Showing posts with label Review. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Review. Show all posts

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.

Friday, March 31, 2017

Review: Cirque du Soleil's 'Luzia' - A Mexican Trip You Won't Soon Forget

Review of Cirque du Soleil's "Luzia."
Left: Ugo Laffoly's hand-balancing act. Right: Kelly McDonald gets tossed around. 


By now you have heard that one of the performers of Cirque du Soleil’s presentation was hurt during the opening night’s performance on Thursday, March 30. The joyful show came to a quick and somber stop during Luzia’s second to last act of the night, the “Swing to Swing.” Instead of landing on her feet from one swing to the other, the performer landed flat on her back. The audience gasped and after a few moments the medical crew arrived on stage. Then the music changed to a more peaceful tone and the audience was asked to stay seated. Everyone watched in relative silence as the crew took care of the performer and reassuring messages were given overhead that the show would go on. After a few minutes, she was taken away on a flat board, the audience gave a standing ovation, the crew cleared off the stage and the finale for the program continued. It was an eerie and unsettling end to one fantastic show. Cirque du Soleil is one class act that even when tragedy strikes, they remain calm, orderly and professional. Fortunately, the performer was okay and will come back to the show in a few days. That was the end of the show. Now, here’s what we got to see at the beginning…

Review of Cirque du Soleil's "Luzia."
"Swing to Swing"
Luzia gets its name from “luz” meaning “light” in Spanish and “Iluvia” meaning “rain,” the two main components of the show. Luzia is beautiful, breathtaking and a little weird. This “trip” to Mexico began with a clown (not your traditional clown with makeup) parachuting from the sky and having a little trouble with his parachute and lands in a “waking dream” which will features many different aspects of Mexican culture with some more traditional than others.

Unlike other Cirque du Soleil shows, Eric Fool Koller (from the Netherlands) is this show’s only clown who pops up from time to time to help bridge the show from act to act, which Luzia does seamlessly. The next act immediately following called “Running Woman” featured Shelli Epstien (from the United Kingdom) running on a large treadmill seemingly being chased by a silver horse. She is donned with giant butterfly wings and act is a fantastic way to start the show.

Review of Cirque du Soleil's "Luzia."
Luzia continued the next act with two treadmills and metal hoops that various performances would dive through. The act “Adagio” followed with Kelly McDonald (from the USA!) literally being tossed around from by four men. While it’s no way to treat a lady, it was pretty cool to watch. Then the next act featured trapeze artist Enya White (from Canada) and two “Cyr Wheel” artists (Angelica Bongiovonni and Rachel Salzman (both from the USA) spinning around in the center of the stage. And then it began to rain which gave the act a whole different look and feel as the performers rejoiced in the shower.

The clown came back to interact with the audience while a “film crew” set up a beach scene where Ugo Laffoly (from France) did a hand-balancing act on stilts getting progressively higher as he went. This was followed by the “Football Dance” which was basically two soccer players (Laura Biondo from Italy and Abou Traore from Ginea) doing hip hop moves while balancing a soccer ball. It was cooler than it sounds.

Review of Cirque du Soleil's "Luzia."
Benjamin Courtenay, not Fabio. 
After intermission, we various pole dance specialists did their thing followed by Krzystof Holowenko (from Poland) doing a 360-degree circle on a large swing and then“Straps” artist, Benjamin Courtenay (from Canada) flying about swinging his long locks in and out of pool of water in the air. The show finished off with juggler Rudolf Janecek (from the Czech Republic) and one of the most incredible contortionists I’ve ever seen – Aleksei Goloborodko (from Russia). Throughout the show we were treated with an incredible water show that started and stopped quickly to actually presents “pictures” as it was dropped from the top of the ten, people walking around with fish heads and arguing cacti.

Overall, Luzia didn’t necessarily feel like Mexico, but more like different dreamy versions of the country. If you’ve seen and enjoyed other Cirque de Soleil shows, add this to your list. The whole program is very family-friendly with enough interaction to keep your kids’ eyes off their cell phones and on the show.

Luzia continues performing at Marymoor Park in Redmond, Washington under the “grand chapiteau” through May 21. Performances are at 8:00 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday, 1:00 p.m. and 5:00 p.m. on Sunday and there is matinee performances on Saturdays at 4:00 p.m.

Related: More information about Luzia

Thursday, February 16, 2017

REVIEW: “Room Service”

Review of Taproot's "Room Service"
Nikki Visel, Erwin Galán, Laura Lee Caudill, Christopher Morson, Eric Hampton and
Daniel Stoltenberg in Room Service. (Photos by Erik Stuhaug) 


Taproot Theatre took a risk in promoting their latest play as a “Marx Brothers comedy.” Even though the play is a farce and was turned into a movie in 1938 that starred the Marx Brothers, the end result is more sophisticated than the crazy antics found in the movie version. The plot and much of the lines are the same, from what I can tell, but the stage play doesn’t feature Groucho’s rising eyebrows or his brothers’ silly shtick. However, don’t get the wrong idea, this is still one silly play, but one that is a lot more fun to watch.

Erwin Galán leads the romp playing Gordon Miller, a producer for a new play. He and his troupe are living and practicing in a hotel while looking for a backer for the play so they can pay their bills, if not, they’ll have to skip out, something this group has done before. Miller’s cohorts include his girlfriend and actress, Christine Marlowe (Melanie Hampton), fellow actor Faker Englund (Eric Hampton), and director Harry Binion (Daniel Stoltenberg). Miller and crew are getting pressure to cough up the money from hotel manager and brother-in-law, Joseph Gribble (Mike Spee) and his boss, Gladys Wagner (Nikki Visel). Adding fuel to the fire is Leo Davis (Christopher Morson) who is the writer of the play and has left his home without a penny to his name to join the group to embark on a new career.

Review of the play "Room Service."
Daniel Stoltenberg, Erwin Galán and Eric Hampton 
Tension rises and this drama team has to come up with the money that the hotel is owned or they will all be thrown in jail. Davis pretends to be sick so that the hotel can’t through him out. Bill Johns does a brilliant job playing four different roles including Sasha Smirnoff, a Russian actor who is also an inspiring waiter. Favorite Taproot character actress, Kim Morris, plays two roles including Sylvia Jenkins who represents a mysterious backer and Laura Lee Caudill makes her Taproot Theatre debut as hotel worker Hilda Manney who crushes over Leo.

While overall a clever play with many likable characters, the play does have one drawback. Stoltenberg, who was so good in Taproot’s Christmas play, The Trial of Ebenezer Scrooge, choose to play his role in an effeminate manner which really didn’t fit and was off-putting. Harry Binion owns a moose head and says that he killed the moose himself, which is something you can’t see Stoltenberg’s version of the character doing. Other than that, the play is a delight and one that you probably haven’t seen before, so go give it a try.

Room Service continues through March 11, 2017. More info>>>

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)


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.

Saturday, December 3, 2016

REVIEW: Disney’s The Little Mermaid: Be a Part of This World

Diana Huey as Ariel in "The Little Mermaid." (Photo by Mark Kitaoka)
The Little Mermaid is 5th Avenue Theatre’s second foray into the world of Disney. The first was the workshop version of Aladdin which is currently performing on Broadway. Though completely different shows, it is hard not to compare the two since they are both based on popular Disney animated films. As with Aladdin, The Little Mermaid features all of the songs from the original film and a lot more.

The story of course is about a mermaid who feels out of place underwater and has a desire to see if life is truly greener on the other side of the waves. Disney purists might have a few issues with the stage version of The Little Mermaid (like having Ursula be King Triton’s sister), but need to keep in mind that this is an interpretation of the original cartoon and not everything that can be done in an animated world can be created on stage. However, the 5th Avenue proves that a lot can be done. Many of the characters “swim” in the air and look incredible doing so. All of the actors spend most of their time on stage weaving back and forth to show that they are underwater (their abs must be something else!). The sets and costumes are larger than life giving the actors a “3D” look against a “2D” backdrop.

Steve Blanchard as King Triton
 (Photo by Mark Kitaoka)
Diana Huey leads the production playing the little one. While some may give flack that an Asian woman is playing the role of a redhead, Huey is all Ariel. Her voice is divine and her mannerisms are perfectly animated. The only time that Huey doesn’t seem like Ariel is when she utters the phrase, “Oh my God!” which is something that Ariel would never say. (This isn’t a religious criticism, she just wouldn’t say it and sounds out of place.)

The other standouts include Melvin Abston who plays Ariel’s guardian crab, Sebastian, Steve Blanchard who plays Ariel’s father King Triton and Jennifer Allen as the wonderfully evil, but not too scary Ursula the Sea Witch. Seattle favorite, Dan Stokinger is a hoot as Chef Louis with his big (any only) number “Les Poissons” followed by his attempt to capture Sebastian who has inadvertently wandered into the chef’s kitchen.

On the weaker side, to no fault of their own, is Matthew Kacergis who plays Price Eric. Kacergis is a very good singer but unfortunately, all of his songs sound alike and he isn’t given much to do to expand his character much. However, the show’s biggest grievous error is how poor Connor Russell is tasked to portray Ariel’s sea friend, Flounder. The creators of the show changed the cute little sidekick of the film into a lovesick, clownish and irritating teenage fish for the stage show and his costume is all wrong making him look like a 80’s rocker with polka dot parachute pants. Jamie Torcellini’s portray of Scuttle the seagull is better, but like Flounder, something about his costume is off. Speaking of costumes, Disney could have worked a little harder in providing better special effects when it comes to Ursula. As mentioned, Allen is excellent in the role, but her octopus legs don’t move and so the show makes up for it by having her sidekicks Jetsam (Frederick Hagreen) and Flotsam (Brandon Roach) move them for her creating more distraction than adding to her character.

Matt Kacergis as Prince Eric. 
(Photo by Mark Kitaoka)
One of the show’s improvement over the animated film is a larger focus on Ariels “mersisters” Aquata (Lisa Karlin), Andrina (Kristin Burch), Arista (Brenna Wagner), Atina (Becca Orts), Adella (Amanda Minano) and Allana (Taylor Niemeyer). Like sisters in real life, they are annoyed with the attention Ariel gets but they still love her too which is better than having them all hate Ariel out of jealousy.

Of course, the biggest reason to see The Little Mermaid is the big musical numbers made so famous from the film. Just a few notes from the song, “Under the Sea” got the audience excited. Other songs like “Part of Your World,” “Poor Unfortunate Souls” and “Kiss the Girl” won’t disappoint.

Jennifer Allen as Ursula, Brandon Roach as Flotsam and 
Frederick Hagreen as Jetsam (Photo by Tracy Martin.)
While more songs are needed to create a proper length for the stage show, most of the new music is fairly forgettable with the exception of the Les Miserable-like quartet scene featuring Ariel, Prince Eric, Sebastian and King Triton singing, “If Only” and the toe-tapping spectacle “She’s in Love” sung by Ariel’s mersisters and Flounder.

Still, most of this won’t matter to little ones wanting to see The Little Mermaid live on stage. The show is a good one and most audience members will leave with a bit of a lump in their throat and a song in their head.

For more information about the show, click here.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

REVIEW: Willy Wonka Smell-O-Vision

Gene Wilder stars in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (Paramount Pictures)
The Seattle International Film Festival (SIFF) is currently presenting the 1971 movie, Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory in “smell-o-vision” at their jewel box theater located in the Seattle Center. I got a chance to try out the experience for myself and to my surprise, over half of the crowd that attended the showing were adults.

Now, I’ve seen the original film numerous times growing up and thought that I had it memorized. As a kid, before Charlie makes it to the factory, the story seemed slow and even boring at times. However, as an adult I now realize how clever the writing actual was for this film and I really enjoyed watching every scene. Also, many, like myself, have only seen the movie on TV, so to see if large on the screen (and with good clarity I might add) with a crowd of fans was a great experience. I truly loved hearing the children around me make comments or give ideas on how Charlie could find that elusive golden ticket. Gene Wilder truly was a great Willy Wonka and with his recent passing, seeing the film again became even more special.

Created to be a multi-sensory event, the “smell-o-vision” version was a lot of fun. We were given a goody bag upon entering the theater that contained a golden ticket, some scratch and sniff stickers, some treats and “special effects” to be used while watching the movie. Also, the lyrics to all of the songs were shown on the screen so the audience could sing along. Only a few sang during most of the songs, but pretty much everyone joined in on the numerous Oopa Loompa songs.

Before the main feature, a special short educational film from the 1960s about the making of chocolate was shown which was pretty awesome to watch as well. (Although to learn that chocolate is not really churned by a waterfall was a bit disappointing.)

Overall, this was a fun experience and the kids that were in attendance seemed to have a good time too. However, don’t expect the special effects to be done in the grand tradition of a Disney theme park ride. The theater did use a bubble machine for one scene in the film with was an excellent touch. If SIFF could figure out a way to incorporate more effects like that, it would be the experience more off an adventure. The biggest challenge we had to face was actually finding the theater (it's near the Pacific Northwest Ballet) so give yourself plenty of time to find it.

The movie is currently being shown every Friday-Sunday through January 2, 2017. Click here for more information.

Monday, November 28, 2016

REVIEW: The Trial of Ebenezer Scrooge

Nolan Palmer, Larry Albert and Robert Gallaher (Photo by Erik Stuhaug)
If you are like me, you’ve seen your share of various renditions of Charles Dicken’s A Christmas Carol from The Muppets to Mister Magoo. Some versions are better than others but they all pretty much tell the same story. The idea of seeing yet another Scrooge story may not appeal to you, but I think I might be able to change your mind.

Taproot Theatre is currently presenting Mark Brown’s TheTrial of Ebenezer Scrooge which definitely borrows elements and characters from the original story, but retells it from Scrooge’s point of view and with some hilarious results. (That sounds like a sales pitch, but seriously, this is one funny play)

The play begins one year after the three Christmas spirits and the spirit of his old business partner, Jacob Marley, visited Ebenezer on that fateful night and with Scrooge being Scrooge, he’s taking them to court! The charges? Trespassing, kidnapping, assault and battery.

Larry Albert, Daniel Stoltenberg and Faith Bennett Russell
 (Photo by Erik Stuhaug)
The audience actually plays a role in the production as well serving as the audience attending the trial. They are expected to stand during the “All rise!” when Judge Stanchfield R. Person (Steve Manning) enters the courtroom. The prosecutors are Solomon Rothschild (Bill Johns) and Ebenezer Scrooge (Nolan Palmer) who is representing himself because it is cheaper that way. You may recognize the voice of the bailiff who is played by Larry Albert as he has appeared on Imagination Theatre, the radio play show on KIXI Radio 880. His role is small, but he makes the most out of it.

Taproot favorite, Nolan Palmer, makes for a perfect Ebenezer Scrooge with just the right amount of sarcastic wit (“He’s as sharp as a tennis ball, that one.”) He’s back to his Scroogey self as both he and Rothschild put various characters from the original story on the stand. Other Taproot favorites, Robert Gallaher and Faith Bennett Russell play multiple roles. Gallaher plays both Bob Cratchit and is almost unrecognizable as the ghost of Jacob Marley while Russell plays Mrs. Cratchit, Sara Wainwright and Mrs. Dilber, but perhaps her best performance is playing the translator for the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come since she speaks “ghost.” It’s a fantastic scene when the ghost is brought to the stand. He stands about seven or eight feet tall, has bony hands and is intimidating. At one point, through the translator, he explains that he is cold, so the bailiff offers him his red scarf which he wears for the remainder of the scene. If you are not familiar with Palmer, Gallaher or Russell, you owe it to yourself to seem them in action. Fortunately, as good as these actors are, they don’t over-power the play or steal the limelight.
Larry Albert and Steve Manning (Photo by Erik Stuhaug)

Daniel Stoltenberg plays the Scrooge’s nephew Fred, who is the polar opposite of Scrooge and Anastasia Higham has the challenge of playing back-to-back roles of the Ghost of Christmas Past, Scrooge’s sister Fan and former girlfriend Belle.

Directed by Taproot co-founder Scott Nolte, The Trial of Ebenezer Scrooge should not be missed as it is not only an amusing comedy, but it also shares a message of goodwill and serves as a reminder to us all about what it means to have the spirit of Christmas in your heart all year long.

The play continues through December 30, 2016. Moreinfo>>>