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

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.

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

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.

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.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

‘The 39 Steps’: A Hitchcockian Comedy

"The 39 Steps" plays at the Village Theatre
Village Theatre presents the slapstick comedy, The 39 Steps. (Village Theatre)

THEATRE

While you may have seen 1935 Alfred Hitchcock movie, The 39 Steps, I can almost guarantee that you’ve never seen it like this. This stage version features over 150 characters played by only four different actors. The comedy is a Tony and Drama Desk award winning play where the staging is almost more creative that than the play itself including an on-stage plane crash.

The 39 Steps plays that the Village Theatre in Issaquah from January 19 through February 26 before moving to Everett’s Performing Arts Center from March 3-26, 2107. Performances are at 7:30 p.m. on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays, 8:00 p.m. on Fridays and Saturday, 7:00 p.m. on Sundays and a 2:00 p.m. matinee is available on Saturdays and Sundays. A preview performance is scheduled for January 18, an ASL interpreted performance will be presented on February 4 and a post-show discussion will be offered on February 21.

Tickets range from $35-$70 depending on the seating and which performance. Tickets can be purchased online or by calling (425) 392-2202. The Francic Gaudette Theatre is located at 303 Front St. N., Issaquah, WA 98027.