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.