Theater roundup: June productions pack a punch

“Topdog/Underdog” at Celebration Arts features Conrad Crump (in orange sweatshirt) and Donald Lacy III. (Photo by Jonathan Martinez)

By Dave Kempa

The Sacramento region’s live theater scene has, for decades, punched well above its weight.

On any given night, one can take in a traveling Broadway musical at downtown’s renovated UC Davis Health Pavilion, enjoy the city’s local professional talents at The Sofia or Capital Stage, or opt for a grassroots community experience at venues like Big Idea Theatre and Celebration Arts.

And let’s not forget perennial staples like Green Valley Theatre Company’s annual production of the “Rocky Horror Picture Show” (performed last Halloween on the top floor of a downtown Presbyterian church) and the Sacramento Shakespeare Festival’s summertime twists on the Bard’s best works.

Here’s a sample of what’s playing around town as summer heats up in the City of Trees:

The Newlywed Game”

Holiday drama is a time-honored American tradition, and it’s on full display in the world premiere of “The Newlywed Game.” Winner of the 2023 B Street New Comedies Festival, this play tells the tale of a young couple taking the leap to host their traditional families for Thanksgiving — to which everyone brings plenty of food and secrets — and what happens after they inadvertently let slip that they are engaged. The parents, steeped in two very different cultures, do all they can to get their children to realize that they’re not ready for nuptials. 

Written by Alyssa Haddad-Chin, this comedy was created through the Plays in Progress series by the Athena Project, a nonprofit dedicated to empowering women and underrepresented genders to embrace their place as leaders in the arts. 

Venue: The Sofia, Home of B Street, 2700 Capitol Ave., Sacramento

Dates: June 5 – July 14

Cost: $22 – $39


 A young couple hosts their traditional families for Thanksgiving, letting slip that they are engaged in the drama “The Newlywed Game,” which runs June 5 to July 14 at The Sofia. (Photo by Rudy Meyers)


Sacramento is incredibly lucky to have a local production of this venerated drama, which was heralded in The New York Times as the best American play in 25 years. Celebration Arts, for those who don’t know, is an nonprofit that, among other offerings, “showcases some of the nation’s top award-winning Black playwrights of the Black experience at [their] 100 seat theater,” which is the storied former venue of B Street Theatre. 

Directed by Melinda Wilson Ramey, “Topdog/Underdog” stars local actors Conrad Crump and Donald Lacy III as Lincoln and Booth (respectively), two brothers named in jest by their father, as they navigate the complexities of brotherhood, destiny and a past they’re striving to move beyond. The theatergoer is immediately reminded of the fateful night at Ford’s Theater, when President Abraham Lincoln was killed by actor John Wilkes Booth. Does this portend a similar fate for our two brothers?

Venue: Celebration Arts, 2727 B St., Sacramento

Dates: June 7-30

Cost: $10 – $25


Much Ado About Nothing”

Big Idea Theatre is a phenomenal example of Sacramento’s burgeoning community theater scene, with an egalitarian and collaborative approach to the direction and growth of their operations. As they mention on the website, no one owns Big Idea, and it is member-run — a grassroots quality that shines in every production at this cozy venue. 

Grab a beer and a bite before the show at King Cong Brewing Co. across Del Paso Boulevard before settling in for Shakespeare’s classic comedy on gossip, rumor and love. Directed by the same team that put on last season’s hilarious rendering of “The Twelfth Night” (I saw it, and loved it), “Much Ado About Nothing” is sure to be another raucous good time with homegrown players. 

Venue: Big Idea Theatre, 1616 Del Paso Blvd., Sacramento

Dates: June 7 – 29

Cost: $15 – $20

“The Spongebob Musical”

Here’s a Broadway musical for Sacramento theatergoers of all ages. For just one week, Broadway at Music Circus will host a delightful dive into the undersea universe of “Spongebob Squarepants,” the off-beat animated Nickelodeon series adored not just by children today, but also by Millennials and Gen-Z adults — who were kids themselves when the show launched in 1999. Join the residents of Bikini Bottom in this lively tale of friendship, featuring songs from star musicians like John Legend, Cyndi Lauper and Aerosmith. 

Lauded by The New York Times as a “ginormous giggle of a show,” this one promises fun and nostalgia for anyone aged 5 and up looking for a night of light-hearted revelry at the UC Davis Health Pavilion.

Venue: Broadway at Music Circus, 1419 H St., Sacramento

Dates: June 25 – 30

Cost: $65 – $120


Now Circa Then”

Midtown’s Capitol Stage wraps its 2023/2024 season with the Sacramento premiere of “Now Circa Then,” a 2011 play by Carly Mensch that was celebrated in as “a layered, clear-eyed work of art.” 

Margie and Gideon, a somewhat mismatched couple of reenactors, have been hired by a tenement museum in New York’s Lower East Side to tell the story of Josephine and Julian Glockner, two Jewish immigrants striving to start anew after crossing the Atlantic to relocate from a small riverside town in what today is modern Ukraine. The tour quickly takes a turn as the actors’ budding relationship bleeds into the story they’ve been hired to tell in this two-person play directed by Bay Area playwright and director Jeffrey Lo. 

Venue: Capitol Stage, 2215 J St., Sacramento

Dates: June 19 – July 21

Cost: $25


This story was funded by the City of Sacramento’s Arts and Creative Economy Journalism Grant to Solving Sacramento. Following our journalism code of ethics and protocols, the city had no editorial influence over this story and no city official reviewed this story before it was published. Our partners include California Groundbreakers, Capital Public Radio, Outword, Russian America Media, Sacramento Business Journal, Sacramento News & Review, Sacramento Observer and Univision 19.

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1 Comment on "Theater roundup: June productions pack a punch"

  1. Marie Hoffman | June 5, 2024 at 5:45 pm | Reply

    So happy to see some local theater coverage. More of this please!

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