Showing posts with label Everett Performing Arts Center. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Everett Performing Arts Center. Show all posts

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)
THEATRE REVIEW
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.

Thursday, March 8, 2018

REVIEW: The 'Gin Game' is More Exciting Than it Seems

Review of "The Gin Game" at Village Theatre
Marianne Owen and Kurt Beattie in The Gin Game (Village Theatre)

THEATRE REVIEW

At first glance, The Gin Game seems to have everything working against its success. The play features only two characters interacting within an old folks’ home with the action happening around a fold-up card table. Watching two seniors playing cards doesn’t sound like much to get excited about, but this Pulitzer Prize-winning play is full of surprises.

Some might mistake The Gin Game as a romantic comedy, but actually, the play has been described by some as a tragi-comedy which starts out rather benignly and then builds to strong finale. Weller is a fairly new resident at a home for seniors, but he acts like he has lived there for years. He’s lonely and bitter and plays solitaire to amuse himself. He doesn’t like any of the “old” people living there. One day during visitor hours, Weller meets Fonsia, an even newer resident to the home, skipping out on the festivities. Neither of them have any visitors to talk to. They strike up a conversation which leads to a friendly game of Gin Rummy. At first.

The two couldn’t be more different. Weller is outspoken, foul-mouthed and cranky. Fonsia is timid, a little religious and kind. Fonsia admits that she hasn’t played cards in years but Weller assures her that she’ll get the hang of it pretty quick. And she does. Fonsia has an impressive streak of beginner’s luck. Soon, though, the conversation becomes less about the game and more personal. As they chat, each begin to learn how alike they are. Weller begins to remind Fonsia of her former husband and in turn, Fonsia has some mannerism that remind Weller of his own mother, and these are not happy memories.

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The Gin Game stars Kurt Beattie and Marianne Owen, two Seattle theatre icons and real-life married couple. They play off each other beautifully with the help of director Jeff Steitzer. As is often the case at Village Theatre, the set design almost serves as a third character. The set (designed by Bill Forrester) is hugely over-sized for its small cast but it is incredible looking like a rundown dollhouse with most of the action happening on the sun porch.

Review of "The Gin Game" at Village Theatre
(Village Theatre)
Full of humor, the first half of the play is very enjoyable to watch. The duo's timing is perfect. Unfortunately, the second half of the play contains equal parts of humor and tension. We see that a thunderstorm in rising up in the background as a nice piece of foreshadowing. The two characters spar back and forth with more intensity and even more curse words. The more Fonsia asks to not take the Lord’s name in vain, the more Weller does it. The final scene gets pretty uncomfortable and then, poof, it’s over.

Although good, The Gin Game feels unfinished as if there is a lost third act to the production hidden away somewhere. Those wanting a more solid ending will be frustrated. Still, this is one play worth seeing these two local masters of the stage verbally chew up the scenery.

The Gin Game continues playing at the Everett Performing Arts Center through March 25. Tickets can be purchased online or by calling 425-257-8600. The Arts Center is located at 2710 Wetmore Ave., Everett, WA 98201.

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Disney's 'Newsies' Looks Better Than Ever

The cast of Newsies (Photo: Mark Kitaoka)

THEATRE REVIEW

When Disney announced in 2010 or so that they were making a stage musical based on their 1992 film Newsies, people were skeptical. The movie was a flop and a failure in the eyes both the press and the public. Though the music was written by Alan Menken, some of it was described as “forgettable” by some critics and others called the film “Snoozies.” In fact, one song, “High Times, Hard Times,” won the Golden Raspberry for Worst Original Song that year. But that is all in the past now.

The current stage production being presented by Village Theater at the Everett Performing Arts Center appears to have worked out all of the bugs that plagued the film. The story was re-worked, the pace sped up, a few characters changes were made and the “forgettable” songs were dropped. What is left is a new musical that feels like a classic and for this local production, it’s totally top-shelf material.

(Photo: Tracy Martin)
Newsies is inspired by the very real Newsboys Strike of 1899 in New York City but only loosely though. In 1899, in an effort to boost sagging newspaper sales, Joseph Pulitzer (Greg Stone), publisher of the New York World, increased the cost of newspapers sold to delivery boys. Newsboy Jack Kelly (Joey Barreiro), along with all of the other “newsies” are furious and together they decided to band together forming a union and go on strike. This captures the attention of Katherine Plumber (Taylor Niemeyer), a young newspaper reporting struggling to make a name for herself. She hopes that covering the newsboys’ strike will give her the break that she is looking for. In turn, she captures the attention of Jack.

Guthrie Greenwood Bettinger (Les), Mike Spee (Davey),
and Marlette Buchanan (Medda Larkin).
(Photo: Mark Kitaoka)
This production stars Joey Barreiro who starred in the Broadway production’s first national tour of the show, but despite his star power, he doesn’t outshine the local talent. He is joined by Michael Krenning (as Crutchie), Mike Spee (Davey) and Guthrie Greenwood Bettinger (Les) along with a whole group of other newsies. Marlette Buchanan plays singer Medda Larkin in a role that doesn't show its importance until much later in the show, but her solo, "That's Rich" is a delight just the same.

The first half of Village Theatre’s production was so entertaining that it flew by. All the songs were winners, especially Katherine’s solo, “Watch What Happens” which forwarded the story by showing her vulnerable side of wanting to succeed with her first real news story, doubting that she would, while also trying to sort out her feelings for Jack. It’s the best of the new songs added to the show.

Taylor Niemeyer (Katherine) and Joey Barreiro (Jack)
(Photo: Matt Kitaoka)
While some of the dance moves become repetitive and a few seem out of place for a group of homeless teen boys in 1899, overall the choreography is great. And that is including how the characters are used to bring in props to set up the next scene. Sure, it doesn’t make sense that the boys are suddenly lounging in leather office chairs, but then, they get up, the backdrop changes, Mr. Pulitzer and crew come on the stage and we’re off.

The pace of the second half of the show slows down a bit and almost to a crawl during the obligatory love song, “Something to Believe In,” another new (and unnecessary) tune. Finally, the curtain calls are just as much fun as the show as everyone rises to their feet and claps along.

Newsies continues through playing at the Everett Performing Arts Center through February 4, 2018. The theatre is located at 2710 Wetmore Ave., Everett, WA 98201.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

REVIEW: Village Theatre Saves the Best for Last with 'Dreamgirls'

Review of Village Theatre's "Dreamgirls"
Alexandria Henderson, Lauren Du Pree and Joell Weil in Dreamgirls. (Photo by Mark Kitaoka) 

THEATRE

Village Theatre is wrapping up its 2016-2107 season with Dreamgirls at the Everett Performing Arts Center and if you missed the show while it was performing in Issaquah, don’t make that mistake to again. Village Theatre can always be counted on to give a good show, but this production goes over many expectations. It’s not so much that Dreamgirls is a good show. It’s the exceptional talent of the performers that pushes it over the top. It is rare to see this kind of talent in Everett.

Many people are aware of the 2006 Dreamgirls movie and some have mistaken it for being the inspiration for this musical, but in fact, it is actually the other way around. The Broadway show came first. The fictional story inspired by the girl groups of The Supremes and others, the story follows the lives of three singers as they rose from an amateur night contest to national stardom. Effie White (Angela Birchett), Deena Jones (Lauren Du Pree) and Lorrell Robinson (Alexandria Henderson) make up The Dreamettes who have traveled from Chicago with Effie’s brother, C.C. (Charles Simmons), to the Apollo Theater in Harlem, New York with stars in their eyes. There they meet Curtis Taylor Jr. (John Devereaux), a car salesman who convinces the four to let him become their manager. He then convinces the popular R&B star, James “Thunder” Early (Nathaniel Tenenbaum) and his manager Marty (Ty Willis) to let the Dreamettes become his back up singers.

Review of Village Theatre's "Dreamgirls"
Alexandria Henderson (Lorrell Robinson), Nathaniel Tenenbaum (James “Thunder” Early), 
Angela Birchett (Effie White), Lauren Du Pree (Deena Jones) (Photo by Mark Kitaoka)
Together, the group faces a number of highs and lows. Curtis romances Effie but he has eyes for Deena. James flirts with Lorrell even though he married, C.C. can’t seem to convince Curtis that his music writing is good enough and James struggles to stay current. The musical also deals with music written by black performers only to be resold and marketed with white singers and a totally different sound.

Dreamgirls never becomes sappy or too mired in the drama. It is full of outstanding musical numbers like, “Move, You’re Steppin’ on My Heart,” “And I’m Telling You I’m Not Going” and “One Night Only” that keep the story moving and your toes tapping. Visually, the show is spectacular as well. The audience is brought backstage and then to the front of the house over and over again. There are few amazing costume changes that happen right before your eyes and there are lots of lights and sparkles too.

At different times, Birchett and Tenenbaum almost steal the show. Birchett’s voice cannot be tamed and Tenebaum has the uncanny talent of performing over-the-top in character while still coming across as believable. However, Willis's portrayal of Marty does just the opposite. He frequently turns away from the characters he's talking to look straight at the audience. There are better ways of facing the audience and still stay in character. In my opinion, he is the show's only weak link.

Review of Village Theatre's "Dreamgirls"
The cast of Dreamgirls (Photo by Mark Kitaoka)

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Finally, a refreshing aspect about this show is that no character is perfect as they each have their own flaws. The men aren't demons and the women saints. The story features both strong men and strong women so there really isn’t any “us vs. them” mentality that is so present in other productions and movies shown today.

Dreamgirls continues playing through July 30, 2017 at the Everett Performing Arts Center located at 2710 Wetmore Ave., Everett 98201. For more information, click on the story link below.

Related: ‘Dreamgirls’ to Finish Up Season at Village Theatre

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

REVIEW: ‘Singin’ in the Rain’ is a Delight

John David Scott, Mallory King and Gabriel Corey sparkle in Singin' in the Rain.
(Photo by Mark Kitaoka /Village Theatre)

THEATRE

Village Theatre’s latest production of Singin’ in the Rain is pure joy from the beginning note to the final bow. That is, if you are fan of the original movie, which I am. The crew captures the essence of the movie that Debbie Reynolds, Gene Kelly and Donald O’Connor made so famous including the number where the main character literally dances in the rain comes alive on stage. I don’t think I’ve ever attended an indoor musical with a splash zone.

Often Singin’ in the Rain is referred to as “the greatest musical ever made” and I have to say, the stage version is one of the best I’ve ever seen as well. The reason for this is that the production is so well-rounded. It features a great storyline, likable characters, snappy songs, talented choreography and a good balance of music and dialogue. Sure, it’s corny in places and might not have the charm if it didn’t have the movie to compare it to or if it were written today, but that is beside the point. Just sit back and enjoy the show.

The iconic scene played by John David Scott.
 (Photo: Mark Kitaoka/Village Theatre)
It’s 1927 and Don Lockwood (John David Scott) and Lina Lamont (Jessica Skerritt) have just finished their silent movie, The Royal Rascal for Monumental Pictures. The two are the Hollywood “It” couple even though Lockwood insists that they are just friends and professional business partners, but Lina is truly smitten with her co-star no matter what he says. Don’s lifelong best friend, Cosmo Brown (Gabriel Corey), writes all the music for the silent films. Despite their roles, Don is more of an introvert, but Cosmo enjoys the limelight. On the way to a celebration party for the new picture, Don runs into Kathy Selden (Mallory King) who both excites and annoys Don at the same time. She’s not impressed with his star power nor does she think of him as a real actor.

Meanwhile, a rival studio has released the first talking picture, The Jazz Singer and it is quickly decided that the next Lockwood and Lamont picture will be a “talky.” The problem is, that while Lina looks gorgeous on screen, she has a voice that resembles nails on a chalkboard. Oh, hey, it looks like Kathy is looking for a job and she has a nice voice ….

Of course, I have the advantage of seeing the production in Everett a month or so after the show has been performed in Issaquah, but everyone in the cast of Singin’ in the Rain does a phenomenal job with their roles. With that said, I feel that two need special mentions. First, I have seen Gabriel Corey in numerous productions over the years and he is one of my favorites because of his incredible facial expressions. However, he is usually cast in the chorus and is rarely given a lead role. In fact, I think this show might be the first time I ever heard him sing a solo. The role of Cosmo is a perfect fit for him and his solo of “Make ‘Em Laugh” is a platform to show off his many talents.

Ty Willis and Jessica Skerritt (Photo by Mark Kitaoka/Village Theatre)
I also want to give special attention to Kate E. Cook who filled in for Skerritt during the performance I attended. This was especially difficult since part of the show is told with video footage that features Skerritt as Lina Lamont. Cook was able to contort her voice to sound exactly like Skerritt and I suspect that some people in the audience were not even aware that the part was being played by a different actress. Skerritt is a tough act to follow, so kudos to Cook!

A special mention should also be made to Kai Johnson and Bryan Kinder who play “Young Don” and “Young Cosmo” during the beginning of the show. They are only on stage for short period, but these two are definitely talented young men who we will no doubt be seeing more of in the future.

The only negative comment I have to make about the show had nothing to do with the show itself but with the two women sitting behind me who apparently thought that their conversation was more important than what was happening on the stage. How rude if is was for the actors to sing so loudly that these poor women had to speak up louder so that they could hear each other.


Singin' in the Rain continues playing in Everett until January 29, 2017. Click here for more information about the show and discount tickets.

Sunday, December 25, 2016

Village Theatre to Present ‘Singin’ in the Rain’

Singin in the Rain comes to Village Theatre
Based on the movie of the same name, Singin' in the Rain comes to Village Theatre.
THEATRE

Every year or so, Village Theatre looks to pull off something pretty incredible and this time it is present one of the most iconic musical movies live on stage. This year, it’s Singin’ in the Rain which seems impossible for so many reasons. For one, people are so familiar with the movie version that audiences will be extra critical of a stage show if it isn’t done just right. And you know exactly what scene in particular I’m talking about.

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Singin’ in the Rain is a stage musical based on the golden age of movie-making set within the fictional Monumental Pictures that promises to include all the songs you know and love and “live, on-stage rain” which has the potential to steal the show.

Singin’ in the Rain runs at the Everett Performing Arts Center and playing from January 6-29. Show times for the musical are 7:30 on (select) Tuesdays and well as Thursdays and Friday, 8:00 p.m. on Fridays and Saturday, and 7:00 p.m. on Sundays. Two matinees will also play on Saturdays and Sundays at 2:00 p.m.

The Everett Performing Arts Center is located at 2710 Wetmore Ave, Everett, WA 98201. Tickets can be purchased in person, online or by calling the box office at (425) 257-8600.

Read my review >>>