Showing posts with label Theatre. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Theatre. Show all posts

Sunday, January 6, 2019

REVIEW: Heartwarming ‘Matilda’ Could Be More Magical

Review of Village Theatre's "Matilda."
Nava Ruthfield as Matilda (Mark Kitaoka/Village Theatre)
THEATRE REVIEW
I didn’t know much about the story of Matilda before seeing Village Theatre’s production of the musical, but what I did know is that the main character develops telekinetic abilities that she uses as a way to get back to the people who have wronged her. Also knowing that the story is based on Roald Dahl’s book of the same name, I came to the theatre expecting to see something magical and I did; it just took a while.

The story of Matilda is a clever one that is played out with an upbeat tone even though it features some dark material, but should be praised for its positive messages about the importance of reading, standing up for what you believe is right and having sympathy for others. The show begins with a chorus of children singing the praises of themselves stating “My mommy says I’m a miracle” and “My daddy says I’m his special little guy.” Then the parents join in singing about the trials of being parents in unison and then overlapping with the kids. It’s as unique as it is catchy, but the point of the scene is showing how most kids are loved by their parents. That’s not the case for Matilda Wormwood.

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Review of Village Theatre's "Matilda."
Nava Ruthfield (Matilda), Ann Cornelius (Mrs. Wormwood),
Chris Ensweiler (Mr. Wormwood), and Maddox Baker (Michael).
(Mark Kitaoka/Village Theatre)
The next scene shows Mrs. Wormwood (Ann Cornelius) at the doctor’s office finding out that her “condition” is actually a case of being nine month pregnant and is about to give birth at any moment. She makes it clear that she doesn’t want another child as she has a ballroom competition to attend. Mr. Wormwood (the great Chris Ensweiler) arrives right after the birth of Matilda and is disappointed that she isn’t a boy.

The story fast forwards years later and things haven’t changed much. Matilda’s brother is too interested in the TV to notice her, Mrs. Wormwood gets annoyed listening to her stories and Mr. Wormwood continues to call her “boy.” Matilda’s only friends are the ones she reads about in books and Mrs. Phelps (Shaunyce Omar) the local librarian who unlike her mother, loves listening to Matilda’s stories.

School isn’t much better for Matilda (played by Holly Reichert or Nava Ruthfield depending on which performance you attend). She and the other “miracles” have high hopes for school only to have them dashed by the older kids telling them horror stories about the school principal Miss Trunchball (Basil Harris) who was a champion hammer thrower who tends to throw kids around as well. She demands discipline even when the kids haven’t done anything wrong. (Her relationship with the children isn’t much different from Miss Hanigan’s from Annie.) At least her teacher, Miss Honey (Marissa Ryder) is nice. She loves to teach and appreciates her students’ clever personalities.
There is much to like in Matilda. As always, the set design is amazing. This time around, Matthew Smucker replaced traditional curtains with giant chalkboards that open from different angles giving the sets a whimsical look. The library scene features a literal floor to ceiling wall of books. Special effects include story characters coming to life accented by fog and lights. (You have to feel bad for conductor Josh Archibald-Seiffer and the ochestra trying to see their music sheets at times.)

Review of Village Theatre's "Matilda."
The "kids" and Miss Trunchbull (Basil Harris)
(Mark Kitaoka/Village Theatre)
The Wormwood family are over-the-top caricatures, but Ann Cornelius is especially good in her solo musical number, “Loud” singing about the virtues of highlighting one’s looks. And Basil Harris’ characterization as Miss Trunchbull almost steals the show. In fact, the title of the show could easily be changed to Trunchbull and I don’t think anyone would care. He’s hilarious and earnest in this once-in-a-lifetime role.

There are a number of songs that resonate too including “Naughty” where Matilda sings about how sometimes one has to do something naughty to make a difference and “When I Grow Up” has a multi-generational message of not waiting until one “grows up” to become strong enough to make a difference.

However, it is unfortunate that this version of the production misses the mark somewhat. For starters, unlike Annie, half of the students are played by actual children while other older kids are played by adult veteran actors. The mix doesn’t really work. When the older ones are introduced it’s unclear if they are fellow students, ghosts from the past, or just what. It’s hard to accept a bearded man or one who is bald to be a child. Both kids and adults are good in their roles, but the adults overshadow the younger ones at times. Meanwhile, the younger ones ham it up on stage with over exaggerated movements and facial expressions in hopes of getting a laugh. They haven’t learned about the art of timing of a joke and it’s uncomfortable at times.

Although there really isn’t any reason to keep the setting of the story in England, it is and because of that, we get a wide range of English accents from all of the actors making it difficult to understand what they are actually saying at times. Many of the songs are well-written with great lyrics, but they get lost. It all sounds like a lot of mumbling.

Review of Village Theatre's "Matilda."
Miss Honey (Marissa Ryder) and Matilda (Mark Kitaoka/Village Theatre)
Thirdly, the show is slow moving focusing on scenes that seemingly don’t forward the story, while others that are crucial to the story-telling get lost. (For instance, Matilda continues to share a story with Mrs. Phelps throughout the show, and it turns out that it is important, so pay attention.) The fact that Matilda can move things with her mind doesn’t come into play until the second half of Act II after the intermission. It almost feels like an afterthought.

Finally, there is a lack of connection between the characters. It’s odd that Matilda gets angry when things are “not right” but isn’t really sad that she isn’t loved by her parents. The kids at school never really seem like they are friends with each other. One proudly states that she her “best friend” is Matilda, but there doesn’t seem to be any evidence of that. Miss Honey lacks chemistry with her students too, but does better with Matilda one-on-one. To be fair, this may have to do with Miss Honey’s fear of failure. The best interaction between characters is between Matilda and Mrs. Phelps which seems genuine and natural.

Matilda continues its run at the Everett Performing Arts Center through February 3, 2019. The theatre is located at 2710 Wetmore Avenue in Everett, 98201. Tickets can be purchased online or by calling the box office at 425.257.8600.

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)

THEATRE REVIEW

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.

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Taproot Presents the West Coast Premiere of 'Sweet Land'

THEATRE

Taproot Theatre presents the West Coast premiere of Sweet Land which is based on the film of the same name (by Ali Selim) and the short story, "A Gravestone Made of Wheat" by Will Weaver. In this sweeping musical that soars like the Minnesota skies, a young German woman crosses the sea to marry a man she’s never met. What should be their happy ending is met with suspicion and prejudice as friends and neighbors abandon them. But when hardship befalls the community, Inge and Olaf sacrifice everything to save their friends.

Directed by Karen Lund, the Sweet Land musical was written by Perrin Post and Laurie Flanigan Hegge with music by Dina Maccabee and lyrics by Laurie Flanigan Hegge. Sweet Land will play from July 11 to August 18, 2018. Regular performances will be held Wednesdays and Thursday at 7:30 p.m., Fridays and Saturdays at 8:00 p.m. and Saturday matinees will be performed at 2:00 p.m. Special performances include Post Play Discussions after every Wednesday performance, the "Pay What You Can Afford" performance will be presented on July 18 at 7:30 p.m. and the Senior Matinee (for those age 62 and older) will be presented on July 17.

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.

Friday, February 9, 2018

Rod Serling Would Be Proud – Maybe

Twilight Zone Unscripted
Twilight Zone UnScripted (Impro Theatre)

THEATRE

From the darkest corners of reality to the land of the unexplained, Impro Theatre’s Twilight Zone UnScripted is a complete improvised show in the style of the classic ‘60s sci-fi gems. Using little more than their razor-sharp imaginations, quick wits and audience suggestions, this show's talented performers will create an improvised parody in the style of the unforgettably mind-bending and classic television hit. Step into the Pantages Theater each for a hilarious night of both shadow and substance, of things and ideas created in an instant.

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Twilight Zone Unscripted
will be presented on Saturday, March 24, 2018 at 7:30 p.m. Pantages Theater is located at 901 Broadway, Tacoma 98402. Tickets range from $19-$49 and can be purchased online.

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

An Improvised Week: Seattle Festival of Improv Theater

(Photo: Todd Gardiner)

THEATRE

While the Super Bowl gets all of the attention this time of year, Seattle is home to another great competition that you might not know even exists. Groups from all over North America (and sometimes further) descend here for the 16th annual Seattle Festival of Improv Theater.

This year the festival takes place for five days from February 14-18, 2018 with 25 improv comedy groups featuring 102 performers from nine cities around the world performing in 12 shows at 2 venues!  The week includes tons of improv shows, a variety of improv workshops and master classes, parties and what they affectionately call, The Dust Up which has been described as an “improve jam.” While all members of the family could enjoy the shows, the festival states that the performances are not exactly family-friendly and parental guidance is suggested at most SFIT performances.

With that said, SFIT strives to:
  • Serve our audiences with the highest quality and variety of diverse performances possible.
  • Educate the audience as to the depth and variety of improvisational theater that is being currently produced.
  • Provide the highest quality performing and teaching experience for our attending improv professionals.
  • Provide opportunities for growth and networking to all participants.
All performances will take place at Jet City Improv (5510 University Way NE, 98105) and SFIT Second Stage (3940 Brooklyn Ave. NE, 98105). Tickets start at $18 and can be purchased online.

Groups and performances appearing this year include:
  • Black Don't Crack
  • Cast of One
  • Death Hammer
  • Death & Taxes
  • Devin & Sarah
  • The Dust Up
  • Dystopia! The Musical
  • Fistful of Kicks
  • The Future
  • The Gloomwhisper Entrancement
  • In Every Life
  • Manacle
  • Marcia & Jill
  • The Monster Hunters
  • The Next Generation Gap
  • The Nightmare Society
  • Orange Tuxedo
  • The Perks of Being a Misfit
  • Price/Nixon
  • Rock Bottom
  • Scenic Detour
  • Schrampflin Falls
  • The Shrieking Harpies
  • A Tribe Called Yes
  • Wet Bus

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Score ‘Hamilton’ Tickets for Just $10? Yep!

Win $10 tickets to "Hamilton" in Seattle
Hamilton comes to Seattle in February 2018. (Paramount Theatre)

THEATRE

Trying to find tickets for the Seattle performances of Hamilton aren’t only hard to find, they are way out of the price range for most of us who would like to see the show. However, producer Jeffrey Seller is pleased to announce a digital lottery for Hamilton tickets will begin in conjunction with the show’s first performance in Seattle at The Paramount Theatre. Believe it or not, 40 orchestra tickets will be sold for every performance for just $10 each throughout the show’s run which ends on March, 18, 2018. The digital lottery will open at 11:00 a.m. on Sunday, February 4, 2018 for tickets to the Tuesday, February 6, 2018 performance and subsequent digital lotteries will begin two days prior to each performance.

Hamilton is the story of America's Founding Father Alexander Hamilton, an immigrant from the West Indies who became George Washington's right-hand man during the Revolutionary War and was the new nation’s first Treasury Secretary. Featuring a score that blends hip-hop, jazz, blues, rap, R&B, and Broadway, Hamilton is the story of America then, as told by America now.

If you don’t want to risk winning the $10 ticket lottery, you can purchase tickets tickets at Ticketmaster.com and The Paramount Theatre Box Office for late release seats which may become available at short notice, but where’s the fun in that?

Here’s How to Enter:

  • Use the official app for Hamilton, now available for all iOS and Android devices in the Apple App Store and the Google Play Store.
  • You can also visit HamiltonMusical.com to register. 
  • The lottery will open at 11:00 a.m. two days prior to the performance date and will close for entry at 9:00 a.m. the day prior to the performance.
  • Winner and non-winner notifications will be sent at approximately 11:00 a.m. the day prior to the performance via email and SMS (if mobile number is provided).
  • Only one entry per person. Repeat entries and disposable email addresses will be discarded.
  • Tickets must be purchased online with a credit card by 4:00 p.m. the day prior to the performance using the purchase link and code in a customized notification email. Tickets not claimed by 4:00 p.m. the day prior to the performance are forfeited.
  • Lottery tickets may be picked up at will call beginning two hours prior to the performance with a valid photo ID. Lottery tickets void if resold.

The Fine Print: Limit 1 entry per person, per performance. Multiple entries will not be accepted. Patrons must be 18 years or older and have a valid, non-expired photo ID that matches the name used to enter. Tickets are non-transferable. Ticket limits and prices displayed are at the sole discretion of the show and are subject to change without notice. Lottery prices are not valid on prior purchases. Lottery ticket offer cannot be combined with any other offers or promotions. All sales final - no refunds or exchanges. Lottery may be revoked or modified at any time without notice. No purchase necessary to enter or win. A purchase will not improve the chances of winning.

Hamilton plays at the Paramount from February 6 through March 18, 2018. The theatre is located at 911 Pine St, Seattle, WA 98101.

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.

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

You Simply Must Go 'Into the Woods'

Review of Village Theatre's "Into the Woods."
Arika Matoba (Little Red Ridinghood) and Kevin Vortmann (The Wolf). (Photo: Mark Kitaoka)

THEATRE REVIEW

While a cursory glance of Stephen Sondheim’s Into the Woods may appear to be nothing more than a musical comedy featuring a mashup of fairy tale characters, by the end, you’ll realize that there is a lot more to this story. Its messages are deceptively deep and though I knew going into it that this production had some dark undertones, I had no idea. And just because the play features Cinderella and Little Red Riding Hood doesn’t mean that this production is one for the kids. Well, maybe if you left after Act One.

Just to clarify, Into the Woods isn’t a “naughty” production but most of the humor will go over little one’s heads and there is a sharp tonal shift that comes between the first and second act that not only challenges the notion of a “happily ever after,” but also presents these characters as real, flawed people who need to take responsibility for their own actions. Themes include parents making mistakes while trying to do what is best for their children, learning how to be content with what you have rather than what you want and reaping what you sow.

Review of Village Theatre's "Into the Woods."
Allison Standley as Cinderella. (Photo: Mark Kitaoka)
This musical features multiple storylines that crossover each other. Unlike the Disney-fied and perhaps sanitized versions of the Grimm Brothers fairy tale classic stories, Into the Wood presents a more traditional view of these character warts and all. These stories include:

  • Cinderella (Allison Standley) who longs to go to ball and get away from her evil stepmother (Cheryse McLeod Lewis) and stepsisters Lucinda (Marissa Ryder) and Florinda (Arika Matoba). Instead of a fairy godmother, Cinderella visits her mother’s grave and is visited by her spirit (Corinna Munter).
  • Jack (Rafael Molina) who loves his cow, Milky White, more than anything, struggles to find a way to keep her despite his mother’s (Jayne Muirhead) pleading with him to sell her so they won’t starve. Let’s just say that there will be a beanstalk in his future.
  • Little Red Ridinghood (Arika Matoba) is challenged to either follow her mother’s advice to “not stray from the path” or listen to the Wolf’s (Kevin Vortmann) instructions on how to find beautiful flowers to give to her grandmother (Corinna Munter).
  • A baker and his wife (Trey Ellett and Christine Marie Brown) have hope of breaking a curse that prevents them from becoming parents if they are willing to do a few unsavory tasks for their next-door neighbor, the witch (Mari Nelson).
  • Rapunzel (Molli Corcoran) sings out happily though unable to leave her tower. She sings a different tune once she gets out.

Review of Village Theatre's "Into the Woods."
Marissa Ryder (Lucinda), Cheryse McLeod Lewis (Cinderella's Stepmother),
and Alexandria Henderson (Florinda). (Photo: Tracy Martin)
Each of the character’s stories lead them to go “into the woods” which is sort of a metaphor for taking risks in life and coming back a changed person, whether for good or for bad. Some of the characters do the right thing while others do not.

I have to say that while watching this production that I really liked the first act, then I found myself not liking the middle and then come back around full circle for the time the play wrapped up. The stories and pretty familiar for the first half where most of the stories we know end on “happily ever after” but Act 2 ventures beyond with a real crisis that affects all of the characters. Some choose to ignore it, others run away and others face the obstacle head on. Without giving anything away, the story does end on a positive note.

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Review of Village Theatre's "Into the Woods."
Christine Marie Brown, Trey Ellett and Mari Nelson. (Photo: Mark Kitaoka)
Matthew Smucker’s sets and Melanie Taylor Burgess’ costumes for Into the Woods are some of the best I’ve ever seen and the photos do not do them justice. The revolving stage features woods that contain trees that are made out of ladders and leaves that are really pages from a story book. The woods change appearance from being warm and magical to stark and grim. Many of the character’s costumes feature a patch quilt look. As for the characters, some truly over-the-top as is the case of the prince brothers played by Kevin Vortmann and Matthew Posner. (Their song, “Agony,” about dealing with the fairer sex is spot on.) Others, like the Baker’s Wife, are more realistic where you sympathize with them one moment and then are angry with them the next. The stand out though is Arika Matoba who is able to present Red Ridinghood’s lines with dry humor and perfect comedic timing and yet still remain innocent. As for the music, don’t expect to walk away with songs stuck in your head as Sondheim’s musical numbers are more poetic than toe-tapping.

Into the Woods continues playing at the Everett Performing Arts Center through November 19, 2017. The theatre is located at 2710 Wetmore Ave., Everett, WA 98201.

Friday, July 28, 2017

Village Theatre Announces 2017-2018 Season

Village Theatre's 2017-2018 season
(Village Theatre)

THEATRE

From Disney to Sondheim, Village Theatre promises another great season of musical and dramatic entertainment in two venues! Some shows are classics, some are new classics, some are family-friendly and others are perfect for a date night. Village Theatre plays are presented at the Francis J. Gaudette Theatre in Issaquah and the Everett Performing Arts Center in Everett. Here is what is coming to the stage soon:

Into the Woods
Find out what happens to Little Red Riding Hood, Cinderella, Jack (sans beanstalk), rapunzel and others when they find out that they have been cursed by a witch and all of their happy endings will be in jeopardy in this Stephen Sondheim musical.
Issaquah: September 14 – October 22, 2017
Everett: October 27 – November 19, 2017

Disney’s Newsies the Musical
Based on the Disney orignal musical movie of the same name, Newsises is based on real events that took place during the newsboys’ strike of 1899 in New York.
Issaquah: November 9 – December 31, 2017
Everett: January 5 – 28, 2018

The Gin Game
Described as a “tragic-comedy,” The Gin Game is a two-person play that takes place at an old folks home. Old man Weller teaches Fonsia how to play a game of gin which goes great at first until Fonsia gets a taste of a winning streak.
Issaquah: January 18 – February 25, 2018
Everett: March 2-25, 2018

String
Village Theatre presents the world premiere of the new musical, String, which features three goddesses known as the Fates sent to live and work among human offices workers. However, falling in love with one of them was not part of the plan.
Issaquah: March 15 – April 22, 2018
Everett: April 27 – May 20, 2018

Hairspray
Based on the original John Waters movie of the same name, this lively musical is a toe-tapping journey back to the 1960s when both TV star-dreaming Tracy Turnblad and her hair were really big. Will she make it on Baltimore’s most popular dance show? You better believe it.
Issaquah: May 10 – July 1, 2018
Everett: July 6 – 29, 2018

For more information, visit the Village Theatre website.

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

Thursday, June 29, 2017

World Premiere Jane Austen Musical

"Persuasion" at Taproot Theatre
Cayman Ilika, Nick DeSantis & Matthew Posner in Persuasion. (Photo by Erik Stuhaug.)

THEATRE

Taproot Theatre Company has the honors of presenting the world premiere production of Harold Taw's and Chris Jeffries' musical, Persuasion (based on Jan Austen’s last novel of the same name) in Taproot’s Jewell Mainstage this summer.

“The beloved novel has been transformed into a breathtaking new musical filled with love, laughter and second chances,” says Taproot. The musical touches on love, longing and second chances as main character, Anne Elliot, was persuaded to abandon true love but now her past mistakes and long-lost hopes have returned. The play is recommended those age 12 and up.

Persuasion, directed by Karen Lund, will be presented from July 12 through August 19. Persuasion is a 2015 product of The 5th Avenue Theatre’s inaugural NextFest: A Festival of New Musicals. It has since been workshopped at the Texas Musical Theatre Workshop in 2016.

Performances will be held on Wednesday and Thursdays at 7:30 p.m., Fridays and Saturday at 8:00 p.m. and matinee performances will be held on Saturdays at 2:00 p.m. Post play discussions with Taproot staff and cast will be held after each Wednesday performance (after the preview), a Senior Matinee will be held on July 18 and a Pay-What-You-Can-Afford performance will be held on July 19. (No performance will be held on July 26). Tickets range from $27-$47 depending on performance date. Tickets can be purchased online, by phone by calling (206) 781-9707 or in person at the box office. Taproot Theatre is located at 204 N. 85th St., Seattle.

Monday, May 15, 2017

Time to Act Up

Seattle International Festival of Improv
(Seattle International Festival of  Improv)

THEATRE

The 21st International Festival of Improv features improvisers from Austria, Australia, Canada, Finland, Great Britain, Mexico, Sweden, Switzerland and the United States and audiences will have the unique opportunity to see these International masters of improv during evening performances throughout the week of June 19-26, 2017. This year’s festivities include:

International Improv Happy Hour – June 19 at 7:00 p.m.
Come see the participants of the Festival perform together for the first time. Members of Unexpected Productions' ensemble will also join the mix. This is an open night of fun, laughter and camaraderie.

Trios – June 22 at 8:30 p.m.
The improvisers will work in playful groups of three There is magic in threes, especially when they are improv artists from around the globe. Come see multiple trios of international teams take the stage.

Translation – June 23 at 8:30 p.m.
During Translation, performers improvise in their native tongue. Someone may be speaking Hindi to someone who speaks German or Italian! Even though the audience may not speak the language, they will understand the communication transpiring.

Improv Happy Hour - June 24 and 25 at 7:00 p.m.
Join the festival participants for an evening of spontaneous theater that mixes the shorter games associated with Theatresports! Improv Happy Hour is a sampler of several styles of improv all packed into one show all based on audience suggestions so expect unexpected fun!

All Around YOU - June 24 and 25 at 8:30 p.m.
This improv will be based on festival's theme, "All Around YOU". Material about playing will be gathered through the workshops during the week, and integrated into a Friday's and Saturday's performances. This will be a highly interactive performance

Theatresports - June 24 and 25 at 10:30 p.m.
Join Festival participants as they take over Seattle's longest-running show, Unexpected Productions' Theatresports. At Theatresports, teams of improvisational actors use their quick wits to create scenes on the spot, based entirely on audience suggestions. A panel of judges -- sometimes including guest celebrities -- then weighs in on which team is the funniest

International Happy Hour – June 26 at 7:00 p.m.
Members of Seattle's improv community will join the UP ensemble and the members of the Festival's ensemble for a final night of fun, laughter and camaraderie.This is the final performance of the festival. Come say farewell and have a final laugh with us.

Tickets for individual shows are $15 and $30 for a festival pass.The Festival will feature 10 performances valued at over $100. The Festival is best experienced by purchasing a Festival pass, which covers the entire week from beginning to end and must be presented for admission.

All performances will be held at Unexepected Productions located at 1428 Post Alley, Seattle 98101. To purchase tickets or learn more, visit the Unexpected Productions website or call (206) 587-2414.

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

‘Here Lies Love’ Extended Through June 18

"Here Lies Love"
(Seattle Repertory Theatre)

THEATRE

Originally produced by The Public Theatre in New York and directed here by Alex Timbers, Here Lies Love is one of Seattle Repertory Theatre’s most unique presentations. First, the Bagley Wright Theatre has been transformed into a wild dance party scene with a which is a pretty unusual place to tell the story about the rise and fall of the Philippine’s first lady, Imelda Marcos. The musical’s concept and lyrics were written by the Talking Head’s David Byrne who also wrote the music for the show with Fatboy Slim. The “poperetta” stars How to Get Away with Murder’s Conrad Ricamora as Aquino, Jaygee Macapugay as Imelda, Melody Butiu as Estrella and Mark Bautista as Marcos.

Here Lies Love “chronicles the story of the People Power Revolutions that inspired the world and changed the Philippines forever. Here Lies Love traces the non-violent restoration of democracy in the Philippines in 1986,” says the theatre.

The 360-degree spectacle runs about 90 minutes long with no intermission. While there is traditional seating, there are many “floor tickets” available as well, but you’ll be expected to stand during the whole performance and shake your booty if you feel so led. (The Seattle Rep recommends that you wear comfortable shoes!)

Here Lies Love plays through June 18. Performances are at 7:30 p.m. Tuesdays-Sundays with some matinee shown at 2:00 p.m. on Sunday afternoons. Tickets vary depending on seating location and performances. Tickets may be purchased online or by calling (206) 443-2222. The Seattle Repertory Theatre is located at 155 Mercer St., Seattle 98109.

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Romy and Michele's World Premiere!

Romy and Michele's High School Reunion the Musical
(5th Avenue Theatre)

THEATRE

Do you know the fictional people who invented Post-It’s? If so, this show is for you! Seattle’s 5th Avenue Theatre will be presenting the world premiere of a new musical based on the 1997 comedy movie, Romy and Michele’s High School Reunion the Musical this June. “Romy and Michele are two inseparable best friends whose relationship is put to the test when they invent fake careers to impress people at their 10-year high school reunion,” says the theatre.

Romy and Michele's High School Reunion features a creative team including Rock of Ages' director Kristin Hanggi and a book by the film's screenwriter, Robin Schiff. Though the musical is based on nostalgia, the music is all new but based on ‘80s and ‘90s pop and rock tunes with a score created by Gwendolyn Sanford and Brandon Jay who are composers of Orange is the New Black.

Romy and Michele’s High School Reunion will be presented from June 8-July 2, 2017. Tickets vary greatly in price depending on performance date and seating location, but consider attending the June 8 performance for 50% off your tickets. Tickets can be ordered online or by calling (206) 625-1900. The 5th Avenue Theatre is located at 1308 5th Ave., Seattle 98101.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

A ‘Twin Peaks’ Parody Dinner Show

Dinner theatre show at Cafe Nordo
(Cafe Nordo)

THEATRE

Café Nordo is currently presenting Lost Falls, a murder mystery dinner theatre presentation. Set within Café Nordo’s Culinarium, Lost Falls tells of the gruesome (but funny) murder of two chefs at a roadhouse restaurant on Highway 2. Special Agent Eliot Pennis called to the scene of the crime and soon discovers the malevolent forces that are threatening the small, spooky town. As with all good mysteries, everyone is a suspect including the theatre patrons/diners.

Inspired by the TV series Twin Peaks, Café Nordo says the story of Lost Falls begins with a dinner that is disguised as breakfast with a “savory mashed potato donut served with coffee gravy.”

Award winning composer Annastasia Workman has written a score that integrates Angelo Badalamenti style cool jazz and raucous roadhouse blues with Devin Bannon on lead vocals and a live band including Matt Manges on drums and Dave Pascal on bass. The cast of Lost Falls includes Gregory Award Winner Ryan Higgins, Ayo Tushinde, Opal Peachey, Carol Thompson, Ronnie Hill, and Laura Dux.

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Each ticket to Lost Falls includes a 5 course "breakfast" where even the donuts are not what they seem. There is the option of purchasing a ticket with a paired cocktail flight, or purchasing beverages a la carte at the show. The prix fixe menu offers omnivore, vegetarian and gluten free options.

Lost Falls plays through June 25, 2017. Performances are at 8:00 p.m. Thursday-Saturday and 6:30 p.m. on Sunday. Standard tickets are $67 and Guest with Flight tickets are $92; both can be ordered online. Café Nordo is located at 109 S. Main St., Seattle 98104. For more information, visit the Café Nordo website.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

‘Dreamgirls’ to Finish Up Season at Village Theatre

"Dreamgirls" at Village Theatre
(Village Theatre)

THEATRE

It’s been a good year for Village Theatre presenting a great mix of musicals and plays for the 2016-2017 season and to finish it up, they will end thing on a high note this spring and summer with Dreamgirls. Set in the 1960’s the award-winning musical will give audiences a look behind the scenes of the 1960s entertainment business.

“I am so excited to be doing such an epic show with some of the most amazing people I’ve ever worked with,” says director, Steve Tomkins. “The whole audition process was just wonderful, as each person came into the room and blew the roof off. I can’t wait for opening night, because this cast is just going to send it through the roof again. They are truly outstanding.”

Headlining the show is Angela Birchett who comes straight from Broadway’s The Color Purple. She will be joined by Lauren Du Pree, Alexandria Henderson, John Devereaux, Nathaniel Tenebaum, Charles Simmons, Ty Willis and Joell Weil. Experience all the onstage joy and backstage drama as an up-and-coming girl group learns hard lessons about love, trust, and what it takes to get to the top.

Dreamgirls will play in following locations and times:

Francis Gaudette Theatre from May 11-July 2, 2017. Performance will be presented on select Tuesdays-Thursdays at 7:30 p.m., Fridays at 8:00 p.m., Saturdays at 8:00 p.m. and Sundays at 7:00 p.m. Matinees will be shown at 2:00 p.m. on both Saturdays and Sundays. Tickets can be purchased online or by calling (425) 392-2202. The theatre is located at 303 Front St. N., Issaquah 98027.

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Everett Performing Arts Center from July 7-30, 2017. Performances will be presented on Wednesdays and Thursdays at 7:30 p.m., Fridays and Saturdays at 8:00 p.m., Sundays at 7:00 p.m. Matinees will be shown at 2:00 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays. Tickets can be purchased online or by calling (425) 257-8600. The theatre is located at 2710 Wetmore Ave., Everett 98201.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Seattle Opera Present ‘The Magic Flute’

Seattle Opera's "The Magic Flute"
The Magic Flute (Seattle Opera)

THEATRE

Forget what you heard when Meryl Streep sang a classic song from Mozart’s The Magic Flute in the movie Florence Jenkins Foster and come to the Seattle Opera to hear how it is actually supposed to be sung this May.

The Seattle Opera describes the program like this: “Mozart’s utterly unique extravaganza blends myth, magic, and a remarkable variety of wonderful music to deliver its life-affirming message: love conquers all. A handsome prince and his comical sidekick are given enchanted musical instruments and tasked with rescuing the Queen of the Night’s daughter from a mysterious group of priests. Undergoing trials of virtue, discretion, and charity, they realize that all may not be as it seems in this magical land. Award-winning costumes from the fabulous Zandra Rhodes add to the many delights of one of the most fantastic entertainments ever created.”

The Magic Flute will be presented in German with English subtitles at McCaw Hall with select performances from May 6-21, 2017. Evening performances begin at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday matinees perform at 2:00 p.m. The show is recommended for anyone over the age of 5. Tickets range wildly from $15-$292 depending on the performance and seating. Family Day matinees (May 14 and 21) offer discount tickets of $15 for those age 18 and under. Tickets may be purchased online or by calling (206) 389-7676. MaCaw Hall is located at 321 Mercer St, Seattle, WA 98109.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

A Killer of a Show

"Murder for Two" at the ACT Theatre in Seattle
Murder for Two is now playing (ACT Theatre)

THEATRE

ACT Theatre presents Murder for Two, a co-production with the 5th Avenue Theatre currently playing through June 11, 2017. As with all good murder mysteries, everyone is a suspect but unlike others, this play features only two actors. One plays the investigator of the crime, the other plays all of the suspects. Together, they play the piano. ACT Theatre calls Murder for Two “A zany blend of classic musical comedy and madcap mystery, this ninety-minute whodunit is a highly theatrical duet loaded with killer laughs.”

Performances for Murder for Two run every night except Mondays at the ACT Theatre located at 700 Union St., Seattle 98101. Tickets can purchased online or by calling (206) 292-7676.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

‘Fire Station 7’ is Going to the…Cats?

Information about "Fire Station 7" at Seattle Children's Theatre.
(Seattle Children's Theatre)

THEATRE

The new musical comedy for kids, Fire Station 7, will be performed at the Seattle Children’s Theatre from April 13 through May 21, 2017. This play not only entertains, but also shares the seven rules of fire safety in a fun, rock n’ roll type of performance geared for children ages 4 and up. The play was written by Vincent Delaney and directed by Linda Hartzell.

“When the firefighting team at Fire Station 7 discovers a frisky alley cat named Coco hiding in their truck, they waste no time in giving her the boot. But Coco’s biggest dream is to be a fire cat, and she begs Jasper, Briggs, and Olive to let her stay. They finally allow her one shot at the job, and Coco is delighted. But being a fire cat turns out to be much harder than she thought. Still, Coco never gives up, determined to learn everything about fire safety, help in emergencies, and pass her exam.”

Presented in the Eve Alvord Theatre, performances will be available at a variety of days and times including an ASL Interpreted performance presented on May 6 at 2:00 p.m. and a sensory friendly performance presented on May 7 at 11:00 a.m. For complete list of performances, visit the Seattle Children’s Theatre website. Tickets can be purchased online or by calling (206) 441-3322.

The Seattle Children’s Theatre is located at the Seattle Center at 201 Thomas Street, 98109.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

'Evidence of Things Unseen' Found at Taproot

"Evidence of Things Unseen" at Taproot Theatre Company
Jenny Vaughn Hall, Michael Winters and Christine Marie Brown in Evidence of Things Unseen 
at Taproot Theatre. (Photo by John Ulman.)

THEATRE

“If faith is the evidence of things unseen, then why are we all so certain of the truth?” asks Taproot Theatre which will be presenting the world premiere of Katie Forgette's play, Evidence of Things Unseen from March 29 through April 29. Taproot describes the play as follows: “Unexpected circumstances find sisters Jane and Abigail taking care of their bird-watching father. As they struggle with grief, loss and their opposing beliefs, they discover that the truth sometimes finds you.”

Evidence of Things Unseen stars Michael Winters, Jenny Vaughn Hall, Chip Wood and Christine Marie Brown and is directed by Taproot’s co-founder, Scott Nolte. Due to some profane language in the play, this play is recommended for those age 16 and up. Performances will be presented Wednesdays and Thursdays at 7:30 p.m., Fridays and Saturdays at 8:00 p.m. and Saturday matinees are available at 2:00 p.m. Tickets range from $27-$47 depending on the performance and special discounts can be found by visiting Taproot’s website. Special post play discussions will be offered after each Wednesday night performance (excluding the preview night) as well as after the April 4th matinee performance.

Taproot Theatre is located at 204 N. 85th St. in Seattle, 98103. For tickets or more information, call (206) 781-9707 or visit their website.