Bay Area entertainment 2024: 20-plus shows, concerts, games we can’t wait to see

Bay Area entertainment 2024: 20-plus shows, concerts, games we can’t wait to see

Is this the year we can finally stop talking about the “post-Covid landscape?”

Actually, no, but the arts and entertainment world in 2024 nonetheless seems determined to return to something at least approximating normalcy, with full schedules and ambitious programming.

Hollywood is releasing a full slate of theatrical films this year, after recording an impressive $9 billion for 2023, even if thousands of theaters around the country have shuttered since Covid.

The concert world roared to record attendance/box-office levels in 2023 — thanks in large part to superstars like Taylor Swift, Beyonce and Ed Sheeran all doing stadium tours. This year won’t have that kind of triple header, but a full slate of tours are on tap and two legendary acts — the Rolling Stones and Bruce Springsteen — are headed our way along with 21st-century star Olivia Rodrigo.

The video game business is coming off a stellar 2023 and promises more heralded new fantasy games such as “Dragon’s Dogma II” and “Metaphor: ReFantazio.”

The live/performance arts world continues to try and regain its footing in a changing world that has seen some music, dance and stage companies close or cut back on programming while others seek to adjust to aging audiences and subscriber bases by luring young viewers. But there is still much to get excited about for 2024, including the delayed arrival of widely acclaimed “The Lehman Trilogy” in San Francisco; a world-premiere dance by S.F. Ballet that retells the “Pandora’s Box” story with an AI theme; and the Bay Area debut of Mexican composer Daniel Catan’s “Florencia en el Amazonas” at Opera San Jose.

Following are some of the shows and performances our arts and entertainment writers are particularly looking forward to. Keep in mind that schedules and other details are subject to change.

Film: Witches, Pixar and Sci-Fi, oh my!

The slate of films coming at audiences this year doesn’t skimp on sequels, prequels and the occasional reboot. But, they do look good. As in wicked good.

We’re talking about Palo Alto native Jon M. Chu’s delayed two-part film adaptation of the iconic musical “Wicked” (which premiered in San Francisco 20 years ago). “Wicked Part I,” starring Cynthia Erivo, Ariana Grande and Jonathan Bailey, has a holiday-friendly release date of Nov. 27

Meanwhile, a keenly anticipated Part II is headed for theaters — namely the second half of Denis Villeneuve’s epic (and terrific) adaptation of Frank Herbert’s “Dune.” Prepare to worm your way into theaters March 1 for “Dune: Part Two,” starring Timothée Chalamet and Oakland native Zendaya. Need more sci-fi action? Put the pedal to the metal for a prequel to one of the greatest dystopian action films ever (“Mad Max: Fury Road”) — “Furiosa” with Anya Taylor-Joy taking a joy ride in the role Charlize Theron made iconic, with a nearly unrecognizable Chris Hemsworth co-starring. It lands in theaters March 24.

For families, there’s a sequel to another Oscar-winning Pixar favorite, “Inside Out 2,” which brings us back inside the mind of a teenaged girl and her jumble of emotions ranging from Joy (Amy Poehler) to Anger (Lewis Black) to Anxiety (Maya Hawke) among others (in theaters June 14).

And if you want to experience an American nightmare that will send shivers down your spine during this election year, there’s Alex Garland’s dystopian “Civil War” (April 26). No, the title is not metaphorical; let’s hope it doesn’t prove prophetic.

Other notable titles include the inspirational “Ordinary Angels” (Feb. 23) with Hilary Swank, the Chicago motorcycle club drama “The Bikeriders” (June 21) starring Jodie Comer, Austin Butler and Tom Hardy; the buzzy Robert Eggers reboot of “Nosferatu” (Dec. 25) and the reboot of “Roadhouse” (March 21) with a jacked Jake Gyllenhaal taking on the Patrick Swayze part.

— Randy Myers, Correspondent

Concerts: Legends and young lions

Last year was a huge year in the concert industry, as such top acts as Taylor Swift, Dead & Company, Beyonce and Karol G filled massive stadiums from coast to coast and well beyond.

The good times look to keep right on rolling in 2024 thanks to another blockbuster lineup of acts set to take to the road. Some of the biggest names with Bay Area dates include the Rolling Stones (who bring their Hackney Diamonds Tour to Levi’s Stadium on July 17) and Luke Combs (who sets up shop at the same Santa Clara venue for two nights, May 17-18).

Yet, fans should also expect to see plenty of cool shows in smaller venues, of which the Bay Area is blessed with more than its fair share of really great ones.

Here are three shows (of many) we are looking forward to seeing in 2024:

Bruce Springsteen: The Boss is finally set to bring the E Street Band back to the Bay Area and will perform two big shows at Chase Center in San Francisco on March 28 and 31. The gigs were originally set to happen last December, but Springsteen delayed the tour to continue treatment for his peptic ulcer disease. Luckily, we got the chance to see the tour a couple of times early last year — during shows in Portland and Seattle — and can attest that Springsteen and company are still A-plus performers. Tickets start at $159 (subject to change);

Nicki Minaj: The hip-hop great will kick-off her Pink Friday 2 World Tour on March 1 at Oakland Arena. It’s the Trinidadian rapper’s first concert trek since 2019’s The Nicki Wrld Tour — which was a co-headlining jaunt with Juice WRLD — and her first solo-headlining road show since The Pinkprint Tour in 2015-16. She’s backing her recently released fifth studio album, the chart-topping “Pink Friday 2,” which is a sequel to the acclaimed 2010 debut “Pink Friday.” Tickets start at $110 (subject to change);

Olivia Rodrigo: Rodrigo’s first album, “Sour,” was a smash success that topped the charts, produced several platinum-plus-certified singles and helped the young singer-songwriter earn the 2022 Grammy for best new artist. The follow-up, “Guts,” is another blockbuster that could even take home of the trophy for album of the year when the Grammys are handed out in February. Rodrigo supports “Guts” in concert Aug. 2-3 at Chase Center. Details:

— Jim Harrington, Staff

Video games: fantasy rules

Although 2024 likely won’t be as jam-packed as last year, gamers can expect several excellent projects coming through the pipeline. The most anticipated titles have a fantasy bent, but the beauty is that they all have different styles.

Capcom’s “Dragon’s Dogma II” has more action going for it as players take on the role of the Arisen, who is marked by a dragon that the protagonist must defeat. Thankfully, they don’t have to journey alone as they have computer-controlled allies called Pawns, who each have their own experiences and personalities. There’s an intriguing character system that, combined with a more polished combat system and compelling landscape, makes this title an epic adventure that’s worth getting excited about. (Due out March 22 on PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X and Series S and PC.)

With “Metaphor: ReFantazio,” game-maker Atlus ventures into uncharted territory. This new project is separate from its hugely popular “Persona” series, but some key members of that team have moved over to this division.

“Metaphor” features a fantasy world where players are involved in a political struggle to choose the next king. The upcoming RPG features a new battle system that lets players slay foes in a more action-oriented style for enemies that are weaker than them but turns into a command-based system against stronger enemies. (Slated for fall release on Xbox Series X and Series S, PC and PlayStation 5 and PlayStation 4.)

Lastly, “Final Fantasy VII Rebirth” is the second game in the ambitious remake of the beloved classic. Although it has the same characters and circumstances as the title that launched on the PlayStation, this version of the game is anything but a rehash. It’s a completely fresh story that takes these beloved heroes and puts them in new and unexpected situations. “Final Fantasy VII Remake” managed to surprise and delight fans, and this second part is expected to do the same. (Feb. 29 on PlayStation 5)

— Gieson Cacho, Staff

Theater: High finance, a Galileo musical

These three shows emerge among several others a reason to get excited about going to the theater.

“Manahatta”: Despite land acknowledgements preceding performances all over the Bay Area, actual plays by Native artists have been relatively few and far between on local stages. Now playwright Mary Kathryn Nagle, a citizen of the Cherokee Nation, gives us a tale of Manahatta, the ancestral homeland of the Lenape people, better known today as Manhattan. From her people’s present-day base in Oklahoma, a young Lenape woman returns to Manahatta to work on Wall Street while the play travels back in time to the 1600s and the shady deals of Dutch colonists that lost the Lenape their home and laid the foundation for the everyday shadiness of today’s world of high finance. Details: Feb. 9-March 10; Aurora Theatre, Berkeley; $20-$65;

“Galileo”: Berkeley Repertory Theatre has a pretty good track record of birthing musicals that have gone on to Broadway, such as “American Idiot,” “Ain’t Too Proud,” “Paradise Square” and “Passing Strange.” Now Berkeley Rep reteams with Tony Award-winning director Michael Mayer, who previously premiered “American Idiot” and “Swept Away” at the theater, to craft a new rock musical about revolutionary astronomer Galileo Galilei. Starring Raúl Esparza, “Galileo” is written by Danny Strong, the screenwriter of “Game Change” (who also played Jonathan on “Buffy the Vampire Slayer”), with songs by Michael Weiner (Broadway’s “First Date”) and Zoe Sarnak (“The Lonely Few”). Details: May 5-Jun. 16; Berkeley Repertory Theatre; $22.50-$134;

“The Lehman Trilogy”: The history of Lehman Brothers, the financial services firm whose collapse precipitated the 2008 financial crisis, might seem like an unlikely topic for a hit play, but this 3½-half-hour epic drew thunderous acclaim in London and on Broadway, as well as five Tony Awards including best play. Written by Stefano Massini and directed by Sam Mendes of “American Beauty” fame (whose production of “Cabaret” played next door at the Curran 25 years ago), “The Lehman Trilogy” now comes to American Conservatory Theater with three actors playing the immigrant brothers who founded the firm in 1844 and the generations that follow. Details: May 25-June 23; Toni Rembe Theater, San Francisco; $25-$137;

— Sam Hurwitt, Correspondent

Classical music: MTT, Mitsuko Uchida, rainforest opera

Mark your calendars: with many still to come, the Bay Area’s classical music organizations already have announced some can’t-miss events.  Here are three highlights.

MTT and SF Symphony: The San Francisco Symphony has announced that music director laureate Michael Tilson Thomas, who was diagnosed with an aggressive form of brain cancer in 2021, will not conduct several previously scheduled concerts in 2024. But he plans to return to Davies Symphony Hall in January to lead three performances of Mahler’s Fifth Symphony. The organization recently said that these will be the beloved maestro’s final subscription series appearances. Details: Jan. 25-27; Davies Symphony Hall, San Francisco; $79-$275;

Uchida returns: The brilliant pianist Mitsuko Uchida, a superb interpreter of composers including Mozart, Beethoven, and Schubert, returns as Cal Performances’ artist in residence this spring. She’ll engage in multiple ways, including a Hertz Hall performance of Schubert’s “Winterreise” with tenor Mark Padmore, and a Zellerbach Hall concert with the Mahler Chamber Orchestra featuring Uchida as soloist and leader in works by Mozart and Jörg Widmann. Details: March 17-24; UC Berkeley; $47-$194;

Magical realism at the opera: In addition to its new February production of Verdi’s “Rigoletto,” Opera San Jose is going boldly into 2024 with “Florencia en el Amazonas.” Company general director Shawna Lucey is staging the Bay Area premiere of Daniel Catan’s opera: steeped in magical realism and set in the Amazon rainforest, it’s a passionate story of love and longing. Details: April 20-May 5; California Theatre, San Jose; $55-$195;

— Georgia Rowe, Correspondent

Dance: AI-themed ballet, Smuin, free performances galore

Some adventurous works and some old favorites highlight the Bay Area dance scene’s 2024 landscape. Here are three events to get excited about.

S.F. Ballet: The company is packing a lot into its first season programmed by new artistic director Tamara Rojo. Among the six programs is an eagerly anticipated world premiere of “Mere Mortals” by Aszure Barton, a retelling of the “Pandora’s Box” fable that reflects on the emerging age of Artificial Intelligence. Among many notable elements, it’s the company’s first commission of a full-length work by a female choreographer. Details: Jan. 26-Feb. 1; War Memorial Opera House, San Francisco; individual tickets start at $29, a variety of subscription packages available;

Free dance buffet: It’s one of the most awesome events in a Bay Area arts scene filled with awesomeness. Bay Area Dance Week (April 21-30) is an explosion of performances, classes, group participation events and more representing every form of dance imaginable — jazz, ballet, contemporary, hip-hop and more — and all of it is free. Among the most notable participants is sjDANCEco, which turns its Bar Area Dance Week event into a full-blown downtown San Jose celebration. Details: Schedules and more details are at and

Smuin celebrates Smuin: San Francisco-based Smuin Contemporary Ballet is marking its 30th season with a celebration of its founder — the late choreographer and visionary Michael Smuin. A special program is set featuring two of Smuin’s most iconic works — “Zorro!,” described as a “sword fighting,
whip cracking spectacular,” and “Fly Me to the Moon,” Smuin’s homage to Frank Sinatra. Details: Feb. 29-March 3; Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, San Francisco; $25-$99;

— Randy McMullen, Staff