Velina Brown and Bob Ernst in Red State
Velina Brown and Bob Ernst in Red State
Summer's off to a great start in the Bay Area, with a slew of sizzling productions heating up local stages everywhere, with a lengthy list of popular favorites, as well as a number of new debuts.

The Tony Award-winning San Francisco Mime Troupe presents a new political musical comedy, Red State, wherein the small town of Bluebird, Kansas threatens to derail the Presidential election. Written by Mime Troupe head writer Michael Gene Sullivan, with music and lyrics by Pat Moran, the show will perform -- for free -- throughout the Bay Area.

The Marsh has lots of exciting productions filling its July calendar. Kicking things off is Liz Raynal's American Joe (July 3-August 15), about two very different siblings -- Liz, who wears ballet flats, teaches English, and is against war, and her soldier brother Joe. Then, Brian Copeland's wildly successful Not A Genuine Black Man comes back to The Marsh, July 17-26. The solo show chronicles the upbringing of Copeland, who in 1971, moved to San Leandro, then named one of the most racist suburbs in America. It was so bad, Congressional hearings were even held on the matter. Finally, Victoria Doggett reveals what it's like to be an annual participant in the Fancy Food Shows in San Francisco and New York, in her one-woman show, Kiss My Booth (July 26-29).

No one will nod off at The Drowsy Chaperone, when the Broadway hit musical about a spoiled Broadway starlet who is ready to give up the spotlight for the joys of married life comes to San Francisco's Orpheum Theatre, July 22-August 17. Written by Don McKellar, Lisa Lambert and Greg Morrison, this ambitious musical has garnered rave reviews and snatched up 5 Tony Awards as well as the New York Drama Critics' Circle and Desk Award for Best Musical.

Giacomo Puccini's beloved opera about four bohemians living on Paris' Left Bank comes to life in San Francisco's Pocket Opera production of La Boheme (Legion of Honor, July 13-27). Using Donald Pippin's adaptation of the famous opera, audiences will fall in love with the poet Rodolfo, the painter Marcello, the musician Schaunard, and the scholar Colline, all of whom share an apartment in the romantic city of Paris.

In A New Brain (The Custom Stage, July 11-August 9), featuring music and lyrics by William Finn and a book by James Lapine, a composer of children's musicals is unexpectedly hospitalized. The zany characters of his life surround his bedside, and he begins to reevaluate the need for fame and fortune.

The story about the ultimate American road trip enjoys its West Coast premiere, as the Sonoma County Repertory Theatre presents On the Road (July 11-27), by Johnny Simons (adapted from Jack Kerouac). Directed by Scott Phillips, this theatrical journey features Kerouac and his friends who drove across the country during the 1950s in an epic roadtrip that defined the Beat Generation.

Dinosaurs aren't always monsters. When a dearth of food supplies threatens the existence of the universe, the world's dinosaurs agree it would be best not to eat each other, until the rough spot passes. When the T-Rexes disobey the rules however, it's up to a fledgling group of peaceful dinosaurs to save the world. Presented by the Palo Alto Children's Theatre, The Dinosaur Musical (July 11 through July 19), by Robert and Willie Reale, is a treat for the whole family.