Sunday, November 4, 2018

'Noteworthy Life' is Not Your Typical Musical

The Noteworthy Life of Howard Barnes
"The Noteworthy Life of Howard Barnes" (Mark Kitaoka/Village Theatre)
Maggie: “Maybe you’re in a new musical.”

Howard: “Is that good?”

Maggie: “Not if you want anyone to see it.”

Those are lines from Village Theatre’s world premiere show, The Noteworthy Life of Howard Barnes about a guy who finds himself stuck in a musical. That statement is very true for a lot of new shows as it takes some trust going to a new show when you don’t already know some of the music. But in this case, I think it is an exception. Much of the music featured in the new production is toe-tapping and catchy and for that matter, it's one funny show too. That’s not to say that it a perfect production, but certainly an entertaining one on many levels.

The premise of the show is that Howard Barnes is an average Joe kind of guy. There’s nothing really special about him. He’s a single, hockey-loving guy still nursing a broken heart of a previous relationship when suddenly he finds himself in the middle of a musical which sort of plays out like an extended dream sequence. At about 90 minutes in length, it is one of the shortest musicals out there, but it plays with no intermission. I suppose that’s so you don’t lose continuity or something.

The Noteworthy Life of Howard Barnes
Perhaps ironically, this show is at its best at the beginning when things are pretty simple. Howard (Joshua Carter) lives in New York City (the set of his apartment is great) and his odd neighbor brings him some of his mail that got delivered to him by mistake. That’s when Howard starts to hear music. He goes to bed and suddenly he’s magically brought to the city streets where everyone around him sings “Welcome to Today,” a catchy little tune that will stick in your head for a while (a good sign of a new musical). Then Howard is magically brought to his office with some mysterious co-workers singing around him, but nobody else notices them. He has an awkward encounter with one co-worker, Maggie (Taryn Darr) who he clearly has a crush on, before he’s brought to a hockey game. And who should show up to said game? Maggie. The crowd is shouting to the players on the ice when suddenly one of them shouts at Howard to “Shoot the Puck,” a metaphor for “ask the girl out on a date!” The crowd, still seemingly interested in the game, continue to encourage Howard in song to “shoot the puck” while Maggie watches the games oblivious of what is happening around her. This is not only one of the show’s best songs, but it is the best scene in the musical period. This is when the play is its simplest. A musical is happening all around Howard, but he’s the only one who can hear it. Very clever and I wish the rest of the show was like this, but it’s not.

Howard gets transported again back to his apartment and his ex-girlfriend Grace (Jasmine Jean Sim) shows up in his closet wearing a wedding gown. She simultaneously teases him about being commitment phobic while encouraging him to live life to the fullest. She pops up over and over again in the show and it’s hard to figure out if she is the show’s villain or if she’s doing work as a godmother type of character.

The Noteworthy Life of Howard Barnes
Eventually, Howard confesses to Maggie about his dilemma, who surprisingly takes it well. It is here that the show feels like a whole different one going down a rabbit hole or a trip similar to the one Dorothy had to during The Wizard of Oz. Maggie is now an unrealistic character trying to help Howard to get out of “his musical.” In order to do so, they must find the great Von Schwartzenheim (Jeff Steitzer who is ALWAYS great on stage) who has written the best musicals ever known, on how to escape. In my opinion, this is a mistake. Some of the scenes that follow work really well while others fall flat. The show manages to poke fun at other forms of theatre (the “Let It Out” number with the “experimental” artists is especially great) while also including a variety of characters and lines from such well-known musicals. This is actually pretty fun for those who have seen a lot of musicals over the years. Many of the characters in this show pop up as characters they played before including Mallory King as Mary Poppins, Sarah Russell as one of the Dreamgirls and Greg McCormick Allen as the Musicman. Other musicals represented include Annie, Peter Pan, Hairspray, Cats, Chicago, Avenue Q and even Hamilton! The show even breaks through the fourth wall involving the audience a bit.

All in all, this is a fun show that is unlike any you have seen before it, but it also feels unpolished as is. There are a few too many clever ideas here and I appreciated many of the things they bring up like the problem with dance sequences or those boring songs thrown in your favorite musical which feel as if they are only there to extend the length of the show. Some of these references work while other don’t. There are also a few crass lines that take the innocent quality away from the show and some scenes that while are entertaining, don’t really make much sense to the story at all. Of course, everything ends up happy in the end, but this isn’t a show for families.

The Noteworthy Life of Howard Barnes continues its run at the Everett Performing Arts Center through November 18. Tickets can be purchased online or by call the box office at 425.257.8600.

Friday, October 5, 2018

Taproot's 'Baskerville' is a Hilarious, Yet Faithful, Sherlock Holmes Adventure

Review of "Baskerville: A Sherlock Holmes Mystery."
Michael Patten and Reginald André Jackson (Photos by Erik Stuhaug)

While perhaps not intending to, Taproot Theatre’s production of Ken Ludwig’s Baskerville: A Sherlock Holmes Mystery offers a unique alternative to the usual Halloween fare around town. Of all of the Sherlock Holmes tales, The Hound of the Baskervilles is the most Halloween-ish story with a mysterious creature killing people in swampy area. Baskerville takes the original Sir Arthur Conan Doyle mystery and turns it into a family-friendly Halloween special. Though it only runs through October 20, chances are fairly good that it might be extended and continue throughout the month. I have no way of knowing for sure, so you’ll want to get your tickets now just to be safe.

Review of "Baskerville: A Sherlock Holmes Mystery."
Eric Hampton
Director Scott Nolte puts a little of his own sense of humor into this show which is already hilarious while also being faithful to the source material. In the story, Dr. James Mortimer pleads with Sherlock to investigate the death of his friend Sir Charles Baskerville who died on the grounds of his own estate reportedly attacked by a gigantic beast. Some say the death was part of curse. Mortimer tells Sherlock that he fears for Sir Charles’ nephew, Sir Henry, the sole heir of the estate, who plans to move into the now-vacant home. Fearing that Henry might suffer the same fate, he asks Sherlock to look into this mystery, something Sherlock has no trouble getting interested in.

Review of "Baskerville: A Sherlock Holmes Mystery."
Michael Patten, Elizabeth Keck, 
Nick Watson and Reginald André Jackson
In Baskerville, the story is given a comedy treatment with all 35 characters being played by only five actors. Okay, to be fair, Michal Patten and Reginald Andre Jackson play Holmes and Dr. Watson. It’s the other three actors who portray the other 33 characters. This calls for quick costume and character changes throughout along with a few technical mishaps and hi-jinx. The other actors are Nick Watson, Elizabeth Keck and Eric Hampton. Together, this troupe creates the perfect ensemble comedy where Sherlock is the main character, but not necessarily the star of the show. The honor is pretty much evenly spread between the five.

Baskerville is different in another way too. This Sherlock is bit different than what we usually see. Yes, his deductive reasoning is still uncanny to be sure, but this detective is more playful and fun. He’s smart, but not overly intellectual. The story also presents a unique friendship between Doctor Watson and Sir Henry (Nick Watson), a cowboy from Canada. There is also a large section of the play where Sherlock doesn’t appear at all, making this friendship even more important. If played by less talented actors, the story would surely drag.

Designed by Richard Lorig, the cartoonish set with it’s bright blue and purple colors serves as another character and plays multiple roles as well with quick change projections designed by Mark Lund. There is a lot going on here leaving a lot of room for mistakes, but the production I saw was nearly flawless.

As of now, Baskerville continues through October 20. Tickets can be purchased online or by calling the box office at (206) 781-9707. Taproot Theatre is located at 204 N. 85th St., Seattle 98103. Parking can be a bit tricky, so be sure to look at the Theatre’s suggestions on their website and leave early enough before the show to find a spot.

Thursday, September 13, 2018

Cirque Du Soleil “Wows” With New Show

Review of Cirque Du Soleil's "Volta."
Volta (photo credit: Patrice Lamoureux)
A few things you can always count on when watching a Cirque Du Soleil performance: The show will always be artsy, the acts will always be amazing, the costumes will be crazy and there will almost always be some weirdness involved. Volta, the circus company’s traveling show here for a limited time features all of those elements but this show is probably one of the most family-friendly shows that features stunts that “real” kids could master themselves if they work hard at it.

Focusing a lot on extreme sports this time around, Volta attempts to share a storyline about a young teenager who doesn’t fit in with the usual crowd who march in unison staring at the cell phones all wearing the same grey clothes. He attempts to show off his talent for the “Mr. Wow Show” only to be laughed at off the stage. (The cast and crew of the “Mr. Wow Show” look like they just stepped out of “The Hunger Games” movie) He is then befriended by a group of (literally) colorful characters who don’t dress or act alike and convince him that he is more like them. Or something.

Review of Cirque Du Soleil's "Volta."
(Photo: Michael Kass)
Volta is said to be “about being true to oneself, fulfilling one’s true potential, and recognizing one’s own power to make it possible. Ultimate freedom comes with self-acceptance, and with the liberation of the judgement of others.” While this production is incredible, the storytelling is confusing at best. Many of the acts do not fit into this theme either, which is fine really. Just don’t expect to be moved by the message. Instead, be surprised by how many times you say “wow” out loud watching the show.

Volta is Cirque du Soleil’s 41’st original show since 1984 and 18th featured under the “big top.” This particular show features artists from the USA, Canada, Finland, Brazil, Italy, Uruguay, Australia, Japan, France, the UK, Russia, China, South Africa, Slovakia, Cambodia and Poland. The costumes that they wear were designed by Zaldy Godo who has done work for the likes of Lady Gaga, Michael Jackson, Britney Spears and others. The set is simply a circle with the audience sitting up closer than the usual performance.

Review of Cirque Du Soleil's "Volta."
(Photos: Michael Kass and BenoitZ)
Andrey Kislitsin from Russia plays Mr. Wow who is also the show’s resident clown. He is a young clown who masters older clown techniques. Kids will love this guy who is not only funny, but sweats buckets during his routines. As for the acts, there is a nice mix of things you’ve never seen or thought possible and surprisingly, they aren’t perfect. But what makes this show so great is that when an artist fails on their mission, they are encouraged for their fellow artists and the audience alike to try it again. When they do and succeed, the crowd goes wild. Everyone watching is rooting for all of the performers to win.

Volta’s show’s acts includes:

The Mr. Wow Show
Featuring amazing rope skipping tricks, a man spinning around in a giant ring and larger-than-life costumed judges.

Meeting Ela
This is when the cool, colorful kids coming in performing a bunch of street sports including roller skates and an amazing unicycle act.

Review of Cirque Du Soleil's "Volta."
(Photo: Michael Kass and BenoitZ)
Guardian Angel in the City
Pawel Walczewski performs what is called the “Acro Lamp,” which looks like dining room table that he glides around in the air upon.

Rise & Shine
A bunch of characters jumping on large trampoline and bouncing off the walls. One of the best acts of the night.

Mr. Wow’s Nightmare
The clown attempts to do laundry with some trouble.

This is one unusual act that features a BMX bike rider and a ballet dancer and surprisingly, it works.

Review of Cirque Du Soleil's "Volta."
Perhaps my favorite act of the night included dropping two women from the ceiling on bungees alternating with eight guys swinging on Swiss rings and doing flips.

Leaving the City
Two performers do a balancing act on a contraption called the acrobatic ladder that folds up.

Urban Jungle
This fun act features a group of performers jumping through various shapes at different heights.

La Page
Mr. Wow goes to the beach.

This “hair-raising” performance is just incredible. Danila Bim from Brazil flies around the big top by her hair! Besides looking painful, it was a beautiful production. (Don’t try this at home.)

The kid shows his stuff in a contemporary dance act

An amazing performance featuring a bunch of BMX bike riders and glass-paneled ramps the turn on the giant turntable.

Overall, Volta isn’t as extravagant as previous shows. It does feature fire or water effects, but it does feature a large turntable and some clever set designs. Instead of the usual big closing number/production, Volta only features the cast to run out around the stage, wave and then run back. It was a bit disappointing, but overall, this is another show not to be missed.

Volta continues playing at Marymoor Park through November 4, 2018 with tickets starting at $39. (Tickets can be purchased online here.) Marymore Park is also changing $20 for parking. Marymoor Park is located at 6046 West Lake Sammamish Parkway NE, Redmond, WA 98052.

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Stand On Top of the World

Before and after the Space Needle renovation.
Built in 1962 for the 1963 World’s Fair, the Space Needle has seen few renovations over the years. But now that the 605-tall icon has finished its $100 million renovation, it has never looked better providing brand new experiences for those you dare to up there. While the Needle may look nearly the same from down below, trust us, it’s a whole new view at the top. Entire walls, barriers, and even floors of the “spacelift” have been replaced by clear structural glass to dramatically expand views.

Here is what you can expect during your next visit:

While no one was really a fan of the wire “caging” that used to surround the outer Observation Deck, everyone was in agreement that safety was a priority. But now with the replacement of the glass barriers, views are no longer obstructed offering seamless sight lines.

New “Skyrisers” are glass benches affixed to alternating glass barriers that leave guests with their feet dangling over the city below. The benches actually face the needle rather than outward which at first seems counter intuitive, but the experience gives a sense of hovering in the sky looking at the Needle – something that folks at the Needle describe as a perfect place for a “spine-tingling Seattle selfie.”

Oculus Stairs
The three doors that open to the outer Observation Deck have been replaced with new doors that are doubled in size and a new, custom-designed, state-of-the-art accessibility lift has also be added.
Inside the Needle’s interior, the Oculus Stairs provides a new, open circular stairway made of steel, wood, and glass as it winds down from the Observation Deck to the 500-Foot Level. At the base of the new open stairway there is a glass-floored oculus revealing views of the Space Needle’s steel superstructure, as well as the elevators and counterweights ascending and descending.

The Loupe
Found on the 500-Foot Level, The Loupe features floor-to-ceiling glass and the world’s first and only revolving glass floor. Through this glass floor, you will be able to see the mechanics of the turntable, which consist of a series of 12 motors. The power transmission relies on rolling peg gears to minimize friction and wear.

Other new features at the top of the Needle include multiple professional digital photos options including the Skyhigh Selfie and Zoomie, an interactive display featuring the many years of memories on the Skypad and the Stratos VR where you can take your visit “virtually” over the edge with a bungee jump. To enhance your experience, download the free Space Needle app before you go.

The Loupe
Gone is the SkyCity Restaurant, but not for long. A new dining experience has been promised and will be announced later this year as the Space Needle is working with world-renowned hospitality designer Adam Tihany of Tihany Design to create a new restaurant and lounge experience.

The Space Needle is open every day from 8:00 a.m. to Midnight. Though pricey, there are a few tips on getting the biggest bang for your buck. Purchase your tickets online ahead of time and this will save you a lot of standing in line time at the Needle. Also, visit the Needle before 10:00 a.m. or after 8:00 p.m. and you’ll save $10. Regular ticket prices are $37.50. Youth (ages 5-12) and Seniors (65+) get in for $28.50.

While you can’t miss it, the Space Needle is located at 400 Broad Street, Seattle 98109

Danny Gokey: Hope Encounter Tour Coming Soon

Danny Gokey's "The Hope Encounter" Tour
Danny Gokey
Danny Gokey is gearing up for his first-ever headline tour with this fall’s Hope Encounter. Also featuring GRAMMY® nominee Tauren Wells and breakout artist Riley Clemmons, the tour will hit 29 markets across the country, including Seattle on October 21, 2018 at 7:00 p.m. at Eastridege Church.

“It’s been a dream of mine since American Idol to headline my own major tour,” says Gokey. “That platform opened my eyes to the power of mixing hope with entertainment. Hearing a message of hope at just the right time can truly make an impact in someone’s life. Getting this opportunity is a dream come true! I love touring, being with fans, and seeing first-hand how the music can encourage people in a time in our society where hope (mixed with a little fun) is so desperately needed.”

Gokey became a favorite of millions of fans as a Top 3 finalist on Season 8 of American Idol. His first album, My Best Days, debuted at #4 on the Billboard Top 200 album chart. Since then, the Wisconsin native has celebrated a series of #1 album debuts, including his first award-winning holiday album, Christmas Is Here, as well as singles including the recently Gold-certified “Tell Your Heart to Beat Again” and “Hope In Front of Me.” Gokey’s latest album, Rise, reached #1 on the Billboard Top Christian Album chart and garnered his first Grammy nomination. Its title track, marked his third, multi-week, multi-chart #1 single.

Tickets are $35 and can be purchased here. Eastridge Church is located at 24205 SE Issaquah Fall City Rd, Issaquah, Washington 98029.

Sunday, August 26, 2018

Cirque Du Soleil Returns with “Volta”

"Volta" will perform at Marymoor Park this fall. (Cirque Du Soleil)
While the circus days of Barnum and Bailey and live animals are now gone, we still have Cirque Du Soleil and all of the acrobat feats that come with it.

Returning once again to Marymoor Park this fall, Volta is described as “the ultimate achievement” according to Cirque Du Soleil.

“Volta is a captivating voyage of discovery,” says the press materials. “It’s about finding yourself, and unveiling your personal powers. Inspired in part by the adventurous spirit that fuels the culture of street sports, the show weaves acrobatics in a visually striking world driven by a stirring melodic score.”

This year’s show appears to be a bit different from previous ones as this one has a storyline involving a gameshow contestant who is apparently ashamed of himself because he’s different. He searches for fame in hopes of receiving love and acceptance from others, but of course that is not the solution.
Volta is said to be “about being true to oneself, fulfilling one’s true potential, and recognizing one’s own power to make it possible. Ultimate freedom comes with self-acceptance, and with the liberation of the judgement of others.”

Acts Include:

Acro Lamp
An aerial artist flies in long sweeping arcs. Hanging on with his hands or feet, he swings and spins gracefully using the light to metaphorically illuminate the journey of the character.

Hand to Hand
Two colourful acrobats perform a daring hand to hand duo while rolling on a unicycle as part of a striking group choreography.

Shape Diving
In an electric, urban atmosphere, artists tumble and jump through shapes, sometimes feet first, sometimes backwards, sometimes bent in half, even adding breakdancing and hip-hop-style moves into the mix.

Five riders invade the stage to deliver a jaw-dropping, fast and furious performance of nonstop acrobatics on wheels.

Flatland & Ballet Duo
Coming from disciplines that seem worlds apart, two artists create mirror-like images in a mesmerizing synchronized choreography.

Rope Skipping
With an urban, hip hop attitude, they tumble, flip, and perform handstand hops through the spinning ropes

Acrobatic Ladder
Artists climb on two giant articulated ladders pivoting on stage. They execute stunning acrobatic figures while spinning majestically over the audience.

Volta will be playing at the park from September 7 through November 4, 2018 with tickets starting at $39. (Bring some extra cash with you as the park usually charges extra for parking,) Tickets can be purchased online here. Marymoor Park is located at 6046 West Lake Sammamish Parkway NE, Redmond, WA 98052.

Thursday, August 23, 2018

Doin' the Puyallup Once Again

Washington State Fair
Washington State Fair
You’d better wake up early and pace yourself if you plan on seeing everything The Washington State Fair in Puyallup has to offer including a rodeo, exhibits, special presentations, concerts, rides, food, animals, arts and crafts, kids fun, over 700 vendors and of course - scones. The Washington State Fair is in operation August 31 through September 23, 2018 and open every day except Tuesdays and Wednesday, September 5. The fairgrounds are located at 110 9th Ave. SE, Puyallup, WA 98371.

The Basics
Mon-Thu. 10:30 A.M.-9:30 p.m., Fri. 10:30 a.m.-10:30 p.m., Sat. 9:30 a.m.-10:30 p.m., Sun. 9:30 a.m.-9:30 p.m. (Closed Tuesdays and September 5)

General admission (ages 13-61) is $14, Children ages 6-12 get in for $11 and those younger than that get in for free! Seniors (ages 62+) get in for $11.

Parking: Mon.-Fri. $10, Sat.-Sun. $15

What to See
The following will be on site at the fair every day this year: Fair Farm, Grange Displays, Discover the Dinosaurs ($7 additional), Hobby Hall, Home Arts, Northwest Outdoors, Outpost 47, Pioneer Experience 1880’s Variety Show, Planting Patch, Sillyville Rides, The Farm at Sillyville, Timber Gulch, Tractor Tracks, Tumbleweed Crossing Comedy Wild West Gunfight Stunt Show, Woolriders Only Mutton Busting.

Washington State Fair
Cirque Ma’Ceo Equestrian Stunt Show
Special Limited Events:
Urban Farm and Garden: Aug. 31 – Sept. 3
Cirque Ma’Ceo Equestrian Stunt Show: Aug. 31-Sept. 3 ($7 additional)
Run the Puyallup: Sept. 1
World’s Biggest Bounce House: Sept. 6-9
Animals of the World: Sept. 6-12
Seahawks’ Ultimate Fan Contest: Sept. 23
Seahawks’ Ultimate Tailgate: Sept. 23
Thirsty Thursdays at Brew Park: Thursdays
Fireworks Spectacular: Fridays

Washington State Fair
Rain: A Tribute to the Beatles
This Year's Concerts:
Aug. 1: Chicago at 7:30 p.m.
Sept. 1: Khalid at 7:30 p.m.
Sept. 2: Florida Georgia Line at 7:30 p.m.
Sept. 3: Lost 80’s Live at 4:30 p.m.
Sept. 7: Scotty McCreery at 9:00 p.m.
Sept. 8: Jamey Johnson at 9:00 p.m.
Sept. 10: Rain: A Tribute to the Beatles at 7:30 p.m.
Sept. 12: Seal at 7:30 p.m.
Sept. 13: Boy George and Culture Club at 7:30 p.m.
Sept. 14: Terry Fator at 7:30 p.m.
Sept. 15: Toby Keith at 7:30 p.m.
Sept. 16: Fiestas Patrias
Sept. 17: Lauren Daigle at 7:30 p.m.
Washington State Fair
The classic wooden coaster
Sept. 19: Joan Jett and the Blackhearts/Cheap Trick at 7:30 p.m.
Sept. 20: Brett Eldredge at 7:30 p.m.
Sept. 21: Macklemore at 7:30 p.m.
Sept. 22: Gabriel “Fluffy” Iglesias at 7:30 p.m.
Sept. 23: Rascal Flatts at 7:30 p.m.

Deals and Discounts
The Washington State Fair offers a large selection of deals and discounts throughout its run. You can find them all here. For discounts on rides, check here.

For more complete information regarding this year’s fair, visit the website.

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Don't Forget Your 'Bumpershoot' This Labor Day

Named after the humble umbrella, The Bumpershoot festival is held every Labor Day weekend at the Seattle Center.

Nearly 50 years of age, thousands come through the gates to enjoy music of all kinds, comedy, spoken word, dance, live theatre and more at both indoor and outdoor stages. Some of the performing act are:

Music Lineup: J. Cole, The Chainsmokers, SZA, Fleet Foxes, Lil Wayne, Illenium, Portugal The Man, RL Grime, Phoenix, Ludacris, Young Thug, Chromeo, Blondie, Cold War Kids, T-Pain, Mura Masa, Gryffin, DVSN, Rhye Bishop Briggs, Tinashe, The Revolution, Tritonal, Kelela, Lane 8, Emancipator Ensemble, Moses Sumney, Deorro, Marian Hill, AJR, Noah Gundersen, Towkio, Poolside, Superorganism, Bahamas, Bhad Bhabie, Elderbrook, Olivia O’Brien, Saweetie, Arkells, Black Pistol Fire, Yung Pinch, Cherry Glazerr, London On Da Track, Sasha Sloan, Knox Fortune, Elohim, Mt. Joy, Xavier Omar, Hobo Johnson & the Lovemakers, Daysormay, Ducky, Maxo Kream, Fisher, Field Report, Sloucher, Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever, Kailee Morgue, Marc E. Bassy, The Pink Slips, Ella Vos, Jade Bird, GG Magree, BAS, Jillian Jacqueline, Duckwrth, The Regrettes, Ripe, Travis Thompson, Jack Harlow, Knife Knights, Grynch, Yuno, Jpegmafia, Cozz, LovelytheBand, Wimps, Ethan Tucker, Khanvict, Carlie Hanson, Xie, Great Grandpa, Brent Amaker the the Rodeo, Donormaal, UMII, Noodles, DJ100Proof, Mersiv, Jo Passed, BAG (Blimes X Gifted Gab, Jake Crocker, Let’s Eat Grandma, Desure, Skating Polly, Craig Jaffe, Micaiah Sawyer

Comedy and Conversation Lineup: Eugene Mirman, Last Podcast on the Left, Think It, Say It, Do It, Langston Kerman, The Omnibus Project with Ken Jennings & John Roderick, Emily Heller, Alex Edelman, Sam Jay, Josh Johnson, Liza Treyger, Shane Torres, Haunting Renditions: Plugged in with Eliot Glazer, Chris Fairbanks, On Deck with Courtney Karwal, Jamel Johnson and Mike Mulloy, Amir K., Kate Willett, Lisa Best, Off Book: The Improvised Musical with Jessica McKenna and Zack Reino, Bri Pruett, Dear Owen Wilson with Blair Socci, Kortney Shane Williams, Gavin Matts, Bad Jokes with Wilfred Padua and Hansmjustin, Sophie Buddle, Arts Corps Presents: Youth Speak Seattle, Alyssa Yeoman, Seattle Battle of the Word, Sam I’Am – They/Them.

Visual Arts Lineup: Dylan Neuwirth (Courtesy of Season), Celeste Cooning, 1 Reel Film Fest, Pottery Northwest, Everyday Black, Laser Dome at Pacific Science Center, Rockart Poster Show, Subpop Pop Up, Ames Bros. Pop-Up, Amplifier, Let’s Get Visual Visual, Alchemy Arts Collective, Art/Not Terminal Gallery

Dance Lineup:
Yogashoot: Presented by Corepower & Yogahustle, Khambatta Dance Company, Massive Monkees, Seattle Kokon Taiko, Theatre Puget Sound

All performances areas and venues and designed for all-ages, however the material shared may not be appropriate for children. However, there is a special children’s programming area for kids age 12 and under. Some areas are marked as “Emerald” or “VIP” where alcohol is allowed but children are not. This year’s Bumpershoot will be held August 31 through September 2, 2018. For tickets and other info, check out the festival's website.

Friday, July 20, 2018

‘Sweet Land’ is a Satisfying Experience

Hugh Hastings, Michael Winters, Pam Nolte, Molli Corcoran, Tyler Todd Kimmel, 
Daniel Stoltenberg, April Poland and Chris Shea. (Photo by Erik Stuhaug)


Seattle’s Taproot Theatre often takes chances presenting plays and musicals based on works that are not that well-known instead of tried-and-true favorites. It can be difficult to drum up interest in such productions. Even though the theatre’s current production of Sweet Land is based on the 2006 movie of the same name, it is an independent movie and not too many people are aware of it, but they should. Taproot has the distinction of being the west coast premiere location for the musical which just might be the start for this new show.

The story of Sweet Land is a simple one. In 1920, a young German woman named Inge (Molli Corcoran) agrees to cross the sea to marry Olaf (Tyler Todd Kimmel) a Norwegian man whom she has never met. She knows very little English and on her journey has worked hard with one phrase, “I could eat a horse” finding that it isn’t as useful as she might have thought. The plan was for Olaf to pick up Inge at the train station and head straight to the church to be married. But there is a hitch. Still bruised from World War I, many residents of Park Rapids, Minnesota as suspicious of Germans thinking that Inge could be a spy. This includes Pastor Sorenson (Hugh Hastings) who refuses to marry the couple unless they can come up with some sort of references for the girl, preferably from a clergy member from her hometown. The justice of peace in town also refuses. The couple can’t get married and they can’t live in the same house as it would appear to not only scandalous but also against Inge’s and Olaf’s own religious upbringing.

To make matters even more difficult, Olaf is extremely shy and actually avoids his bride who is having her own hard time fitting in. Alvin and “Brownie” Frandsen (Chris Shea and April Poland) take in the girl to live with their rather large family while things get sorted out. Brownie shows Inge how to read American recipes and despite his uncertain feelings for Inge, Pastor Sorenson agrees to teach Inge English using the Bible as his guide. Still, suspicion and prejudice abound.

Molli Corcoran, Tyler Todd Kimmel (Photo by Erik Stuhaug)
On top of everything else, Sweet Land has a rather “sweet” message about the value of sexual purity of all things. As the audience, we get to see how this innocent romance between two strangers bloom. Both Inge and Olaf avoid any act or behavior that could be considered improper. The romance grows naturally and the two long for the day when they can finally be wed to experience all the joys that marriage has to offer. The story is a refreshing one and speaks volumes to many people today who hardly scoff at a one-night-stand.

I haven’t seen the movie and suspect that it is considered more of a drama than anything else. But the stage play has plenty of laughs in this fish out of water comedy. Kimmel and Corcoran are especially good as the potential love birds. I don’t know if Corcoran spoke German before she was cast in the play, but you’d never know if she hadn’t. Both she and Kimmel are very animated and their facial expressions are tell us everything that they are thinking without saying a word. The story moves at a good pace and music is pleasant enough and doesn’t pull the audience away from the story. There is an auction scene that is tied to a musical number that is especially good at creating tension. The musicians include Michael Matlock (piano), Dexter Stevens (reeds), Emily Ravenscraft (violin) and Leah Pogwizd (bassist). The cast is rounded out with Jenny Cross, Michael Winters, Pam Nolte and Daniel Stoltenberg, all equally good.

The only negative I found with Sweet Land is the portrayal of Pastor Sorenson. While on one hand he is scene a pillar of the community and one that is fully involved in helping the various neighbors during their crop’s harvests. On the other hand, he is shown as a judgmental jerk who assumes the worst about Olaf and Inge’s relationship and even spreads rumors about the two. Haven’t we had enough stories about judgmental clergy members? Isn’t it time to have stories that represent pastor and priests with good hearts and good examples for a change? They do exist.

Tickets can be purchased online, by phone at 206-781-9707 or in person at the Box Office. Tickets range from $27-$50 depending on the performance. The theatre does offer some discounts, so be sure to visit their website to take advantage of them. Sweet Land is recommended for those age 12 and older. Taproot Theatre is located at 204 N 85th St. in Seattle.