Saturday, December 05, 2009

Black Nativity - Intiman

Black Nativity


December 1 – 30, 2009

Tickets and Information

Choir with Sanjaya Malakar. Photo by Chris Bennion, 2009.

Ladies and gentlemen it is time to stand up and give thanks to the Intiman Theater and the people who make it what it is! For those who join the celebration that is Black Nativity this year, and every year, there is no choice but to stand up and praise whatever it is you choose. It doesn’t matter if you are Catholic, Baptist, Jewish, Hindi or you “ain’t got none” denomination or creed, Black Nativity is a moving and exciting choral event to kick off the holiday season right.

For those who have seen the show before, it is much the same as it has been in past years. Perhaps the current eco-political situations that we find ourselves in currently have made more of an impact than we imagined on the arts community, though. It seems to me that Black Nativity at the Intiman Theater hits home a little more-so this year than in the past. Something about Jacqueline Moscou’s direction and the collaboration of the performers and directors has led this production into a whole new world of joy and celebration in a time when we truly need to take a step out of ourselves in order to find any strength left to celebrate.

Not to detract from the uplifting mood thus far, but there are some rumors that must be squashed immediately. We have all heard that after twelve seasons of Black Nativity Intiman will no longer be hosting this holiday tradition. This is true in one regard and untrue in another. Though Black Nativity will conclude its twelve year run in the Intiman’s space at the end of this production’s run, Intiman will continue to produce the show in a new space yet to be determined. It has become apparent to those who bring us such wonderful shows as this that the capacity of Intiman’s space is not grand enough to host a show like Black Nativity year after year. There needs to be a larger space. One that is able to accommodate those families who realize halfway through the run that they will, in fact, be able to see it. As of now, those families are turned away because tickets are already nearly sold out for at least half of the run. However, with the plans that are in the works according to Brian Colburn, Managing Director, space will be secured for next year’s production with much more seating accommodations. And as Jacqueline Moscou said, “there isn’t another theater who could host this show.”

As far as this year’s production goes, it was fantastic. I have never had the opportunity to see Black Nativity and I can’t express enough how much fun this show is as long as you keep an open mind and a full and receptive heart. Absorbing the message of love from this show is not hard. With such fantastic soloists as – but not limited to – Sanjaya Malakar (of American Idol 2007 fame), this show is a festival of song and celebration from start to finish. The Total Experience Gospel Choir truly brings to life the heart of the celebration that is the holiday season and gives that gift of love and excitement to every person in the audience.

Through song and community, we can overcome any difference and overreach the boundaries that keep us apart. Black Nativity is the perfect way to start our quest for understanding and love in a world that desperately needs a prescription-sized dose of compassion.

Review by Andrew J. Perez

Twelfth Night - Seattle Shakespeare Company

Twelfth Night, Or What You Will
Seattle Shakespeare Company
December 3-27, 2009
Tickets and Information

Jose A. Rufino (Orsino) and Chris Ensweiler (Feste). Photo by Erik Stuhaug.

In the vast array of Shakespeare plays, Twelfth Night is many a person's favorite; the comedy contains witty scenes, a satisfying romance, and a comic subplot that nearly always takes over the main story. This newest incarnation of the play picks up on Twelfth Night's holiday theme (it was originally performed for Queen Elizabeth on the twelfth night of Christmas), and turns the play into a joy-filled holiday play, a Seattle Shakes version of the Christmas classics playing everywhere in Seattle.

The audience is greeted before they even enter the theater proper, by the actors (bedecked in splendid semi-Dickensian costumes designed by Melanie Taylor Burgess) joining them in the lobby to sing Christmas carols and play party games. They bring this festive atmosphere onto the stage, where they teach the audience to sing a “catch” (a song in a round) and play games for Christmas prizes—until they are interrupted by a lost and disheveled Viola (Susannah Millonzi), and the story begins.

Director Stephanie Shine emphasizes the optimistic and fun-filled interpretations of this play, keeping the tone light and the humor overflowing. Her staging glides easily through the space with a good balance of swift pacing and momentary pauses between text, where unspoken motivations are made crystal clear for the audience. As is often the case, Shine's direction is intertwined with live music to great success; Sean Patrick Taylor directs the music (as well as playing Curio), and he and Carter Rodriguez (Valentine) fill in moments or counterpoint longer scenes with impressive guitar and lively singing. Feste the fool (Chris Ensweiler) also plays music, though his main instrument is his versatile singing voice and his physical comedy, both of which he employs to great effect.

John Bogar (Malvolio); l-r Darragh Kennan (Aguecheek), Frank Lawler (Fabian), Ray Gonzalez (Toby). Photo by Erik Stuhaug.

The cast as a whole is a solid ensemble, all experienced Shakespeareans and all enjoying themselves in this festive show. Among the standouts is John Bogar, whose Malvolio is deep-voiced and both hilariously stuffy and oddly sympathetic; Bogar has a commanding stage presence, making it difficult to tear one's eyes away when he fully takes the stage for himself. Carol Roscoe's Maria is another character of note, especially in the later scenes when her prank on Malvolio comes to fruition; Maria's attempts to hide her un-suppressable laughter from her mistress Olivia (Brenda Joyner) make for some of the funniest moments of the show.

Andrea Bryn Bush's scenic design is simple but versatile, suggesting houses and streets at once, and decked out in boughs and bows of holiday cheer. Andrew D. Smith's lighting design is a beautiful use of the space, bringing gentle washes and specific lights and shadows to each corner of the stage, including lanterns hung cheerily from the ceiling, each decked with ribbons and mistletoe. The design as a whole leans heavily on Dickensian style, but each designer branches out to bring a little flavor of something different and exotic to the plaid-and checkered English winter, adding flair to the overall style of the show in the way that Viola and her twin Sebastian (Tim Gouran) bring spice to the land of Illyria.

Twelfth Night is one of Shakespeare's classics, and this version of it brings out all the joy and cheer that the story has to offer. In a world of repeat holiday shows, Seattle Shakes' Twelfth Night offers a festive, satisfying and buoyant alternative: something old, made bright and new again.

Review by Kenna Kettrick

Friday, December 04, 2009

Sister's Christmas Catechism - ACT

Sister’s Christmas Catechism


November 27, 2009 – January 3, 2010

Tickets and Information

Aubrey Manning as Sister in Sister's Christmas Catechism.

I’m sure that many of our readers have experience Catholic or Parochial school in some capacity or another. Whether you are a public school survivor who ended up at Seattle University for four years, or you were basically raised by ruler-wielding Nuns, most people have had a brush with the Catholic education system in some way. Well, if you are one of those readers who has experienced the trials and tribulations of a Catholic education or if you have never set foot in any remotely Catholic educational establishment (be it Church, school or tree-toting neighbor’s home), Sister’s Christmas Catechism will send you rolling down the aisles with laughter.

Sister (Aubrey Manning – Late Night Catechism at ACT, Seattle longest-running show, for over ten years) takes us on a journey back in time to the night Jesus was born in that little manger in Bethlehem. But not all was silent that night; it seems that her obsessive viewing of Forensic Files has led her to the conclusion that someone has made off with the magi’s gold! It will take a brave lot of audience members to reenact the scene of the crime dressed as the First Family, the Three Kings, the Shepherd and, of course, the sheep, ox and the loveable and fantastically graceful ass (yours truly on December 3 - see below).

Aubrey Manning and founder Andrew J. Perez in 'Sister's Christmas Catechism.' Photo provided by ACT.

As far as productions go, Sister’s Christmas Catechism is a roaring good time. Manning’s performance is unparalleled in improvisational comedy and interactive audience participation. Her presence and poise on stage is an absolute delight to experience and her unending fountain of canonical knowledge would set any Nun straight in regards to just who is the patron saint of what.

ACT’s presentation of Sister’s Christmas Catechism ties in wonderfully with their Allan Theater’s current production, A Christmas Carol. Obviously, both deal with the Christmas season and holiday, but they also touch on the more important topics of love toward our fellow women and men and embracing the holiday spirit. Whether you follow the beliefs of the Catholics, Jews, Hindus or any spiritual path (or none) under the sun, Sister’s Christmas Catechism is a hilarious production that ought not be missed.

The Live Nativity scene from Sister's Christmas Catechism. Photo provided by ACT.

Review by Andrew J. Perez

Irving Berlin's White Christmas - The 5th Avenue Theatre

Irving Berlin's White Christmas
5th Avenue Theatre
November 28th – December 30th
Tickets and Information

Irving Berlin's White Christmas was first shown at the 5th Avenue three years ago, and its newest incarnation is just as popular, sweet, and heart-warming as the first one. The story begins at the 151st division's army camp on Christmas Eve 1944, where pals Phil Davis (Greg McCormick Allen) and Bob Wallace (Michael Gruber) are singing to bring some kind of holiday cheer to their fellow troops. Fast forward ten years later, and Bob and Phil are song-and-dance sensations, bringing their charm and panache to the Ed Sullivan show and then Miami, Florida—or, in fact, Pinetree, Vermont, as the pals meet up with a sister act, Judy and Betty Haynes (Taryn Darr and Christina Saffran Ashford) and their relaxing holiday in the sun becomes anything but.

The tale is a light-hearted, optimistic and patriotic one, meant for revisiting classic songs and enjoying a spectacle on stage, and the 5th Avenue delivers on both counts. James A. Rocco's choreography highlights each song to perfection, with full use of the talented ensemble and plenty of bang-up tap dancing. The sets (Anna Louizos) and lighting (Tom Sturge) entrance the eyes, and Carrie Robbins' costumes are pitch-perfect post-war stylings, complete with high-waisted hotpants, sparkling nylons and crisp suits. David Armstrong and James A. Rocco's direction moves the story along without a hitch, keeping the style light and the pace engaging.

Greg McCormick Allen and Michael Gruber imitate the sister act. Photo by Chris Bennion.

The leads are all solid in their roles and singing in period style, and clearly having plenty of fun in this rollicking holiday tale. Both pairs of performers have their partnership and patter down well, with Darr (Judy) and McCormick Allen (Phil) joyfully picking up on each other's witty banter, while Ashford (Betty) and Gruber (Bob) move believably from awkward meeting to lover's embrace. But the scene-stealer's award is taken easily by Clayton Corzatte, whose Ezekiel garnered applause and laughter from his first painstakingly slow journey across the stage, on opening night.

White Christmas is a simple story, but a touching one, and is surrounded by 1940's glamor and Berlin's catchy, swinging music. For a charming and lively holiday tale, this one can't be beat—especially with the 5th Avenue's snowy surprise waiting for the audience at the end of the show.

Review by Kenna Kettrick

Thursday, December 03, 2009

It's a Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play - Taproot Theatre Company

It’s a Wonderful Life: a Live Radio Play

Taproot Theater Company

(at North Seattle Community College, Stage One)

November 27-December 30, 2009

Tickets and Information

As much of Seattle now knows, the Greenwood neighborhood has been hit hard by fires in the past few months, arsons which have gutted some businesses and temporarily closed others. The 85th block was one of the hardest hit, including enough water and smoke damage to the Taproot Theater building to necessitate a massive renovation, and rendering it impossible for Taproot to stage their planned holiday show, Sherlock Holmes and the Case of the Christmas Carol.

Grant Goodeve, Candace Vance and Eric Riedman. Photo by Erik Stuhaug, 2009.

Instead, Taproot has brought back a holiday show that had a successful run in 2006: their live radio play version of It’s a Wonderful Life, adapted by Joe Landry. This play is set on the Christmas-decorated soundstage of KTTC Studios in 1947, as a small group of actors give a live radio performance of this beloved film. At North Seattle Community College’s Stage One space, a small but cozy atmosphere presides from scenic designer Mark Lund, and the actors are outfitted by Sarah Burch Gordon in period styles with holiday flair—red and green dresses, sweater vests, and holly pinned to lapels.

We are treated as the live studio audience to this radio performance (complete with “on air” and “applause” signs that light up, thanks to lighting designer Jody Briggs). Director Karen Lund uses a fluid style, with her six actors rotating as easily in and out of the standing microphones as they do between their Wonderful Life scripts and their 1947 radio personas. Grant Goodeve plays George Bailey and Candace Vance plays his friend turned wife, Martha, both with a touching balance of humor and pathos. Jesse Notehelfer, Mark Lund, Alex Robertson and Eric Riedman play all the other parts, including the other Baileys, the slimy Mr. Potter and the classic angel Clarence. Special note must be given to Eric Riedman, who as well as playing small vocal parts, presides over an impressive plaid and tinsel-draped foley table behind the microphones, armed with shoes, bells, car horns and even a match – offering a full sensory experience when we hear the sound of the match strike, see and feel the sudden warmth of the fire and smell the wisp of smoke drifting across the scene.

This show is, in fact, a perfect choice for Taproot. Like George Bailey, the theater was put in a terrible situation through no fault of its own, and like Bedford Falls, the Seattle community has – and should continue to – step up to support the theater that has given back to the Greenwood neighborhood and the city as a whole. Look for Sherlock Holmes back again next holiday season, with all the original players from this year, and for Taproot’s new season beginning in January. Like George, this theater has deep roots in the community, and is coming back strong.

(Note: Every Wednesday performance, Taproot holds a talkback with the actors after the show. December 9th is a dinner and theater performance, where you can buy a dinner to go along with your show. For more information, please visit their website here!)

Review by Lia Morgan

Sunday, November 29, 2009

A Christmas Carol - ACT

A Christmas Carol


November 27 – December 27, 2009

Tickets and Information

Kurt Beattie and Chloe Forsythe. Photo by Chris Bennion, 2009.

Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol is one of the most beloved stories of all time. Likewise, ACT’s A Christmas Carol (adapted for the stage by Gregory A. Falls) has become one of Seattle’s most beloved holiday traditions. The story is one we all know well. We’ve seen it performed on screen by some of the finest actors to have ever lived, we’ve seen it performed by Muppets or on a 3-D IMAX screen, we’ve had it read to us by our elementary school teachers and perhaps even delved deeper into the story in high school or college classes. However, nothing quite brings the story home like seeing Seattle’s finest perform this immortal and heartwarming story in the beautiful Allan Theatre space at ACT.

This year’s rendition of A Christmas Carol gives the audience an opportunity to take a step back from life for ninety minutes and roll back into a simpler time (covered in snow!). Kurt Beattie and R. Hamilton Wright co-directed the production and share the role of Ebenezer Scrooge on alternating performances. They are surrounded with an outstanding cast and crew of designers and technicians who all come together to bring the story to life, waking the holiday spirit in all of us.

This particular production is also much more carefree and fun-loving than the darker take that last year’s production took. R. Hamilton Wright’s performance as Scrooge is fantastically child-like. His moment-to-moment reactions and attentiveness to the action at hand is unrivaled and he takes this opportunity to shine. Similarly, the entire production this year feels as light as a snowflake on the tip of Tiny Tim’s nose. Every detail glides together to form a heart-warming and loveable show for all who take the time to enjoy it.

On behalf of and (I feel I can speak for us) the Seattle theatre and theatre-going community, we thank ACT for kicking off the holiday season right. Happy holidays!

Review by Andrew J. Perez

R. Hamilton Wright. Photo by Chris Bennion, 2009.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Equivocation - Seattle Repertory Theatre


Seattle Repertory Theatre

November 18 – December 13, 2009

Tickets and Information

The play opens with the question we ask ourselves every day: “Why me?” In this case, the questioner is a man named Shag—short for Shagspear, yes, William. He is standing in the office of Sir Robert Cecil, the man who put the Scottish King James I on the throne of England, and who is now commissioning William Shag to write a play: The True History of the Powder Plot. Through protests that he doesn’t write propaganda or current events, and that his “cooperative venture” of a theater company won’t vote to do it, Shag accepts the money with raging doubts as to the possibility that the play can be written at all.

Shag’s doubts lead him on a quest to find the truth behind the true history of the Powder Plot which leads him to innumerable questions as to the loyalty and faith of his dearest friends and what price he is willing to pay to speak the truth.

The Cast of Equivocation. Photo by Jenny Graham, 2009.

Bill Cain’s script is tightly written, based solidly on fact (or at least well documented conjecture) without being a slave to the time period. Cain’s dialogue never tries to be Elizabethan, but flows seamlessly from modern dialogue to Shakespeare’s own words.

Four of the six actors play multiple roles, while Anthony Heald and Christine Albright anchor the play as Shag and his dark-minded daughter Judith. The other four men (Richard Elmore, Jonathan Haugen, John Tufts, and Gregory Linington) play actors in Shag’s company, as well as Cecil, King James, accused traitors and other characters of the story. They continuously shift from one character to the next with no pretense, creating a complete world in which all characters can exist in the bodies of six actors. When the company performs their final play for King James, John Tufts takes this shifting to a new level, portraying both the king and a player within the performance, jumping from throne to stage with naught but a crown and a flick of his cape to mark the change.

Director Bill Rauch brought this production to us fresh from the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. His work with Cain’s text and the expertise on the stage presented to him is, without a doubt, fantastic. There are, as with most productions, some elements of forced theatricality that can detract from the skill on display. However, overall, Rauch’s direction is taut enough for such a precise and delicate piece while still leaving room for the considerable humor throughout the play.

In regards to the elements of design, Christopher Akerlind’s lighting design not only shines out among the rest for its sharpness, but also gets special recognition as the only design element to be native to Seattle for this production. The Ashland designers who accompanied this production, transplanted from the Festival, similarly are among the top of their fields and do not disappoint.

Equivocation has obvious, and occasionally explicit, parallels to our own time, in themes of torture, terrorism, sociopolitical dealings and the conflation of religion and politics.

However, the play gets us thinking about our time without ever taking us out of the 17th century in England. It is a period play that is surprisingly modern, and like Shakespeare’s own work, discusses a specific time period and is, at the same time, timeless.

Review by Kenna Kettrick & Andrew J Perez

Saturday, November 14, 2009

HONK! - Seattle Musical Theater

Seattle Musical Theater
November 13-29, 2009
Tickets and Information

The onomatopoeically named Honk! is the story of the Ugly Duckling of Hans Christen Andersen fame, retold in a modern musical style by George Stiles (music) and Anthony Drewe (book and lyrics). The musical had its big break ten years ago, when it somewhat surprisingly won England's Olivier award, over more currently well-known shows such as The Lion King and Mamma Mia. Since then, it has been produced all over the world, and is currently showcased by Seattle Musical Theater at their stage in Magnuson Park.

The cast of local actors ably handles the light-hearted ensemble songs, the mournful moments, and the occasional quite complex harmony, conducted by musical director Paul Linnes and his small orchestra. The cast is led by Jeremy Adams as a delightfully awkward Ugly Duckling and is solidly anchored by Dawn Brazel playing Ida, Ugly's mother. Brazel shifts believably from scolding wife to surprised but loving mother, and she is at her best when the pure adoration of her strange son shows through in her singing, whether teaching him to swim or discovering he is missing from the farmyard. Also of note is a jazzy Cat (Jesse Smith), who sports a marvelous mustache and slinky footwork, and shamelessly, but hilariously, hams it up during his songs (especially “Play With Your Food,” as he becomes increasingly frustrated while trying to eat Ugly for lunch).

The entire musical is peppered with in-jokes and animal puns (“come on down and don't be strangers / in our duckyard of free rangers” is only one example). This could get old quickly, but for the fact that director and choreographer Ann Arends never hits too hard with the jokes, keeping the pace light during the humorous moments and not taking the puns seriously. While it shifts in mood and has its share of mournful moments, the play keeps continuously moving and never loses its audience.

Deane Middleton's costume designs are wonderful representations of the animals in the English farmyard and beyond: bustled skirts or tailed jackets imitate the back tail of poultry, wide-rimmed bonnets show beaks, and fluffy white skirts and sleek white suits give us the splendor of the swans, without ever a glimpse of a literal animal costume. Jason Philips' set design is a plethora of cat-tails and a movable bridge, allowing for smaller set pieces to move in and designate places on Ugly's journey with a minimum of fuss, and Richard Schaefer's lighting ably guides the action in each scene.

Honk! is a sweet story, with an almost too-pat ending for the teasing that Ugly endured as a duckling. But the play, and this production, is witty, warm-hearted and sincere, and imparts a lesson we could all stand to learn again: don't judge by appearances, because that awkward duckling just might turn out to be a beautiful swan someday.

Sunday, November 08, 2009

Help Fight Prostate Cancer One Moustace at a Time!

Gentlemen, start your moustaches! Ladies, help them out! We're fighting Prostate and Testicular Cancer with the best weapon our natural creation has given us: Facial Hair! Welcome to:

Movember is a a month-long donation-raising expedition raising money that will go directly to the Prostate Cancer Foundation and LIVESTRONG, the Lance Armstrong Testicular Cancer foundation.

Andrew J. Perez of has shaved off his handlebars to regrow whatever moustache he can while raising money to fight Prostate and Testicular Cancer. Kenna M. Kettrick of is supporting his moustache growing with donation-getting of her own!

This is where you, our loyal readers and friends, come in.

We need donations. We are trying to reach a goal of $1500.00. It's a modest goal considering some of the amazing fundraising that is happening around us, so help us smash it and blast forward with as much as we can muster. Prostate Cancer affects one in six men in their lifetimes and Testicular Cancer is the most common cancer affecting men ages 18 to 35.

Help us raise awareness by growing a moustache! Help us fight back by donating! Join our team (The Illyirans) and raise money as well! Every cent counts. When I sent out a facebook invitation I've tried to get people to understand that if every person who received that invitation had donated $2.00, we would have hit our goal in one shot. Help us get there and help us go the extra mile. Fight Cancer, look hot with a moustache and be part of the newest craze that's sweeping the Nation and the World: MOVEMBER!

To donate, join or track our progress, follow any of the links above or this one right here:

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Opus - Seattle Rep


Seattle Repertory Theater

October 30 - December 6, 2009

Tickets and Information

Michael Hollinger’s Opus begins with the four original members of the Lazara String Quartet, in separate pools of light, each holding their instrument. They speak to us as though each is alone, but their words overlap, come one after another with perfect tempo, and occasionally are spoken in unison—their words played together in concert like their music will be just a moment later.

When the lights return to full stage, the profoundly talented but “unpredictable” violist Dorian (Todd Jefferson Moore) is gone, replaced by Grace (Chelsea Rives), who is auditioning for the empty spot. Opus is the story of that quartet, their ambitions and characters, like their music, distinct but entwined.

Carl, the cellist (Charles Leggett) is the low note, attempting to anchor the group, but with difficulties of his own; Leggett is a master at both subtle gravitas and drought-dry humor, both of which he brings to bear on Carl. Alan, the second violinist (Shawn Belyea) is the most normal of the four, punctuating Grace’s nerves with jokes and a little flirting. Elliot, the first violinist (Alan Fitzpatrick) is high-strung, ambitious and stubborn—and not-so-secretly Dorian’s lover. It is this relationship that is the beginning of the group’s breakdown, and newcomer Grace becomes the catalyst for both revisiting their past and their attempts to move forward. Moore, in his flashback and present-time scenes, invests Dorian with physical grace, slight awkwardness, and a pitch-perfect touch of melancholy, stemming from his “buggy” mind and his deep connection to the music.

Director Braden Abraham uses the Rep’s Leo K. stage and his actors’ talents to great effect. Etta Lilienthal’s simple but versatile set has the pale wood and clean lines of a concert hall, and Abraham’s staging gets the most out of it. L. B. Morse’s light design is a symphony in itself, using deep pools of light, gentle washes, or, perhaps most effectively, a color-tinted scrim against which the actors, swaying to their own music, are silhouetted at the end of scenes. In a play that revolves so closely around music, the sound designer is vastly important, and Matt Starritt rises to the challenge. All the music from the Lazara Quartet is recorded, but it sounds different in each scene, if they are in a house rehearsing or in a vast concert hall. Most impressively, during a rehearsal scene in which the quartet restarts the same five measures three times, those three recordings are subtly but clearly different (an obvious act for a sound designer, perhaps, but one much appreciated by this reviewer and her companion).

Nods must also be given to Michael Jinsoo Lim and Melia Watras, music consultants; their work showed in the obvious reverence each character had for their instrument, the movements of each actor while they “played” those instruments, and the clear understanding the actors had when they spoke of music.

Opus is a one act, but it packs a wallop in those 90 minutes; the scenes and dialogue move at a fast clip, and only slow down for the music itself—like the characters themselves, which occasionally seem to be moving too fast or in the wrong direction, and yet are able to, with their music, create something complex, intimate and beautiful in its mortality.

(Image coming soon!)

Review by Kenna Kettrick

Friday, October 16, 2009

Rock n' Roll - ACT

Rock n’ Roll

ACT – A Contemporary Theatre

October 15 – November 8, 2009

Tickets and Information

As an American city born and bred for musical explosions and dissension, Seattle holds the torch high for her citizens who understand the sentiment of the sixties and seventies. The anti-war demonstrations, the concerts in any available space, the free love and rebellion wave that crashed on the shores of the west coast and soaked every city in one way or another from Seattle to Nantucket. However, take Czechoslovakia and England at the same time and you might tend to overlook the surf of the American wave in the tsunami crashing down on Europe. Total social upheaval, the founding of a politically and socially new way of thinking, let alone living, and all of it encapsulated in some way by the music. Ladies and gentlemen, Tom Stoppard’s Rock n’ Roll.

Matthew Floyd Miller and Jessica Martin. Photo by Chris Bennion, 2009.

Kurt Beattie’s production of Stoppard’s astoundingly philosophical and political drama is a thick production that ought to be seen, read, seen again and discussed if at all possible. The play spans thirty years in the lives of several rebels and philosophers in Europe from the sixties to the early nineties in just ten minutes shy of three hours. Make no mistake: this is a challenging play that cannot be taken lightly and, incidentally, should not be missed.

Rock n’ Roll, as the title suggests, is driven by the music that drove the thinkers in their time. Matthew Floyd Miller brilliantly embodies the character Jan (pronounced like YAWN) in this essential manner. On the other side of the coin, Anne Allgood plays Eleanor and the adult Esme (pronounced like S-MET) with such heartbreaking passion as would make the stones weep. Along with Miller and Allgood is an absolutely outstanding cast of some of Seattle’s finest actors.

Behind the scenes, much work must be done on a show such as this. With a full half-page of the program dedicated to music credits, Brendan Patrick Hogan (sound design) had his work cut out for him and excels beyond expectation. Similarly, Kurt Beattie had no easy task laid out for him in directing such an ambitious piece. Not to put too fine a point on it, the script can easily read as an historical account of opposing philosophies that happens to be written in intensely passionate and clever dialogue. It takes a strong director with an energetic, intelligent and intensely dedicated cast to take a piece like Rock n’ Roll and bring it to life as Beattie and the cast and crew of this production do.

Rock n’ Roll truly is a spectacular show that will not come around often. Its relevance to our current political and socio-economic situation is irrefutable and, therefore, lends itself well to the zeitgeist we all currently share. Brush up on your Marx and Pink Floyd and put your thinking caps on because it is, very much so, a wild ride.

Review by Andrew J. Perez

Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat--5th Ave

Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat
The 5th Avenue Theatre
October 10-November 1, 2009
Tickets and Information

The 5th Ave offers a night of care-free entertainment with the opening of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, the musical brainchild of Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber. Though the story is straight from the Bible it is told quite untraditionally through a pastiche of musical styles and references, with everything from western hoedowns to reggae.

Photo by Christ Bennion.

Joseph is clearly the favorite son of Jacob, much to the chagrin of his 11 brothers. Born with the gift of interpreting dreams, Joseph is lavished with gifts and praise by his blissfully oblivious father. The brothers have had enough, so they sell Joseph into slavery and tell Jacob his favorite is dead. Through a series of unfortunate events, Joseph ends up imprisoned by the Egyptian Pharaoh, but Joseph successfully interprets the Pharaoh's dreams and quickly rises to second in command. When his 11 brothers unknowingly come begging for mercy and food, Joseph works his way arounf to forgiveness.

Anthony Federov, a former American Idol finalist, does respectably as the ever-optimistic dreamer Joseph (singing is clearly his gift; acting, not so much). Jennifer Paz commands attention as the Narrator with crystal-clear vocals and personality galore. But the stand-out performances go to Joseph's 11 brothers (too many to name--just go see them!) who strike the perfect balance between comedy and earnestness, especially in the cigarette-filled wails of "Those Canaan Days". Rounding out the cast is a chorus of children (finely tuned and obviously excited to be onstage--Seattle theatre is in no short supply of young talent).

Photo by Christ Bennion.

A show as technically heavy as this one takes a production team with lots of skill and drive. The set, designed by Martin Christoffel, provides an efficient use of space that serves all the action and foot traffic well. mark Thompson's costumes sparkle with appropriately bright colors and are rightly influenced by the endless party that was the 1970s (or so I'm told). Tom Sturge's lights are a powerful force, gently and not-so-gently coaxing the audience into the dance party atmosphere. At the helm of this technical disco extravaganze is James Rocco, the director. Rocco showcases the performers' heart and effort, which makes the cheesiness and good-natured fun worthwhile. Jayme McDaniel's choreography is creative and entertaining.

Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat is much like cotton candy. There isn't much need for it all the time, but it is a fun and welcome addition to any diet--not to mention its's kid-friendly. Word to the wise: those who are sensitive to strobe lights should be wary!!!

Review by Kacey Shiflet.