field of textiles (hence the “LOOM,” you see), and the impacts that industry inflicts on our environment.

The area below the Uptown Oakland site will be closed off for picnicking, with food trucks present and some seating provided. The performances, which are free to view, are at 8 p.m. Friday and 5 and 8 p.m. Saturday, and the hip-hop group Alphabet Rockers will be on hand to spell out a few numbers to open the earlier Saturday performance. For more info, check out

Adam Torrian (Henry Bolingbroke) and Lijesh Krishnan (Richard) star in “Richard II” for African-American Shakespeare Company. (Photo courtesy Joseph Giammarco/African-American Shakespeare Company)

A king’s comeuppance: It can be tricky business, tinkering with the words of William Shakespeare. On one hand, let’s face it, his plays can be a real slog for those of us who are iambic pentameter-averse. On the other hand, c’mon: The dude was the Bard. They don’t give you a title like that if you are a hack. His writing has power and beauty and meaning.

Presenting a Shakespeare play with someone else’s words is kind of like listening to Leonard Cohen songs with Kevin Federline lyrics dubbed in. So we can appreciate the challenging middle ground staked out by the African-American Shakespeare Company in its new production of Shakespeare’s “Richard II.” A somewhat modernized verse for the play was devised by Naomi Iizuka, and the historical drama has been altered here to a memory play, which means it starts at the end — after Richard has been deposed — and looks back at what happened.

If all that makes Shakespeare fans a bit nervous, however, consider that African-American Shakes artistic director L. Peter Callender — one of the Bay Area’s more talented and knowledgeable theater artists — is helming this production. He has been involved with countless Shakespeare productions over the years, and frankly, if this new take on “Richard II” is good enough for him, it’s good enough for us. Plus, it’s about a vain, selfish, and incompetent ruler getting his just desserts, and couldn’t we all use a little of that right now?

“Richard II” runs Saturday through April 24 at Marines’ Memorial Theatre in San Francisco. Tickets are $35; go to

Cuban pianist and composer Omar Sosa, right, joins with Senegalese kora master Seckou Keita for concerts in Berkeley and Santa Cruz. (Photo courtesy Omar Sosa)

Sumptuous Sosa: Pianist and composer Omar Sosa is hard to classify because he is steeped in so many genres and musical cultures. He was a renowned musician and teacher in his native Cuba until the ’90s, when he began a series of moves, to Ecuador, Spain, the Bay Area and then Spain again. Along the way, he has absorbed elements of Latin, African, American jazz, world music, classical and more musical genres and created an extensive catalog of music that is distinctively his own.

There is a spiritual, almost weightless nature to much of his music, although his years of studying rhythm and percussion in his native Cuba ensure that his compositions have plenty of movement to them. Among the many friends and collaborators Sosa has worked with over the years is the renowned Senegalese kora player Seckou Keita. They teamed on the 2017 album “Transparent Water” and again on last year’s “SUBA.”

Now the two musicians, along with acclaimed Venezuelan percussionist Gustavo Ovalles, are touring behind “SUBA” and land at the Kuumbwa Jazz Center in Santa Cruz for shows at 7 and 9 p.m. Thursday ($18.50-$47.25; and at Berkeley’s Freight & Salvage for performances 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday ($18-$36; At both venues, proof of vaccination is required, and masks must be worn inside.

Randall King and Judith Miller star in Tracy Letts’ “August: Osage County” for San Jose Stage Company. (Photo courtesy Dave Lepori/San Jose Stage Company)

Worst family ever? Actor, playwright and screenwriter Tracy Letts has written some pretty dark stuff over his enviable career — from “Bug” to “Killer Joe” and “The Woman in the Window” — but we’re not sure anything comes close to his Tony Award- and Pulitzer Prize-winning play “August: Osage County,” which came out in 2007 and unleashed the Weston family on a defenseless America.

It’s not entirely that they are bad people — OK, the matriarch is a drug addict and the patriarch is an alcoholic; that’s not a good start — it’s that no one, from the parents to the various kids and spouses and lovers, etc., can seem to keep from harming themselves or each other.

The dark comedy begins after the patriarch, a washed-up poet, goes missing and the family gathers to deal with the crisis. And things go downhill from there. If this is the kind of train wreck you can’t help but get absorbed in, know that San Jose Stage Company has opened a new production of Letts’ play, directed by Kenneth Kelleher and featuring an ensemble cast full of some terrific Bay Area actors: Judith Miller, Allison F. Rich, Randall King, Michael Ray Wisely, Tim Kniffin, Marie Shell and more. So much talent. So much pathos. How can you resist?

The show runs through April 24 at San Jose Stage. Proof of vaccination is required, and masks must be worn in the theater. Tickets are $32-$72; go to

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