Friday, February 26, 2010

Legally Blonde: The Musical - 5th Avenue Theatre

Legally Blonde the Musical

5th Avenue Theatre

February 25 – March 14, 2010

Tickets and Information

Oh my god, omigod, you guys—Legally Blonde The Musical is here! Based on the popular movie that made blonde the new pink, this Tony-nominated Broadway hit is touring the country and makes its Seattle stop at the 5th Avenue Theatre. With music and lyrics by Laurence O’Keefe and Nell Benjamin and book by Heather Hach, this adaptation is both faithful to its source and freshly entertaining.

The entire cast (right down to the highly trained canines that perform as Bruiser and Rufus) is packed with talent. Becky Gulsvig plays Elle Woods with just the right amount of perky naiveté to charm the audience entirely. Jeff McLean as Warner Huntington III exhibits some of the best pop-vocal control that has ever come to Seattle. As Vivienne Kensington, Elle’s erstwhile rival, Megan Lewis goes from uptight conservative to impressive belting pop soprano in the drop of a magazine. And we can all look forward to the next production in which J.B. Bonds (Emmett Forrest) comes to town as well. His stage presence is captivating and I only hope that he is given more freedom in the future to really let loose the power he clearly has.

Cast of Legally Blonde the Musical. Photo by Joan Marcus, 2010.

Jerry Mitchell’s direction is light but precise, and his choreography splashes across the stage, full of cheerleading inspired moves as well as classic Broadway stylings. The dancing is fully playful enough to keep up with O’Keefe and Benjamin’s clever songs, which make use of word play and pop references to keep the audience laughing. The design team behind Legally Blonde pulls out all the stops; Gregg Barnes’ costumes run the gamut from colorful California girls to corduroy-clad law students, and David Rockwell’s scenic design transports the audience between two coasts without a hint of jetlag.

Legally Blonde: The Musical joyfully takes stage in Seattle for the next three weeks. Big, sassy and glitzy, this production is the epitome of a Broadway musical, and possibly the most purely entertaining thing you will see all year.

Review by Kenna M. Kettrick

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Glengarry Glen Ross - Seattle Repertory Theatre

Glengarry Glen Ross

Seattle Repertory Theatre

February 5 – 28, 2010

Tickets and Information

Glengarry Glen Ross’s commentary on American economics in the 1980s was undeniably brilliant. It’s no wonder it won the 1984 Pulitzer (serendipitous year, no?). However, the most thrilling and terrifying aspect is how a 1980s play about the 1970s economic scandal regarding land scams can speak so blatantly about our own 2010 national fiscal situation—not only in terms of dollars and cents, but political mores and socio-economic regulations.

All politics aside, however (though it would be impossible to take Glengarry Glen Ross without a basket full of political salt-grains), Wilson Milam’s production of David Mamet’s 1984 play at the Seattle Rep is, to say the least, gripping. The biggest challenge this production faces is the loss of momentum in the last several minutes. The staging begins to slowly pull the audience’s focus from the heart of the action to the outlying limbs before the lights go down. Perhaps this is intended, perhaps not. Either way, though an unfortunate loss in the locomotion, the play up to that point is unstoppable. Bringing together the design team from last year’s production of Connor McPherson’s The Seafarer, the Rep’s production takes a much more humorous approach to the dark and neurotic piece that is Glengarry Glen Ross. Milam’s direction uses his actors’ finely-honed comedic skills to bring to life every potential comic bit. Mind you this is not slap-stick; this is not a play that would be called “funny” like dogs in clothes are “funny,” but compared to the 1990s film adaptation it’s an absolute laugh-fest.

It’s useless to try to point out one or two actors from a cast in which the raw man-power (and I mean MAN power) took a two hour play and made it feel like the audience’s entire life flashed by in twenty-minutes. Therefore, a hearty slap-on-the-back to each and every man on stage for the chair-throwing, desk-kicking, man-shoving, spit-flinging performance put forth.

A special shout-out, as well, to Eugene Lee’s set design which – when you see this show (which you ought to do) – will be spectacularly self-evident.

There are many people who believe they’ve seen Glengarry Glen Ross because they’ve “watched the movie.” They’ve heard the words, they’ve seen people act out the scenes, but to truly see Glengarry Glen Ross, go see this production at the Seattle Rep—it brings this play to life.

Review by Andrew J. Perez

Monday, February 01, 2010

South Pacific - 5th Avenue Theatre

South Pacific

5th Avenue Theatre

January 29 - February 21, 2010

Tickets and Information

Keala Settle as Bloody Mary and the ensemble of South Pacific. Photo by Peter Coombs, 2010.

There are very few Broadway musicals that can be considered as intimidating and challenging to produce as South Pacific. Since the original premier in 1949 it has not been revived on Broadway until Bartlett Sher’s Tony Award-winning production nearly sixty years later. There is an inherent element of trepidation associated with productions of South Pacific stemming from the rather touchy subject matter of the war and the racism prevalent at the time and in the show. It takes a very alert and trust-worthy director to bring this show to life for a modern audience and Sher does not disappoint.

Another challenge with this particular tour is the extremely high expectations regarding the quality of the show. After Sher’s production premiered in 2008 (garnering 11 Tony nominations and 7 wins including Best Revival and Best Direction) there has been nothing short of fanatic desire to see this production across the country. Fortunately for the country, we don’t have to fly to New York to see why this revival has gathered so much attention. As Bartlett Sher said before the opening performance, “the cast we have here is actually as good as the one on Broadway.” Not having seen the New York production I cannot speak to that myself, but after seeing the show here at the 5th Avenue Theatre, I don’t doubt it for a moment.

Whereas productions across Seattle have acquired a tendency to be as big as possible (elaborate sets, intense technical elements, big stars in the lead roles, etc…) this tour of South Pacific brings a breath of fresh air. Being a naturally big show – as any Rogers and Hammerstein show will be – it would be easy to cover it in glitter and star-power before serving it up to the world. However, Sher’s direction of this play is based on a very strong trust in the text. The set (Michael Yeargan) is impressive, no doubt, but not overwhelming. Most of the transitions are met with wood-slat curtains and beautiful lighting shifts (Donald Holder). The performances, too, are extremely rich and full. There is no pretension in any of the actors’ performances. It seems that everyone involved with this production took the text, loved it, nurtured it and let it take them into the world Rogers and Hammerstein wrote, bringing the audience with them. (Photo Left: Rod Gilfry and Carmen Cusack. Photo by Peter Coombs, 2010.)

Carmen Cusack (Ensign Nellie Forbush), Rod Gilfry (Emile de Becque), Keala Settle (Bloody Mary), Matthew Saldivar (Luther Billis) and Anderson Davis (Lt. Joseph Cable) lead this extremely ensemble-driven show magnificently. The chemistry between Cusack and Gilfry from the moment the curtain rises is undeniably palpable. Every moment of the show tastes of their relationship whether or not either or both are on stage at that moment. Their honesty and openness absolutely shine. Similarly, Saldivar and Davis carry their amazingly challenging roles with grace and power. Saldivar’s candor and humanity on stage is an absolute treat to watch and Davis’ freedom in his portrayal of Lieutenant Cable’s struggle is, to put it simply, brilliant. Meanwhile, all throughout, Settle’s Bloody Mary brings a gut-punch duo of comedy and sincerity that keeps the audience as enthralled as ever, sixty-one years after the original premier.

A special spotlight goes out to the stage management team (Brian J. L’ecuyer, Production Stage Manager, and Kelly Marie Furlough and Michael Krug, Stage Managers) for shattering my theory of timing for shows. On average shows in Seattle start six minutes past the curtain time, intermission goes at least three or four minutes over the scheduled time and the end time is always a little off. However, South Pacific’s overture started exactly on time, intermission was perfectly precise and the show ended at exactly at three hours, ever minute worth-while.

Tickets are nearly sold-out, so follow the link above, and get your seats booked now for the first tour of the first Broadway revival of South Pacific because it really does make any night a very enchanted evening.

Review by Andrew J. Perez