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.