Cathy Richardson in Love, Janis
(Photo © David M. Allen)
Cathy Richardson in Love, Janis
(Photo © David M. Allen)
After years of touring nearly every major destination city across the United States, the musical seemingly born to live in San Francisco makes its long-awaited arrival. Love, Janis, the rock n' roll musical adapted from the novel bearing the same title, pieces together the life of Janis Joplin, the '60s icon who hitchhiked her way to San Francisco in 1966. Taking its cues from the personal letters and notes Joplin penned, as well as transcriptions from the star's numerous print, radio, and television interviews, Love, Janis aims to present not only the singer's accomplished career, but a window into her soul. Director Randal Myler, whose credits include It Ain't Nothin' But the Blues, adapted and conceived the play from the original book (written by Joplin's sister Laura Joplin), and music director Sam Andrew, the founder of '60s psychedelic rockers, Big Brother and Holding Company, resurrects such classic Joplin singles as "Me and Bobby McGee," "Try (Just a Little Bit Harder)," "Mercedes Benz," and "Piece of My Heart" (July 7-September 3, Marines Memorial Theatre).

The Broadway smash hit Rent makes its way to San Francisco through the "Best of Broadway" series. The groundbreaking musical written by Jonathan Larson is set in the East Village of New York City, and tells the gripping story of several struggling artists whose lives intersect and collide in a powerful sequence of events (July 25-August 5, Golden Gate Theatre).

Actors Ensemble of Berkeley turns the heat up a notch higher this summer with its production of Tennessee Williams' The Night of the Iguana, the story of Reverend Dr. T. Lawrence Shannon, a former priest plagued by alcoholism among other unreligious ailments and his arrival at a rundown motel in Mexico in 1940 (July 14-August 12, Live Oak Theatre). The Ross Valley Players bring murder, mystery, and comedy to Marin County with its production of Over My Dead Body by Michael Sutton and Anthony Fingleton. It's the story of three successful murder-mystery writers who plot an actual murder in order to revive a writing style they fear has become outdated (July 14-August 20, Barn Theatre, Marin Art & Garden Center).

Broadway By The Bay stages the all-time favorite Fiddler on the Roof, the musical that tells the story of Teyve the milkman, whose family traditions are called into question as his five daughters come of age (July 14-July 30, San Mateo Performing Arts Center). Meanwhile, 42nd Street Moon inaugurates its 14th season with Li'l Abner, the raucous musical that first garnered notoriety 50 years ago by bringing Al Capp's famed cartoon characters to life (July 20-August 13, Eureka Theatre).

Last, but by no means least, the annual San Francisco Theater Festival is a true one-day, one-of-a-kind extravaganza. It brings 70 shows to 10 stages and boasts more than 270 actors. Shows range between 20 and 30 minutes and include works from emerging playwrights, youth theater, Shakespeare, improvisation, musical theater, and a wide range of solo performances. Presented in conjunction with the festival is the Children's Theater Festival which includes programming for every age range. This year's line-up features performances by Teatro Calamari which uses puppets to present its modern day Rapunzel; San Francisco's Youth Ballet Theatre's Peter & the Wolf; and the San Francisco Clown Conservatory's Circus Finelli, a theatrical smorgasbord bringing together, music, dance, acrobatics, and a tap-dancing cow. (July 23, Yerba Buena Arts Complex)