Saturday, December 30, 2006

Weekly Update - 12/30/2006

The Weekly Update, as promised, for your enjoyment and planning benefit!

ACT Theater
Home page for Ticket Info
Menopause the Musical >running through May 28, 2007
Late Night Catechism >running through August 2007
Seattle Shakespeare Company
Tickets and Info
The Comedy of Errors >January 4 - January 28, 2007

Seattle Repertory Theater
Tickets and Info
The Lady from Dubuque >January 11 – February 10, 2007

Seattle Opera
Tickets and Info
Don Giovanni >January 13 - 27, 2007

Paramount Moore Theater
Tickets and Info
The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee >January 9 - 14, 2007

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Weekly Update 12/23

Here is the weekly update of what is happening around Seattle right now for your theatrical enjoyment!

Intiman Theater
Tickets and Info
Black Nativity >November 29 - December 27, 2006

ACT Theater
Home page for Ticket Info
Menopause the Musical >running through May 28, 2007
Late Night Catechism >running through August 2007

The Broadway Performance Hall
Ticket Window
A Tap Dance Christmas Carol >December 15 - 23, 2006

Sunday, December 17, 2006

A Tap Dance Christmas Carol

The Broadway Performance Hall
December 15 - 23, 2006
For Tickets: Ticket Window

Surely you have been told about Charles Dickens, the famous writer notorious for his classical literature, but did you also know he is a musical playwright? This premise opens up A Tap Dance Christmas Carol, a morphing production now in its 7th year of annual Christmas Cheer. This show finds its roots in the minds and feet of Cheryl Johnson and Anthony Peters, renowned tap dancers, owners of the Johnson & Peters Tap Studio in Greenlake, and directors, choreographers, and stars of this show. This year’s production continues their tradition of intriguing dance, unique twists on the classic tale, a jazzy orchestra, and an overall ambience of warmth, humor and Christmas spirit.

The cool, bluesy and upbeat arrangements from the talented three piece orchestra (directed by Clayton Murray) weave their way through solo performances, scene changes, and dance after dance in their intimate role with the action onstage. The intricate involvement of the orchestra onstage and in the show helps to compliment the feelings and emotions expressed by the characters. Instruments even take center stage to stimulate the audience with unique arrangements of classic favorites, making the show not only a musical, but a mini concert of three very talented musicians.

With the band occupying upstage and a great deal of action and dance tapping through the foreground, a minimal set by Seattle Scenic Studios is used to compliment the emphasis on lighting design by Richard Schaefer. The crafty use of lighting shows detailed changes from narration to action, and specifically depicts atmospheric emotion, from warm, as in the Cratchit household, to cool, as in the solo orchestra numbers throughout the show, to dark and deadly in the graveyard. Each skillfully lighted moment helps to aid in the development of plot, character and atmosphere.

From the moment the first actor speaks, humor becomes a central motif. Through overly corny jokes (specifically a traditional reference to Geico auto Insurance), script writing (playing off the original Dickens’ story), and even costume design (a light up tux at the top of the 2nd act) a lighter, comedic attitude is taken towards the story.

Tying the show together is the beautiful footwork of the tap dancers as they perform newly choreographed pieces and old classics, modified and seasoned from years past. Besides the shear enjoyment of the art of tap, its role went beyond this to take on specific roles in the show. Whenever Ebenezia Scrooge was destined to learn something from the ghosts, it was through joining the visions in dance. It is also through dance that she experienced the truth of Christmas by sharing a gorgeous, moving tap piece with her niece, Frieda (Jessie Sawyers). A Tap Dance Christmas Carol offers a unique way to experience the holidays, through the 23rd,with a cast of talented and energetic tappers.

Review By Rick Skyler

Saturday, December 16, 2006

All Shook Up -Paramount Theater

The Paramount Theater
December 12-17

Begin with the upbeat music of Elvis Presley and the ridiculous plotlines of Shakespearian comedy, throw in a good helping of Bye, Bye, Birdie and The Music Man, followed by a generous portion of Footloose, mix it artfully together and All Shook Up blasts from the oven. This vibrant show not only takes corniness to a new level, but also does it in such a well thought out and strategic way that its ridiculous chain of events will amuse any viewer.

The beginning is somewhat abrupt, opening with a variety show-like atmosphere that is perpetuated in subsequent numbers, in which songs are forcibly introduced by awkwardly posed scenes. As we coast through the blast out number “C’mon Everybody,” with its intense energy and electrifying choreography, the corniness starts to take on the style of a musical rather than a variety show. However, it isn’t until “Teddy Bear/Hound Dog” that its form as a musical really takes shape, and one becomes immersed in the story of people in a topsy-turvy world where every one is “All Shook Up” in so many ways.

Stephen Oremus’ song arrangements are masterful, keeping the fun, upbeat feeling of timeless Elvis songs while suiting them to a musical style; either combining songs into duets (as in “Teddy Bear/Hound Dog,” an argument in song), expanding the song with harmonies (a prime example being the finale “Burning Love”), or by running themes throughout the show (such as “One Night With You,” which literally blasted forth from characters whenever they fell in love).

The crafty use of satiric comedy in this over the top world also emanated from its explosive choreography and specific design elements. The lighting and set design, directed by Donald Holder and David Rockwell, respectively, aid in creating a dynamic world in which both the most cozy and intimate scenes can take place, and expansive scenes extend off into the wings. Some lighting cues bring the hilarity of moments into focus, and leave many audience members throwing their heads back in laughter. The “roustabout” Chad (Joe Mandragona) uses his magic touch to electrify the town jukebox, and Natalie/Ed’s (Jenny Fellner) singing in “A Little Less Conversation” brings the conveniently abandoned fairgrounds to glitzy, electric life, in a physical touch that is illustrated by the flamboyant but specific lighting. Amid its quirky, overblown atmosphere All Shook Up is an enjoyable comedy with the intention of pleasing its audience; and so poignantly succeeded.

Review By Rick Skyler and Lia Morgan

Friday, December 15, 2006

Weekly Update 12/15

I will now start updating this post weekly with news of what is happening in the Seattle Theater scene. I will try to do this in the morning, but it will definitely be on Fridays. That way, you can make your weekend plans right here, right now! So, with no further verbage:

The Paramount Theater
Tickets Info
All Shook Up >December 12-17, 2006

Intiman Theater
Tickets and Info
Black Nativity >November 29 - December 27, 2006

ACT Theater
Home page for Ticket Info
A Christmas Carol >November 24 - December 24, 2006
Menopause the Musical >running through May 28, 2007
Late Night Catechism >running through August 2007

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

A Christmas Carol -ACT Theater

ACT Theater
Runs Through December 24, 20006

The classic Charles Dickens' novel, adapted for the stage by Gregory A. Falls, brings to life one of the most timeless and beloved stories of redemption and rebirth that our world has ever known. Margaret Layne, the ACT Theater's Artistic Associate and Casting Director, states quite eloquently in her short piece "Keeping Christmas Well: How Charles Dickens Invented Christmas" included in the program that Dickens' story truly created Christmas as we know it today. Long ago there was a time when there would be a 12-day celebration of Christmas during which all of London would celebrate together in solidarity and joy. The Industrial Revolution blotted out that time-taking along with the blue sky in its ever-darkening cloud of soot and work. However, Dickens' "A Christmas Carol," written, unusually, not primarily for financial compensation in printed publications, brought back that spirit of old; that loving spirit in which all women and men came together to celebrate a year past and a new year to begin.

This production of "A Christmas Carol" brings ever more charm and magic to the time-worn story. R. Hamilton Wright's direction brings sense of life and vividness to each character whether they are speaking or simply walking by in the bustling crowd of London. Each person and each piece of the set has a purpose and an artistic realism that brings the audience into the world of Dickens' imagination and pulls on the audience's emotions until Tiny Tim's (Langston Guettinger, DeLancey Grace Zeller Lane) overwhelming innocence and Scrooge's (Terry Edward Moore, David Pichette) eventual redemption boil up the most heartwarming joy the theater and classic literature have to offer.

The design team created a spectacular world for the characters to roam. Trap doors lead to new worlds and imaginary buildings bringing the audience inside the world of the play. One is, however, snapped back to reality any time imaginary drinks are poured and consumed. Regardless of the lack of liquids, the world is absorbing and wonderful and a creation for which to be proud.
Terry Edward Moore and Langston Guettinger, "A Christmas Carol" Photo: Chris Bennion. (2006)

Friday, December 01, 2006

Memory House -Seattle Repertory Theater

Seattle Repertory Theater
(206) 443-2222
Runs Through December 17th

On New Year’s Eve, with three hours before the deadline for a postmark on her application essay to her top choice college, Katia (Sharia Pierce) and her mother, Maggie (Jeanne Paulsen) struggle to find each other through each other’s eyes. Throughout the course of this 80-minute rollercoaster, one will struggle to decide who is right and who is deluded. Kathleen Tolan’s Memory House portrays the showdown between teenage angst for identity and middle-age identity crisis in such an eloquent manner that the audience gains a glimpse into the true-to-life anxiety of the night before the application essay is due. The dialogue is piercingly painful and will have each viewer rethinking what memories are the ones to hang on to.

Paulsen’s performance is an absolute phenomenon. Every viewer will see a mother from life in Paulsen’s character. Maggie’s overwhelming love for her daughter boils forth from Paulsen into the world of Memory House. Equally outstanding is Pierce’s presentation of Katia. Her physical awkwardness encapsulates the feeling of those last minutes as fully high school student before the world of College crashes through the gates of her life with blinding force. Both Paulsen and Pierce bring these characters to life on the stage and light up each viewer’s own memory house.

Sharia Pierce and Jeanne Paulsen

Matthew Smucker’s set is another work of artistic splendor. His attention to detail in filling every shelf with trinkets and books and accuracy in a fully functioning kitchen give the audience the feeling of intruding upon someone’s home. Dominic CodyKramers’ sound design is also a feat at which to be marveled. His precision and subtlety with pointed car alarms and sirens bring the Memory House to reality.

Allison Narver’s direction of Memory House brings out the best in all of the elements of this production. Every bit of Tolan’s story and purpose comes through Paulsen and Pierce in the world created for them by their outstanding design team. This is a fantastic production that every Mother-Daughter pair and family dealing with the struggle of prospective colleges should see and discuss. “You have a choice. That’s a big deal” (Maggie, Memory House).

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Native Son -Intiman

Intiman Theater
Through September 19th

Richard Wright's classic piece of African-American literature struggled through many trials and tribulations to come to life for audiences of Seattle at the Intiman Theater. After losing the rights to the originally planned script, director Kent Gash gained rights to the original Richard Wright and Paul Green play and adapted it for the current run in under three weeks. Bringing together an amazing cast surrounded by a beautiful set and lifted up by incredible music, this play will have everyone examining the foundations of our culture.

Kent Gash's direction and adaptation of this book made play are a testament to his skill. Though much of the tension of the novel is lost due to time constraints in a stage form of this story, the fear, flight and fate (the three main themes of the novel) are clearly present. Every vital event, character and interaction is present in this adaptation. Gash's direction of the play comes together beautifully and naturally. The scary thing is that there is nothing unnatural about this play. Every event and action seems completely feasible and factual.

Ato Essandoh (Bigger Thomas) brings to life a magnificent character. His stage presence shines above the play as a personal torch to light the way of Wright's meaning through his story. He is supported by strong cast including Richard Kline (Mr. Max) and Felicia V Loud (Vera Thomas and Bessie).

Chic Street Man's musical composition is a subtle and impressive addition. Bringing a new almost cinematic perspective to the play, his musical stylings augment the time period, emotion and plot of the play.

Though not a must-see, definitely a recommended production. Though it only runs for the remainder of this week, I highly suggest seeing it if possible.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Thom Pain (based on nothing) - Seattle Repertory Theater

Seattle Repertory Theater
October 5 - November 5, 2006
See website and box office for tickets

Thom Pain (based on nothing)
is the closest approximation that anyone could make to what this play entails. Quite literally, there is Thom Pain on stage and the play is based on nothing. However, nothing becomes much deeper when Thom begins to alter our perceptions about the world and imagination. He takes us on a journey that doesn't conclude until he feels like he's done talking and when he's done, he's done.

Will Eno's play Thom Pain (based on nothing) is an interesting investigation of introspection and perceptions about the world. Once the play has concluded, the audience is left wondering about every aspect of the world and wanting to reach out and grab life by the horns. Despite its inspirational overtones, it pushes these emotions too forcefully. Eno seems to be throwing all of his psychological and introspective thought into the audiences face as fast as possible and with no continuity. Though a play with "based on nothing" in the title should be somewhat disjointed, Eno seems more confused than artistically and pointedly disjointed. Therefore, the play is somewhat hard to follow and certainly seems to have its own agenda that the audience is not entirely a part of.

Todd Jefferson Moore puts forth a forceful and impressive performance in this short one-man production. He carries all of the emotional and social insecurities and baggage of a naive child bewildered by death and puberty, a forlorn lover lost in the world and an aspiring conversationalist with a passionate dislike for magic. Moore, as has been proven in the past, holds audiences captive in the palm of his hand for the entire performance and never once lets them down.

Jerry Manning's direction for this production is impressive to say the least. To push a one-man existentialist introspection on stage into an entertaining spectacle with no effects or stage magic, or even a set for that matter, is an incredible feat. Manning pulls it off with grace and dignity along side with Moore's unmatchable acting prowess.

Thom Pain (based on nothing) is an entertaining show but somewhat difficult to follow and certainly takes a lot of energy on the audience's part in order to catch even a drift of Eno's intent.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

The Compendium of Nastiness - The Womb

Check out Brown Paper Tickets for information about the show.

In the style of Classical Gothic Melodrama seen through the visionary eyes of director and creator Ki Gottberg, we see a new way in which the good of innocence and virtue will triumph over evil. "The Compendium of Nastiness" takes ideas from "The Devil's Elixer" (1825) and "The Castle Spectre" (1797) and converts them to Ki's very special long-nail tickle [see show for details!]. It is the classic struggle of good versus evil where good will triumph and virtue will be saved with a few bumps and turns and convulsions along the way.

Creator and Director Ki Gottberg has gone past the point of no return into a world of fantastical and spectacular visual and experiential perception. Her work reaches out to a mature and intellectual audience through the lens of the bizarre and amazing. The puppetry that is used is beautiful, adorable, clever and extraordinary. Her simplistic set and environment draw one into her world.

Actress Elizabeth Kenny puts forth a valiant effort that is most certainly not in vain. Her performance and story telling ability are forces to be reckoned with. The story she tells and the manner in which she tells it is complex and straightforward for a cast of six. She holds all six in her hands and performs better than six together.

Simplicity and complexity meet in this extraordinary performance piece. Find a babysitter and experience "The Compendium of Nastiness."

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Upcoming Shows

Seattle Shakespeare Company
The Winter's Tale >October 26 – November 19, 2006
The Comedy of Errors >January 4 - Januray 28, 2007

Seattle Repertory Theater
(206) 443-2222
Thom Pain (Based on Nothing) >October 5 – November 5, 2006
The Great Gatsby >November 2 – December 10, 2006

ACT Theater Seattle
The Underpants >October 13 - November 12, 2006
Waiting for Godot >November 8 - 12, 2006

Seattle Opera
(206) 389-7676
L'Italiana in Algeri >October 14 - 28, 2006
Don Giovanni >January 13 - 27, 2007

L'Italiana in Algeri - Seattle Opera

October 14-28, 2006
McCaw Hall
(206) 389-7676 for tickets

If Rossini, Moliere and Sondheim and collaborated on an Opera-comedy, Seattle Opera's production of "L'Italiana in Algeri" (The Italian Girl in Algiers) is what would happen. This story-book telling of the forlorn love story brings to life the imagination of an innocent mind seeing, for the first time, deceit, lust and love.

As Isabella (Stephanie Blythe or Helene Schneiderman) searches the deserts of Algiers for her lost lover Lindoro (William Burden or Lawrence Brownlee), she is captured by the lusty Mustafa (Simone Alberghini or Kevin Burdette) so that he can satisfy his desire for an Italian Girl. He throws out his wife, Elvira (Sally Wolf), by thrusting her upon Lindoro. When Isabella finds this situation, she uses her feminine whiles and complete and total power over all men to rectify the situation so that, in the end, the good guys will win and the bad guys will "see but not see" what exactly has happened to them.

The entire cast is extremely strong. Those carrying intense roles such as Lindoro, Isabella and Mustafa have an amazing stage presence and overwhelm the audience with their power and potency. Meanwhile the support behind the heavy-hitters is completely indispensable. From Taddeo (Earle Patriarco) to Vlad the Impaler (David Smith-Larson), every cast member carries their role with poise and technical skill that could make the best performers rethink their abilities.

Director Chris Anderson along with Conductor Edoardo Muller bring this production together in a very efficient and acute manner. With a show as Wiley as "L'Italiana," one can easily get lost and confused with seemingly arbitrary or overly lengthy portions. However, Anderson's direction of the blocking and actions keep the audience involved and on their toes. David Woolard's costumes are a wonderful introduction for him to the Seattle Opera. His color schemes match perfectly with Robert Innes Hopkins' sets. Meanwhile, Duane Schuler's lights compliment every moment of the production perfectly.

Overall, this production is extremely enjoyable and thrilling. It will keep you entertained and laughing throughout the entire show and begging for more during intermission and on the way home.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Wicked - Paramount Theater

Wicked has graced the stages of countless cities and theaters across the nation, and now has arrived in Seattle. It is the story of the Wicked Witch of the West as told through they eyes of Gregory Maguire (author of Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister, mirror mirror and Son of a Witch) then adapted by Stephen Schwartz (creator of Godspell, Pippin and Children of Eden). Since Wicked's debut in San Francisco in mid-2003 it has moved its way straight to the top of every chart. When it hit Broadway in late 2003, it captured the hearts of the entire nation, winning ten major awards including Best Actress in a Musical (Idina Menzel), Best Scenic Design (Eugene Lee) and Best Costumes (Susan Hilferty).

Now the tour has found its way to Seattle, and what a tour it is! This production can easily boast some of the most impressive designs and performances that I've seen yet in Seattle. The cast carrying the show are as tight as can be. Megan Hilty and Shoshana Bean as Glinda ("the Gaaa is silent") and Elphaba (The Wicked Witch) carry their roles and each other with such grace and power that the audience can hardly remain seated or be capable of standing. The characters come to life so readily that one feels one is in Oz. Surrounding the poster witches are a cast of incredibly talented actors including, but of course not limited to, Sebastian Arcelus as the love interest, Fiyero, Josh Lamon as the love interested, Boq, and Jennifer Waldman as Elphaba's sister, Nessarose. The power of these characters comes through the actors in such a real way that it is hard to believe they aren't them, themselves.

Joe Mantello, the director of Wicked, has proved himself once again after many past awards and grand successes. His direction of this tour of Wicked along with the production staff's capable designs and the abilities of the actors and orchestra have created a wonderful work of theatrical art. Eugene Lee's scenic design has stuck with the show through all of its tours and mounts. His adaptation of the Time Dragon Clock gives the audience who knows the Gregory Maguire novel an added level in the show.

All things considered, this show embodies what musical theater truly is. It is an escape from the mundane reality of life, it is a celebration of music and acting and it is truly a Wonderful Wizard of Art.

Wicked will be running through October 1 at the Paramount Theater.

Return to Seattle

Dear Readers,

I am now back in Seattle and back on the hunt for good theatre. I have begun my quest (see next post) and will continue through the beginning of December when I will take a one-month leave of absence and return in January until early June. Until then, read on and enjoy the wonderful world of Theatre!

Nigel Andrews

Friday, July 07, 2006

Home for the Hollidays

Dear readers,

I'm in Sacramento for the Summer and will not be able to see a lot of theater. However, there may be some small posts throughout the summer. At any rate, check back in late September for more posts to come! Thanks for reading!

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Dr. Dolittle - California Musical Theater, Sacramento

The classic tale of the animal-loving Dr. Dolittle done as only Tommy Tune could do it is brought to life for all to enjoy in this finale to the 2005-2006 Broadway Series Season. Song, dance and puppetry are brought together in a festive and exciting show in this production of Dr. Dolittle. Dr. Dolittle's search for innocence from the accusations of murder and the famous Great Pink Sea Snail lead the audience on a 90 minute, intermissionless adventure.

Dr. Dolittle is the show to see if you want to bring your children to the theater this season. The fast-paced nature of the show and short run-time are ideal for children. The plot is easy to follow and is rapidly pushed forward at the speed of a child's imagination. This can lead to some confusion for adults, but as has been proven time and again, when it comes to imaginative adventures children are clearly much more agile and fit for the challenge! The entire show is based on fun, love and open-heartedness. There is not a single moment that does not exude these qualities.

Patti Colombo's and Joel Blum's choreography is the shining star of this production. The exciting tap numbers keep the audience tapping their toes and are very clearly extremely fun for the actors. Kenneth Foy's sets and Ken Billington's lighting designs are elegant and impressive from start to finish. And of course, Tommy Tune's performance shines just as brightly now as it did when he started his career in 1965. Dee Hoty (Lady Emma Fairfax) is an able match for Tune's stage presence and the two compliment each other's styles very well. One of the more entertaining and endearing qualities of this show is the puppetry. All of the animals in their elegance and liveliness come to life by their talented puppeteers.

Though this show isn't any profound piece or incredible score, the show is fantastically fun and a wonderful hour and a half of enjoyment.

Friday, June 09, 2006

The Complete Works of William Shakespeare Abridged - Absurd Reality Theater at the Northwest Actors Studio

Is is possible for three men to perform all thirty-seven of William Shakespear's plays in one hour and a half performance? Apparently it is! The Complete Works of William Shakespeare Abridged combines modern rap, classical theatre, improvisation, all of Shakespeare's plays and Chuck Taylor All-Stars. This production, managed by Amanda Stoddard and created by the artistic team as a whole, takes the skeleton of a play that has been laid down by writers Adam Long, Daniel singer and Jess Winfield and gives it it's guts and skin. However, the guts and skin don't hold together too strongly. In this short play, timing and delivery are painfully important and difficult to control. Neither of these elements are as solid as they need to be. For the most part, the deliveries seemed a bit forced and inauthentic. Aside from the acting elements, the technical aspects also seemed a bit off kilter. The sound cues all seemed to be having volume difficulties, either too loud or much too quiet to fit with the action on stage.

Though there are some pitfalls to the production, it is extremely entertaining! Though the sound cues are somewhat troublesome, what they are are hilarious. The song choices and use are fantastic. Also, the simplicity of the set with the humorous and fun swirl design on the curtains add the aspect of whimsicalness to the set that exists in the play itself. Brandon Ryan, one of the three actors, does an outstanding job in his roles and Tracie Owens (Light Operator) is as precise as the lights themselves.

This is a fantastically fun production to see and experience and even participate in. Enjoy the couches and the wacky fun of the show!

Monday, June 05, 2006

King John - Upstart Crow Productions at Capitol Hill Arts Center

Though King John's soul may have elbow room, there is certainly no room for anything to be lacking in Upstart Crow's production of King John at the Capitol Hill Arts Center. The story of King John is a bloody and treacherous slippery slope of war and murder. From King to warrior to corpse, King John fights his way to the top then clamors down the other side of the mountain, taking everyone he can down with him - or should I say her? Rosa Joshi's (director) production of King John is comprised of a fully-female cast attired in the powerful suits of the Twenty-First Century mixed with the crests and skins of the Twelfth. This lends an interesting slant and interpretation to this ancient history. The succession implications that are readily apparent in our war-stained world today are dealt with through the writing of William Shakespeare in the telling of the story of this King John. With the costumes - by Melanie Taylor Burgess - transcending any specific time restraint, the set, too, has to go beyond any specifics. This is fantastically accomplished by the set team originally led by Jennifer Zeyl. The blood spattered metal-plated floors and walls give the audience a feeling of an abandoned meat locker in a butcher's shop with the crests of England and France on either end of the long refrigerator. The simplicity and subtleness of the set is wonderfully complimented by the lighting design of Pattie West. The fades and spots that match the action and sound cues by M. Elizabeth Eller keep the audience perpetually on seat's edge. Rosa Joshi's direction of this production is phenomenal. Her interpretation of modern implications an the ways in which the actors deliver these centuries-old lines and still make them part of our own time are very precise and meticulous which gives the audience the ability to sit up and enjoy the rollercoaster ride. The cast is, overall, extremely strong. Amy Thone's portrayal of King John is incredible and Peggy Gannon's work as Philip the Bastard is equally impressive. Their stage presence is undeniably captivating and their emotions are felt by each member of the audience.

This production is an incredible work of art and I regret not having a chance to see it until the closing performance. However, look for more from Upstart Crow productions in the future!

Sunday, May 28, 2006

Les Miserables - 5th Avenue Musical Theater Company

Possibly the epitome of musical theater of our time, Les Miserables is the tragic and beautiful telling of a war-torn love story to a degree not reached by any other medium. It has been produced in countless forms and productions and locations. This production being one of them, and quite a powerful rendition, indeed.

Jean Valjean's escape from parole in nineteenth century France and care for the poor Cosette are all acts of repentance for his seemingly-minor crime of years ago. He is hunted through the years by Javert, the God-fearing, law-upholding officer. All the paths intersect in the French Revolution with the school-boy rebellion and tragic love story of Cosette and Merius.

This production requires an incredible amount of skill and work to complete in a manner as amazing as the 5th Avenue's production turned out. Had not the performers been as powerful and impressive as they are, they could easily have been upstaged by the lighting and stage design. David Hersey's lighting design is an amazingly impressive masterpiece. With his skill combined with John Napier's production design, the transitions are seamless and invisible. Sets change and disappear faster than anyone can notice that the stage has turned to hide the shift in the perfectly placed shadows. The use of darkness and skrims in this production make invisibility and true stage magic completely possible. The lighting and incredible mechanics of the set augment the show to a completely unbelievable level of excellence.

There is not one performer who can be singled out above another. There is also not a weak link in the cast. Randal Keith (Jean Valjean) has power and presence to be envied by any performer. His stage presence is immediately noticeable, even from the back of the balcony. His power is matched by Robert Hunt (Javert) which makes for a frightening and intimidating spectacle when the two forces clash together. Melissa Lyons' (Eponine) sweet and lovely vocal talent could sooth the most ferocious heart to a lovable cloud. Her presence is also absolutely undeniable. Anthony Skillman's (Gavroche) eight-year-old power is amazing. His power and talent will be seen for years to come on the professional stages of the world. Rachel Schier (young Cosette) will also be seen for years to come. At nine years old, she is already a force to be reckoned with.

This production is a must-see. The show's staying power will keep it around for years and years, but this cast will soon dissolve. Catch it while you can.

Saturday, May 27, 2006

Miss Witherspoon - ACT

Who knew death could be so hilarious? Who knew it could be so frequent, either?

Miss Witherspoon deals with the ideas of the afterlife from an extreme array of philosophical and religious perspectives as well as the comedic genius of writer Christopher Durang. This production is one of the most tight-knit creations I’ve seen in quite some time. It’s an extremely complicated script and an even more complicated and convoluted plot. However, the actors and designers met every single challenge of every aspect.

Director M. Burke Walker has created an art piece worthy of envy. The way in which this production comes together and never falters is incredible. Along with the design team and the actors, Walker has used every resource of artistic ability to create an absolutely stunning show. Bill Forrester’s set design is outrageously clever and precise. The use of trap space and fly space and the absence of hiding space develop a world in which the audience can easily get lost. Frances Kenny’s costumes are also a spectacle to see. Though one may not realize it by the end of the show, the costumes are extremely fitting, exact and hilarious. The lighting design, too, by Rick Paulsen, is a world of wonderment. The fades and lifts mirror the exact feelings of the play and the audience remarkably well.

There is no way that one actor can be singled out from this cast as more memorable than another. Each and every character is as vibrant and full of life as the next and each next is more vibrant than the last. However, the load that Anne Allgood (Veronica) and Christine Calfas (Maryamma) carry is unbelievable. Their exactitude and skill is a gift that can, as with the rest of the show, easily be envied.

For all intents and purposes, this is easily one of the best shows I’ve seen this year. I apologize that I am posting this so late in the run. However, if you can see it before it’s close on Sunday, please do!

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Other Jello - The Lee Center for the Arts

If it's an exploration of the human psyche through dance and some dialogue that you're looking for, then the Maureen Whiting Dance Company is the troop you must follow. To try to describe any of the scenes or actions of the performers would be impossible. However, the use of body was extremely impressive and the acting skill was equally precise. The use of the emptiness of the space was also very thought-provoking and the opening of the mechanical door into the whited-out scene shop brought forth a feeling of a great void and emptiness and yet a notion of completeness as well.

In short, this is a great company and a very fun show. It's short and sweet and a great watch. No top three, but a very fun show.

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Pippin - The 5th Avenue Musical Theater Company

What matters most: the brief but eternal spotlight or a content and simple life? The struggle between the glitter and glamour of the star's life and the simple but sufficient existence of humble happiness is ages old, even as far back as Charlemagne. As Prince Pippin, Charlemagne's first-born son strugles to find his way in life and his true calling, the world seems to be running away more and more with each day. Try as he may, he can't seem to stop the evil or even slow down his own life and take each day at a time.

Stephen Schwartz's (Wicked, Children of Eden, Godspell, etc.) progression and development as a writer/composer of musical theater is clearly seen and heard in Pippin. Traces of his other musicals, each more unique than most composers can accomplish, can be ever so faintly noted in Pippin. Though the story is confusing and disjointed throughout the play, the very last moment ties it all together in a very poignant finale.

This production sported an extremely powerful cast and production team, making it quite a spectacle. Tom Sturge's set and lighting are extremely precise and beautiful while the costumes of Bradley Reed nearly steal the show on their own. The fly-in set pieces and functional wall surrounding the on-stage orchestra gives the audience a feeling that their world and the world of the play are very truly melding together. Pieces such as the transitioning ramp and fly-in sing-along board bring the audience into the story deeper and deeper as it progresses.

David Armstrong's work in the past directing many shows with the 5th Avenue and other major theater shines again in his direction of this cast. The talent pool is ripe for the picking and his work with each individual shines through into the precision of each moment. Clearly, though, no director can go anywhere without the cast as her/his vehicle. Keith Byron Kirk's outstanding work as the Leading Player is captivating and enticing throughout every moment he's on stage. Mimi Hines's portrayal of Berthe is just as powerful and excitingly fanciful.

Aside from the obvious markers of a show's quality, the way in which Pippin fits into our modern world subtle, but powerful. The references to war as a game for men to gain glory and gold and the not-to-subtle and pointed references to sexual orientation and expression provide a biting commentary on our society today. Armstrong's decisions in this are very well-founded and well-thought-through.

Though not a must-see, it is an entertaining show. If you can make it to the end without getting too lost, it's worth the journey.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Verdi's Macbetto - Seattle Opera

The scene is set in… well, nowhere really. This English written, Italian composed and Scottish set play/opera in this production is placed in a timeless and homeless dwelling of frightfully occupied blank space. The story is still the classic Shakespeare and the setting is still alluded to Scotland in the libretto, but visually one feels more like the audience has been transported to Italy if anything.

The vocal talent in this production is incredible. Across the board, the singers were extremely strong and skilled. Gordon Hawkins, playing Macbeth, is an extremely powerful Baritone. However, his stage presence was non-existent. His still movements or lack thereof are very distracting and irritating. Andrea Gruber’s performance as Lady Macbeth is also wanting of some control. Vocally, she is a very powerful singing, albeit rather shrill and standoutish in the ensemble times. Her twitching at the end of every high note or song is also very overacted and distracting. The highlight of the vocal performance is clearly and undeniably Joseph Calleja as Macduff. His breathtaking tenor is captivating and his stage presence is phenomenal. His portrayal of Macduff’s pain at losing his children is clearly shown and felt by all. His high notes are not too high or harsh, but are appropriate and powerful. The rest of the cast is also extremely impressive.

Visually, the actors and singers were nearly upstaged by the lighting and set. Chris Akerlind’s lighting shows exactly why he was awarded the Tony for Light in the Piazza. The slow fades and color use is spectacular. The use of shadows in such an open space is magnificently impressive. One almost forgets how open the space is when the shadows cast are as distinct as they are. Bobby Israel’s set is the single most impressive piece of this production. The plain white walls and use of mechanical doors and opening hatch create a continuously morphable world in which this timeless production can be housed. The sleepwalking scene, though not overly impressive vocally or musically is stunning when the walls begin to bleed as Lady Macbeth recites her heinous crimes. There are many confusing aspects to the attire, however. Even though I know the purpose of the wedding and funeral dresses, I could not bring myself to accept the use of them. They seemed completely out of place and awkward. Otherwise, the uniforms and combined Italian, Scottish and non-specific costumes work very well.

The direction of this production is very well-thought out and precise. There are aspects of the direction that do not fit, however. For example, the killing of Macbeth at the finale by Macduff is extremely poorly done. To have Macduff shoot Macbeth when he’s already down is totally inappropriate.

Overall, this is a good show. It’s nothing that will rank in my personal favorites of all time; however it is a good show. If for nothing else, it is worth seeing simply to hear the beautiful orchestration and the powerful music of Verdi and witness the incredible design talent of Bobby Israel and lighting of Chris Akerlind.

Oyster - Mondavi Center

If you have ever had an interest in modern dance, Inbal Pinto Dance Company's Oyster is a show that you should find and follow. The obscurity and magnificence of the show are completely hypnotizing. There is not a moment of the show that can be called out above any other. Each section of the show - though it is really more of one cohesive unit than a set of parts - has a fair share of drama, comedy and skilful and humble spectacle.

Oyster is set loosely in a classic circus. The costumes allude wonderfully to this. A large theme of the show is impairity. A lack of arms, an extended arm, the inability to stand upright or even a giant with two heads who turns out to be nothing but two weak little men stack on top of one another.

The set, by Inbal Pinto and Avshalom Pollak, is extremely simple at first glance, but becomes part of the dancers as they express their whims through movement. The Lighting, by Yoaan Tivoli brings the attention of the audience to wherever it should be mostly focused, but allows for the audience to notice and continue to focus on the more subtle activities on the stage. One of the more impressive aspects of the production is the costume design accomplished by Pinto, Pollak and Gila Lahat.

Overall, this is easily one of the best shows I've ever seen. It is simple, extravagant, and enthralling.

Bombay Dreams - Sacramento Broadway Series

Bollywood: The Hollywood of India. The dream of every child born into the slums. But how on Earth can any young person from the slums make his way into the films of Bollywood? It could only happen with the handsome and charming Akaash and some help from his friends Sweetie and Priya, the finance of the powerful Vikram and daughter of the film maker Madan.

This production of the fantastical Bollywood-esque Bollywood story is an extremely entertaining show. The sets, lights, talent and music will stick with you for days after the show is over. John McLain's lighting design keep the audience interested and captivated by the constantly changing but natural lights. Of course, the story by Thomas Meehan and Meera Syal allots for extreme changes in lights and sets that occur extremely rapidly. The story also allow for technically helpful moments. The set at two moments, sprouting a fountain in the center of the stage, soaks the stage with water. However, given the Bollywood movie set setting, this is easily remedied by stagehands who enter with mops once the scene is filmed.

The set itself is a spectacle. With the slums flying in and out of the stage and the frame of film set scaffolding, the stage is readily morphable from slums to set to balcony of a wealthy home and back again. The backdrops of skies and billboards are subtly extravagant.

Though some of the performance was lacking in a feeling of realism, it was, on the whole, very well done. The shining stars of this production include Aneesh Sheth as Sweetie, the Eunuch in love with Akaash, and Sandra Allen as Rani, the leading lady of the silver screen. Sheth's performance has the audience on the edge of each seat with his incredible vocal skill and Allen's stage presence is undeniably strong, yet reserved.

All-in-all, Director Baayork Lee's production is a remarkable achievement and a very entertaining show. Though it has it's issues in the feeling of truth behind the actor's performances, the vocal talent and the design of the production are very well done.

Friday, April 14, 2006

The Broadway Hour - 4/13/2006

Here's the wonderful playlist of this past show. I hope you all got to listen to it!

Monday, April 10, 2006

Wonderful Town - The 5th Avenue

How on earth can two struggling artist Ohio sisters make it in the art world in the big vortex of New York? For starters, they can be each others' best friend and can have great influence over everyone around them, for one reason or another.

The set of this production is, by far, the most impressive aspect. This is not to belittle the rest of the production in any extent. The set is simply incredible. The stage opens in an enlarging square with three boards going off in every different direction to bring to life the world in which the play resides. The artsy and postcard-like backdrops and set pieces added to the whimsical and cute world where Eileen and Ruth must survive. Up until the very end, the set continues to give the audience surprises in its capacity for splendor. Neon signs and catwalks evolve from the quaint park scenes to bring this show to a spectacular finale.

Bill Berry's direction creates a production of this show that is as good as anyone can do it. Though the show itself is overly cheesy and predictably cute, this production does a very good job of performing it. Berry's work in organizing a balance of set, lighting and talent is extremely skillful. Sarah Rudinoff's performance as Ruth Sherwood is breathtaking. Her delivery of every line and her vocal skill makes for a wonderfully entertaining character. Her sister, Eileen, played by Billie Wildrick, is also very well done. She fit the role vocally and physically and plays the character as well as anyone could. The high point, musically, of this show, for me, is the Patrolmen's song "Darlin' Eileen." The vocal blend is as smooth as a fine glass of creamy chocolate milk. There are overdone aspects, though. David Pichette's work in the role of Appopolous seems very overacted and overblown, as does Greg Michael Allen's work as Speedy Valenti.

On the whole, this is a cute show. It's nothing spectacular that anyone must rush out to see, which is probably a good thing since the run is over.

Saturday, April 08, 2006

The Broadway Hour 4/6/2006

Here's the playlist for last Thursday's show if you're wondering what you heard or, if you weren't listening, what you missed!

Sunday, April 02, 2006

Cyrano de Bergerac - Seattle Shakespeare Company

Whatever you do, don't mention the nose... for it is the one thing that stands between Cyrano de Bergerac and the love of his life, the sweet, beautiful, witty and perfect Roxane.

Edmond Rostand's play based on the real Cyrano de Bergerac (1619-1655) is a semi-accurate depiction of the famous hero/poet/philosopher. Though aspects are exaggerated and, at times, entire ideals completely changed, the life of dueling and schooling is very correct. Stephanie Shine's direction of this production with the help of all her technical support, especially Gordon Carpenter (fight choreography), is a good portrayal of this famous and historical legend.

Technically, the swordplay is the most impressive aspect. The set, by John Kirschenbaum, is simple and quaint yet fitting and the costumes, by Deborah Skorstad, are accurate and just elaborate enough. The main weight of this show on stage is carried by Scott Coopwood playing Cyrano de Bergerac. His work in this role is remarkable. His "panache" is to die for and his comic jabs and flowering verse has the audience captivated. His colleagues are not so strong, unfortunately. Though good for the most part, those in more leading roles are weak and seem even more so next to Coopwood.

Though it is a wonderful and humorous yet tragic story, this production lacks exactly what Coopwood brings forth the most, the panache.

Saturday, April 01, 2006

The Turn of the Screw - Meydenbauer Center, Bellevue

When two children are left alone to be attended by two abusive guardians and a housekeeper, their story can become rather twisted. When their new Governess comes to relieve the housekeeper after the former Governess and the Valet pass on, she has more work ahead of her than she could have anticipated. When she's confronted with restless spirits and reluctant children, she has to find a way to save them all.

Benjamin Britten's operatic adaptation of Henry James's short story is an eerily moving production. Under the direction of Peter Kazara and Donald Eastman's fabulously dark and almost Tim Burton-esque set design, it becomes even more wonderfully disturbing.

It is a rare pleasure to see a male soprano perform live and David Korn provides this opportunity for the audience of "The Turn of the Screw." When he begins to sing, one looks around the stage to find where the beautiful soprano voice is coming from until one realizes that it is, in fact, David. His magnificent voice aside, his performance of Miles is appropriately dark and creepy while still childishly sweet and innocent. Alexis Martin's performance in the role of the Governess is extremely strong. It is a large role to carry and she does a fantastic and powerful job. Elizabeth Schultz (Miss Jessel) and Ted Schmitz (Peter Quint/Narrator) also carry their roles with power and intensity. Elizabeth's reaching and grasping movements with her fixed eyes make for a very creepy Miss Jessel and Ted's forceful singing let him exude a feeling of power.

All-in-all, a very well-done show and extremely entertaining. It's certainly no "Singin' in the Rain" and thank goodness! We all need a break from that once an a while to take a trip down the road of darkness.

Broadway Hour Playlist 3/30/2006

Here's what you heard, or missed if you didn't listen, on Thursday morning:

The Pillowman - ACT

A not-so-classic case of the classic "who dun it?" Fairy tales gone to the extreme in violence and gruesomeness come true in a totalitarian dictatorship police state and end in the interrogation of the writer and his mentally disabled brother. The question remains: who acted out the stories of this writer and why?

A prison cell can be a hard to create in a theater-in-the-round setting. However, for set designer Matthew Smucker it was a simple task of extraordinary skill. The retracting concrete detention cell and the hidden set in the ceiling are feats of incredible engineering magnificence. Additionally, the original score by Adam Stern and the sound designs of Dominic CodyKramers create the feeling of soul-gripping suspense and reality in this surreal journey from the mind of writer Martin McDonagh.

Matthew Floyd Miller's portrayal of Katurian - the struggling writer of gruesome child-murder stories with the disabled brother Michal - played by Shawn Telford - is something to be savored for days after seeing the performance. Telford's work of playing a somewhat mentally disabled man was impressive at many times but inconsistently so. The shining stars of this production, though, are Denis Arndt as Detective Tupolski and R. Hamilton Wright as Detective Ariel. Arndt's flawless acting is absolutely unbelievable and Wright's dramatic skills of bringing forth fear not only in his torture victim but the audience itself is undeniable.

"The Pillowman" as directed by Kurt Beattie is an astounding show that brings the audience to the bare intersection where disturbing horror meet utter comedy and does it wonderfully.

Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat - The Paramount

Those Canaan days certainly are colorful, bright, exciting, eccentric and wonderful. The lights, the sounds, the dances and the songs will stick with you for days afterwards and you won't once wonder "why's the song stuck in my head?"

In the struggle to be Dad's favorite, Joseph clearly takes the cake. However, his other eleven brothers are rather resentful of Jacob's love of Joseph. What better way to make way for their betterment in their Father's eyes than to get rid of Joseph? But who can resist the charm of Joseph and his incredible ability to read dreams like books? Certainly not the elite or even Pharaohs.

The most striking aspects of this show are the set, lights and dance numbers. Rick Belzer's lighting adaptation is magical at least. The final was worth the price of admission alone. The colors and impacts of the lights are on par with big concerts and light shows. James Fouchard's set is also rather magical. The sky holding pyramids that fly away to reveal Jacob's home or the Pharaoh's pad while trees and seating arrangements come from the wings almost unnoticed. Arlene Phillips' choreography is worthy of professional dance shows. The moves look so easy for the dancers but impossible for anyone else yet so much fun!

For all the hype about Patrick Cassidy as Joseph, his performance is one of the more lacking performances in the show. His portrayal of Joseph is much too proud and his vocal skills, as impressive as they are, seem too nasal and like they're trying to hard to sound impressive. His performance was good, but definitely couldn't stand up next to most of the rest of the cast. Lisa Christine, standing in for Amy Adams, as the Narrator is very strong, but seems rather timid for the Narrator. It is understandable that she'd be nervous, though. She was, after all, standing in for Amy Adams on opening night. Todd Dubail, in his role of the Pharaoh, rocked and rolled. His voice fit the part wonderfully and his portrayal of this rock-n-roll Pharaoh was the most lively and exciting part of the show.

Altogether, a worthwhile and fun show. Technically amazing and vocally impressive, this show is a great intro to musical theater for anyone who's never seen a musical. Though not the best show I've seen this year and not perfect, it is a fun show and certainly worth the price of admission.

The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee - Post Street Theater, San Francisco

I come to you now to prepare the Seattle audiences for this hysterical romp through the life of a twelve-year-old spelling champion for the Paramount's upcoming season.

Though they may seem strange in school and in public and at home and at social events, they seem, well, still strange at the spelling bee. But boy can they spell! But what happens when love, spite, bad luck, divine intervention, and audience members who can spell interfere with the sanctity of the Spelling Bee? What happens is this play.

The Post Street Theater is the perfect venue for this production. It's small, intimate size actually feels like the setting of the play, a school gymnasium. However, one could perform this play in any space and it will be equally fantastic. Beowulf Boritt's set design in incredible. Flying backdrops of school gym and beautiful horizon back the simple desk and chairs of the majority of the stage. Jennifer Caprio's costume designs stay very true to the recent original production of this show. Awkward, strange, and unusual-for-a-twelve-year-old styles enhance the bizarre nature of these kids. James Lapine directed this play perfectly. Training actors not to laugh at hilarious and unexpected occurrences and the comedic timing are impeccable.

Rona Lisa Peretti, the former champion of the Bee and current Real Estate agent/co-host of the Bee - played by Betsy Wolfe - is your quintessential all-too-peppy Real Estate agent and pseudo-philosopher. Wolfe's talents are wonderfully fitting for this show. Her big voice and slightly-too-sweet looks fit fantastically. Douglas Panch - the vice principle of the school - played by Jim Cashman - is wonderfully bizarre himself. His delivery of the definitions and sentences about the words for the spellers are wonderfully fun. The group of actors playing the spellers are all equally amazing. Characters from the boyscout/last year's champion to the nerd with chronic congestion to the tragic ignored children come together "in perfect syzygy" in this production.

Friday, March 31, 2006

The Taming of the Shrew - Sacramento Theater Company

All's well that ends well and this production certainly ends, exists and begins extremely well! This is what happens when seventeenth century Elizabethan theater meets the Wild West and what a meeting it is! A lasso for thee and a six-shooter for thou is the general feeling of this production. The sweet Bianca is held hostage by her father from all wooers. The ransom: marry his eldest daughter, Katherina the Horrible. Though it seems that no one will wed her and, thus, release the fair Bianca from her father's hold, Petruchio comes in on his white horse to woo and wed her. With her out of the way, the battle for Bianca will resume and only time can tell the outcome.

The set is rather elaborate in its simplicity. A hardwood floor with some wood-grain elevations in the back. Signs marking which house is where and all set against the sunset horizon. The lighting is impeccable but also simple. Subtle fades and exaggerations give the audience the feeling of emotion without the audience really realizing that the lighting has changed. The sound cues are the most impressive technical aspect of this production. The Wild West soundtrack is appropriate and hilarious.

Matt K. Miller, as Petruchio, is a performer to be envied by all aspiring actors. His comic timing and stage presence cannot be discounted. His servant, Tranio - played by Michael Stevenson - is hilarious as well. This dynamic duo is an unstoppable force of comedy. Add to the equation the Shrew, Katherina, played by Saffron Henke, and the cast could not be stronger. Her jabs with fists and wit are perfectly timed in every instance.

With all things considered, this production is one of the best I've seen this year. The strength of the cast and the precision of all technical aspects create an absolutely fantastic show!

Chicago - Sacramento Convention Center

Though this is not yet in Seattle, the touring cast came through Sacramento, CA while I was there so I had the opportunity to see it there!

Welcome to The Roaring 20's! This show is all about the Razzle Dazzle of this era and this particular production encapsulates it as well as any could. The most striking and individual aspect of this show is John Lee Beatty's set design. The cabaret-style with the orchestra at center stage gives the production a liver-than-live feeling. Seeing the orchestra in action and involving them in the plot makes for a fantastic feeling of realism. Not the realism that makes one say "this is happening" but the kind of realism that makes one say "this show is happening and this show is live and alive!"

Michelle DeJean's performance as Roxie Hart is a thrilling adventure through adultery, murder, fear, lust, power and fame. Her voice fits the part perfectly and gives it a convincing confidence. Kevin Carolan's work as Amos Hart is also something to marvel at. His subtle comedy and relaxed confusion makes him the innocent sap that he was made to be and even better than ideal. Terra C. MacLeod's role as Velma could not have been physically cast better. Vocally she leaves something to be somewhat desired, though. Her blend with the magnificent Mary Testa as "Mamma" wasn't all there. While Testa absolutely rocks the spotlight, MacLeod does a good job, but nothing extraordinary.

If you're looking for a show that brings every aspect of theater to the forefront of the stage, this is the show to see. Orchestration, acting, song and dance with a perfectly simple set and fantastic lighting compile upon each other to make an altogether great show and all that jazz!

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Behind on Reviews and NEW RADIO TIME

I'll soon be posting reviews for a lot of shows from Sacramento, CA and a couple from here in Seattle, but most pressing is my RADIO SHOW HAS CHANGED DAYS. It is now on THURSDAYS FROM 10:00AM-12:00PM. Mark the change in your calendars and I hope you can still listen!

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Cosi fan Tutte

Six individuals under the tuteladge of the world in the School of Love. Who will love whom, who will betray whom and who will win the bet? Mozart's and da Ponte's classic comedy of love is a fanciful romp through the mentality of lovers and lovers of love.

Jonathan Miller's production of Cosi is a modernly-dressed, modernly-set and modernly-acted portrayal of this Mozart classic. Bringing the old into the new is always a dangerous and risky endeavour and Miller takes this challenge head-on. His work brings forth a finished product that is a very relatable for today's audience. However, some of the updates are rather distracting at times. Cellular phones and laptops waving about as an overtone in the plot detract from the beauty of the Opera itself. However, there are some modern aspects that, without them, this production could very well have seemed like just one more Mozart (if there is such a thing as 'just one more Mozart'). The costuming of this production and the white-washed set lent their help in bringing the audience right into the action of the opera. With the clearly polar oposite costumes of Ferrando and Guglielmo as themselves and then as the disguised lovers are wonderfully modern. Don Alfonso and Despina in their matching black, white and red add a new dimension to their characters. Their red flash of taunting lust amidst their generally plain costumes give them the ability to not only act in a mischevious manner, but dress in one as well!

The vocal and acting work of the on-stage talent is fantastic. All six voices blend together beautifully and the magnificent thrusts of Mozart are captured very well. Unfortunately, the actors' ad-libs in English immediately throw away the magical world of the play and remind the audience that, indeed, one is watching actors on a stage, not an oversized and outrageous world. Additionally, as much fun as modern translations are, Jonathan Dean's supertitles were somewhat distracting at times.

All-in-all, even with these few marks against the production, this show is extremely fun and even more adept at bringing the old and new worlds to square in the search for the fidelity, the meaning of love, and some 'green stuff' from a bet.

Friday, March 03, 2006

Burning Bridget Cleary - CHAC

Are you a Witch? Are you a Fairy? Are you the Wife of Michael Cleary?

In late 1800s Ireland, witch and fairycraft were not unheard-of. Possessed being were also not unusual. However, for the British imperialists, these 'superstitions' were not something to be considered as legitimate. So how does the court deal with the burning of Bridget Cleary, an allegedly possessed Irish egg-seller? For the answer to that question, you'll need to take a trip to the CHAC between March 2-18th.

Allison Gregory's 'Burning of Bridget Cleary' is the story of the actual events of the days and nights leading up to Bridget's death within the story of the trial related to the events of that night. Michael Cleary seems to take the majority of the heat throughout this story. Though the title character is Bridget, the story centers more around Michael, her husband. His neighbors and friends surround him with suggestions and advice of how to save Bridget. This leads to a convoluted and twisted plot full of twists and turns in finding out what actually happened to Bridget and who is responsible.

Michael Patten's portrayal of Michael Cleary is powerfully played. His accent seems to slip in and out of Irish and his own natural dialect, though. Kate Wisniewski's work as Bridget Cleary is incredibly moving. Her accent seems nearly natural throughout the majority of the production and her fits of feverish fear and panic are frighteningly well done. The work of Darragh Kennan is, by far, the most impressive and entertaining. His work as William Simpson, the landlord's lackey, embodies Gregory's desire for a full spectrum of hilarious and frighteningly serious.

Sheila Daniels' direction has landed this cast with an entertaining production. Her work with Katie Hansen and Pete Tabor on the set and Robert J. Aguilar on lights all compliment each other to create a good show. Heather Shannon Culver's work on costumes is extremely accurate and very practical and functional.

All-in-all, the show is a good and entertaining production of Allison Gregory's telling of this horrific and mysterious event. Though it has it's falling-outs, it is an entertaining show and worth seeing.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Substitute Saturday the 18th

Dear Listeners,

I regret to inform you that I will be out of town on Saturday and, therefore, unable to air my radio show. Mr. Matt Salazar will be substituting for me and will, I'm sure, throw in a wide variety of great songs from classic Broadway to classic rock. I will be rejoining you all on the following Saturday, the 25th.

Have a wonderful week and I look forward to being reunited with you all again!


Radio Golf -Seattle Repertory Theater

Whether to continue with the strictly planned lifestyle of his past and work with his candidacy as mayor as the first priority or to deviate from the usual and see past the personal accomplishment to follow the righteous law is the gauntlet of Harmond Wilks in August Wilson’s “Radio Golf.” Wilson’s social commentary dealing with political corruption and racism is a screaming testament to the flaws in our legal system today. The corporations and contracts have the real power in any business and the little guy is just an ant in the way, easily brushed off. The racism that is present in this system is clearly evident in “Radio Golf.” Roosevelt being used as a minority front to decrease the buying price of the radio station is a blatant example of the racism that Wilson is showing the audience. Roosevelt’s blindness to it is due to his ambition of grandeur covering up the immorality of the situation.

Anthony Chisholm’s portrayal of Old Joe is absolutely breathtaking. He never misses a beat and delivers each line with a potency that digs into the viewer’s brain and sticks there. His facial expressions and physical slowness/stiffness are very appropriate for a character of his age and are extremely convincing. Rocky Carroll’s depiction of Harmond Wilks is an impressive show. It is not the most spectacular performance of the evening, but it is certainly forceful and entertaining. Though he seems a bit stiff at times, it can work for the character of Harmond because Harmond is such a regimented person in his daily life. However, it can detract from the reality of the show at times. Roosevelt Hicks, as played by James A. Williams, is an extremely dynamic character. His energy and his presence command the attention of the audience upon his entrance at every point. Though some moments seem forced, his comfort on the stage and in this role make him a very believable Roosevelt Hicks. Denise Burse’s performance as Mame seems, unfortunately, rather wooden. It feels like all of her lines are over enunciated to the point that everything seems forced. Her physicality also seems stiff. With looser movements and more fluid speech, her performance would be wonderful. However, as it stands, her portrayal of Mame seems completely compulsory. Lastly but not least, John Earl Jelks’ rendition of Sterling Johnson is a very entertaining work. He fluctuates between hot and cool tempers very effortlessly and smoothly with the rapidity of a live human person. He seems to be the most believable and realistic character and portrayal in this production.

The blocking, for the most part, is wonderful. There are a few distinct moments of sitting that become too long. The impulse to stand or shift weight or at least recline is missed and is replaced by more sitting in the same position. Aside from the stiffness of certain moments, the blocking seems fluid and natural throughout the majority of the production. The set is simply phenomenal. The first thing that the viewer notices on the way into the theater is the immense set. With the barber’s shop to audience left, the diner to audience right and homes above the main action, the stage is surrounded by the decay of this city. David Gallo’s design is a shining mark upon this production. The viewer feels immediately drawn into this world with the naturalness of the office and the decrepitude of the surrounding rooms. The lighting is also a glowing endorsement for this production. Donald Holder’s only flaw is at one point when the outside lighting turns a bright blue. The color was so unnatural that it draws the viewer out of the action of the production and transplants the attention on the windows. However, throughout the majority of the production, the lighting outside is very natural and very realistic. Also, the slight increases and decreases in the main room lighting are extremely effective in drawing focus and intensifying the scene. The costuming is also extremely natural. Susan Hilferty’s vision provides a clear view of the situation in which each character is living. Sterling’s pain-covered smock, Joe’s tattered jacket, Harmond’s immaculate suit and shoes are all evidences of the naturalistic world painted by the designers of this production. Even the cell phones are realistic and fit wit the 1997 time period! The most effective supporting element is the biography of August Wilson in the program. This preface to “Radio Golf” helps greatly in understanding where Wilson is coming from with this play. Otherwise, it seems that it is simply a play about racism. However, when taken in the context of his other plays, one sees the American Dream present in every line, every step, and every brick.

Sunday, February 12, 2006

The Broadway Hour 2-11-2006

As promised, here is the playlist from Saturday's show. I appologize that it took me so long to get this up; this weekend's been a bit crazy.

Hold me, Bat Boy ~Bat Boy: The Musical
Alive ~Jekyll & Hyde
The Confrontation ~Les Miserables
Christmas Eve Montage ~The Nightmare Before Christmas
Agony ~Into the Woods
Think of Me ~The Phantom of the Opera
When You're Good to Mama ~Chicago
You'll See ~Rent
Mr. Cladwell ~Urinetown: The Musical
All I Care About ~Chicago
Gaston ~Beauty and the Beast
Gaston (reprise) ~Beauty and the Beast
It's a Maze ~The Secret Garden
Wedding Dance ~Fiddler on the Roof
Masquerade/Why So Silent ~The Phantom of the Opera
Historian's Introduction ~Spamalot: The Musical
Finland/Fisch Slapping ~Spamalot: The Musical
One Season More ~Star Wars: The Musical
Open the Window ~Anne of Green Gables
My Friend, the Dictionary ~The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee
Take Me To The Fair ~Camelot
Who's the Thief ~Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat
Everything's Alright ~Jesus Christ Superstar
On the Willows ~Godspell
For Good ~Wicked
I Can Make You a Man ~The Rocky Horror Picture Show
Today 4 U ~Rent
Does Your Mother Know ~Mamma Mia!
The Schmuel Song ~The Last Five Years
Agony ~Into the Woods
For Now ~Avenue Q

I hope you all enjoyed it!

Sunday, February 05, 2006

The Wedding Singer - 5th Avenue Theater

The stage is opened with the cinematic flare of the location title on the curtain. The curtains are drawn back to reveal Robbie Hart (Stephen Lynch) showering backed by a drop of the brightest neon the Eighties could provide.

The Pre-Broadway Engagement of The Wedding Singer is an extremely entertaining show. The poor but talented wedding singer, Robbie Hart, and his band can bring joy to any newlywed couple's joyous day. Unfortunately, Robbie loses his love when his fiance stands him up at the alter. To add insult to injury, Julia Sullivan, a waitress and potential love interest, is just waiting on a proposal from her Stock Market tycoon boyfriend, Glen Guglia. When Glen finally asks Julia's hand in marriage, it shatters the hopes of the love-deprived Hart. However, with the help of Billy Idol, Tina Turner, Mr. T and President Reagan, Robbie lets loose his love to overshadow the cheating Glen Guglia.

Stephen Lynch was made for his role as Robbie. The chemistry between Lynch and Laura Benati (Julia) was simply breathtaking. Though the acting was slightly spotty at times, the majority of the performance was wonderful. Adinah Alexander (Grandma Angie) was undeniably hilarious in her telling of the eight (give or take) men before marriage while Felicia Finley (Linda) could not have embodied the Eighties more if she'd been asleep since '86.

With the Tony Award-winning team of designers, this show could not go wrong. Scott Pask has certainly proven his genius with the phenomenal sets and scenes. With a mixture of high-tech, low-tech and occasionally no-tech an audience member can easily get completely drawn into the world that is created. It seems that Gregory Gale may be responsible for the fashion of the Eighties originally given his precision in costuming. The tear-away's and add-on's absolutely made the wardrobe. Of course, where would any production be without a director, especially one as talented and accomplished as John Rando. Once again, a triumph to be recognized for years!

The combination of the original soundtrack of The Wedding Singer's 1998 film debut and the additional score from Matthew Sklar and Irwin Fisch was astonishingly well-compiled. Though at times the songs felt somewhat repetitive, it only added - if anything - to reminiscing back to those glorious days of neon and flock of seagulls haircuts... :)

Friday, February 03, 2006

God's Country - Capitol Hill Arts Center

The CHAC’s production of “God’s Country” is very well done. Taken as a whole, the production is a steady line of intensity that never withdraws. Within the confines of the court, there are a few specific moments when three attorneys focus all their energy on vehemently questioning Denver Parmenter. The force of these scenes is undeniable. My personal stress level rose quite a bit and one can feel the tension rise in the audience. Stressful as those scenes are, the robbery and infiltration scenes are the most unnerving and breathtaking scenes. When a large man wearing all black and a ski mask points a black semi-automatic handgun at one’s right eye from three feet away only to be followed by another black-clad individual holding the barrel of a shotgun to the side of one’s head, one begins to have the feeling of real fear. One can begin to grasp a slight, but ever-present, connection to the plight of George King, the armored car driver who was attacked twice by The Order.

As one watches John Farrage sit in his booth above the action of the stage and berate his callers as Berg then control the clamor of the court as the judge, one can’t help but be amazed. His rapid transitions from the ever-composed Voice of the Court and the ever-enraged “Last Angry Man” are extremely precise. There is not one moment when one can notice a moment’s hesitation on Mr. Farrage’s transitions. Shawna Wilson also portrays an amazing array of emotion. The span from a narrator of the white supremacist movement, to the farmer’s wife, to Mrs. Berg is extremely widespread. Her most potent role is as Mrs. Berg. As she tells the story of learning about Mr. Berg’s death, the tears down her cheeks seem genuine and heartfelt. It is not a far stretch from her portrayal of the farmer’s wife. Unfortunately, she seems to overdo the physical aspect of the desperate search for her child. This overdone clawing pulls the viewer out of the action of the moment enough to drop the emotion. The boy, Adam Berns, seems to be a very brave and very composed young man on stage. His reciting of the codes of The Order seems entirely natural as he plays football with his Order-member father. Outside the context of the play, his acting skill is phenomenal. Within the context, it’s frightening. To see a boy his age reciting the rules of becoming a member of The Order and to see him wearing a KKK robe carrying a MAC-10 is a very disconcerting sight.

The design of the set is very simple. The differing layers provide four to six different pulpits for speaking at one time. The viewer never has to try to determine where focus should be because, though much of the dialogue is extremely chaotic and overlapping, the raised layers allow the speakers to all have the focus based solely on their inflection and tone. This, clearly, puts a lot of pressure on the actors, but they handle their weight well. However, the simplicity of the set doesn’t allow for the slides that the script calls for to show images of the men involved in the crimes. Though, since Stephen Dietz himself assisted in the direction of this specific production, one can allow this slight deviance from the original writing. In addition to that small deviance, there are a few scenes removed from the original script in order to shorten this production. Though they are missed, they are hardly noted at all due to the seamlessness of the cuts.

The costuming is fairly well done. The KKK robes appear relatively authentic and definitely get the message across. The only noticeable defect in the costuming is fit. Kate Wisniewski seems almost overpowered by her overly-padded shoulders in her purple blazer. Though shoulder pads were the style of the time period, it seems to be more than a woman of her slim build would wear. Also, John Ulman’s covert black utility vest seems nearly to consume him as he sits slouched in the witness’ chair during the legal proceedings. However, other than the oversize of a few costumes, the attire is all very accurate and convincing.

The lighting is extremely crucial in this production. The fades and spots lead focus exactly where it must go, relieving some of the aforementioned stress that is placed on the actors. Though it is very simple lighting with no tricks or flourishes, it brings a sense of reality to this all-too-real story. Using such well-timed and direct lights creates a world that is very clearly real.

A frightening observation that illustrates the violence behind the actions that made this story is discovered by watching the props put away. Box upon box of guns and knives are stacked atop each other; each one is foam lined and filled with the weapons. Along side them, the other props lie: a cross, a few bibles, flags, and the gavel. This juxtaposition and proportion illustrates exceptionally well the violence based on religion on which The Order and the other white supremacist groups mentioned throughout the story rely.

This production deals with the hatred and disillusionment behind the violence and cruelty of white supremacist, and all hateful groups. The story of Allan Berg’s death, though tragic in its own right, is just one of many stories of hatred, death, and evil that occur constantly in our world. Additionally, the fact that the guilty were not tried for the full weight of their full crimes is a crime in itself and is what allows this hate to live on in our society. Mr. Dietz illustrates this magnificently in his compilation “God’s Country.”

A group called The Order, based on the organization in the fiction white supremacist novel The Turner Diaries by Dr. William Pierce, is indicted for their crimes of robbery and murder throughout the Pacific Northwest. Though the novel may be a work of fiction, “God’s Country” is all too true a story. Many people were killed in this organization’s path, including Allan Berg, a well-known Jewish Denver, Colorado talk show host and the group’s founder and leader, Robert J. Matthews. The group’s actions were of violence and theft. Repeated attacks on armored cars and stores in order to acquire funds for their group caused a widespread chain of crime and a great deal of money to be stolen. “God’s Country” takes place, primarily, in the courtroom in Seattle, Washington where members of the group are being charged with racketeering and conspiring to racketeer. They were never tried for anything else, including murder, because it seemed too expensive to go through the legal proceedings again.

The script itself is an amazing compilation. Stephen Dietz put together a remarkable span of information in an absolutely spectacular manner in order to speed the audience through the trial and the events of the eighties. There is no specific antagonist or protagonist and no truly noticeable climax. The play is simply anything but simple. It follows the actions of the group and the legal proceedings that occurred as a result of their actions. There is no true winding-down either. The play ends with the conclusion of the trial and the hard truth that people like Robert J. Matthews and the leaders of such organizations as the Ku Klux Klan and Aryan Nations exist today and work today toward the dominance of the Aryan race. There is no way to avoid that fact and that is the message that Dietz is getting across to the audience. One doesn’t watch “God’s Country” for a fun evening on the town. One watches “God’s Country” to hear the telling of a story that spelled the death of many individuals not long before we young college students were born; a story that points to the hateful events of our own time that have spelled the deaths of countless people.