Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Sugartime Trio sings in sweet harmony

Sugartime Trio (courtesy Sugartime Trio)
If you're ever having an event where you wished to yourself, "If only the McGuire Sisters were still around to serenade our guests!" then I have a great surprise for you! A local trio of performers have mastered the tricky three part harmonies and smooth delivery of those famous sisters.

Recently, the newly constituted trio, Meg McLynn holding down the low ranges, Caitlin Frances standing strong in the middle, and Kim Maguire soaring mostly toward the high notes, performed at University Heights to an enthusiastic crowd. They took on recognizable songs such as Blue Skies, Banana Split, Good Night Sweetheart, Makin' Whoopee, and Sincerely.

Ooh Ooh "Trevor" is the MAPpiest!

Teri Lazzara and Brandon Ryan in Trevor (Shane Regan)
MAP Theatre
(at 18th & Union)
Through March 30, 2019

MAP Theatre loves themselves play-oddities! You'll never see a "kitchen-sink" drama from them unless the kitchen sink is really a spaceship and the family is aliens that look like giraffes.

Their current play, Trevor, by Nick Jones, features Brandon Ryan in the kind of role that Ryan and few others can master with abandon - that of an adult chimpanzee! While adults around him pretend that he can understand Human and that he behaves in ways they understand, Trevor obsesses about his one chance at tv-stardom when he performed in a commercial with Morgan Fairchild of long-ago tv-hit Falcon Crest

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

“Sheathed” Fulfills Sci-Fi Fantasy On Stage!

A moment in Sheathed (Joe Iano Photography)
Macha Theatre Works
(at Theatre Off Jackson)
Through March 24, 2019

An epic struggle of philosophies – vengeance versus reconciliation – plays out on stage at Theatre Off Jackson in Maggie Lee’s world premiere play, Sheathed! Powerful women, highly trained in sword combat, debate and spar, verbally and physically, about whether it’s better to follow through with the honor-code of vengeance or if the world is better off trying to accept prior battle-strife and the thousands of dead combatants in order to build a more lasting peace.

The feeling of the play is akin to the science-fiction fantasy on the shelves of your local bookstore. By the end of the play, you’re pretty sure that Lee’s premise is that vengeance doesn’t work out so well, but the journey is one great ride, with a lot of laughs sprinkled in to leaven the debate.

Ren (Ayo Tushinde) is a young woman on a quest to find and duel the last of five generals who she believes conspired to betray her father-general during an epic war. She meets Bala (Sunam Ellis), a veteran fighter from the recent war, who can hardly be bothered to associate with the young quester, but grudgingly agrees to travel “in the same direction.”

Saturday, March 09, 2019

Great Staging Makes You Jump with “The Woman in Black”

The Woman in Black (Roger Mastroianni)
The Woman in Black
Seattle Repertory Theatre
Through March 24, 2019

A tour from London is the special event currently at the Seattle Rep this month. It’s a celebrated production of The Woman in Black, and director Robin Herford recreates Stephen Mallatratt's original staging of Susan Hill’s book from London’s West End. The play is considered one of the longest playing productions in London history.

It is intricately staged, but could probably still scare the pants off people even if it dispensed with some of the multi-layered scenic crafting, because it’s really pretty much a ghost story told around a campfire. That’s due to much of the other tricks of theatrical staging they employ with loud sound effects and other sound devices, to great effect.

Sunday, March 03, 2019

March Roars With Theater Openings!

Sunam Ellis and Ayo Tushinde in the world premiere of Sheathed by Maggie Lee (Laura Dux Photography)
The start of 2019 has seen a few exciting productions, but at a sort of “measured pace.” March is changing all that immediately with 21 productions listed here! Children’s productions from Thistle Theater and SCT vie with major musicals and some of the most anticipated shows of the year. Two shows that were presented with the same casts years ago make a much-anticipated return – if you did not see Always…Patsy Cline or Returning the Bones before, both of them are sure to be as marvelous the second time around (although very, very different subjects)! Get your calendars out and start “puzzling!”

Romeo + Juliet, ACT Theatre, 3/1-31/19 (opens 3/7)
Yes, it’s still Shakespeare’s play, but with Joshua Castille as Romeo, the classic story of two young star-crossed lovers who are kept apart by feuding families is performed like it’s never been seen before. ACT is partnering with leaders in the Deaf community to create a production in both spoken English and ASL and makes it accessible for Deaf and hearing audiences alike.

Man of La Mancha, SecondStory Repertory, 3/1-24/19
An imprisoned man must tell a story to the other prisoners or risk dying. He tells one of a dying old man who refuses to relinquish his ideals or his passion, and inspires them all. The celebrated score includes "The Impossible Dream," "I, Don Quixote," and "Dulcinea.”

Magic Teakettle, Thistle Theatre, 3/2-17/19 (various locations)
In a Japanese temple, a teakettle is placed over the fire for the tea ceremony. Suddenly, it sprouts a tail, a head and the four legs of a Tanuki (a raccoon-like animal found in Japan).  Fearing the strange creature with the body of a teakettle, the Priest returns it to the peddler woman who sold it to him.  She gives the Tanuki a home and food and grateful for her kindness, the Tanuki reveals he is Bumbuku Chagama, a teakettle of good luck. Together they start a theatre and the Magic Teakettle of Good Luck performs acrobatic tricks. (Bunraku puppetry)

Saturday, March 02, 2019

SMT’s “Aida” was great, but it’s over

Matthew Lang and Tanesha Ross in Aida (Jeff Orton)
Seattle Musical Theatre
Through February 24, 2019

I regret to inform you that Seattle Musical Theatre presented a terrific production of Elton John’s musical, Aida, but you can’t see it because it’s closed. It was only three weekends long and one of those weekends was the Snow Event of the Century.

A lot of the praise for this production lies with Troy Wageman as director/choreographer. Troy has been a musical theater performer for years and done some terrific work on stage. But it’s his development into a musical theater director to be reckoned with that may be his best contribution to the art, because he truly has an eye for how to take a little and make it look like a helluva lot.

SMT doesn’t have a lot of money for sets or costumes or lights or sound. Sound in that Magnuson Park skinny rectangular theater, especially as managed by the patched together sound board, can be extremely hit or miss. But Troy knows how to manage that and knows who can manage it for him, and apparently Martin Sisk is a genius with that sound board. Why? Because the lead singers in this production sounded effing amazing. Loud and clear!

Thursday, February 28, 2019

New Company, As If Theatre, Presents Lovely "The Clean House"

The cast of The Clean House (Rosemary Dai Ross)
The Clean House
As If Theatre Company
Extended through March 3, 2019

As often happens in the Seattle area, a group of like-minded folks get together and decide to create a new company. Sometimes it's to produce one particular script and sometimes the goal is a bit larger. Out in Kenmore, a group of mature women (as in "not eager 20-somethings") have created As If Theatre Company, in an area that doesn't have a lot of theater going on there. 

Since I live nearby and like the idea of theater in Kenmore, I was pleased, as well, that they chose to produce Sarah Ruhl's The Clean House. I'd seen the production at ACT Theatre a decade ago and I remembered that I really loved the play but didn't remember enough about it and wanted to revisit it.

Carissa Meisner Smit, a capable director, helmed a stripped down, but completely charming production with five capable actors: Devika Bhagwat, Terry Boyd, Cindy Giese French, Amy Gentry, and Carolynne Wilcox. 

French and Gentry play sisters who are very different one from another. Lane (French) is a doctor who is so busy and hates to clean so she hires a live-in house cleaner Matilda (Bhagwat). The other sister, Virginia (Gentry) has a secret compulsion to clean and little else to do, so when she finds out that the Matilda gets sad cleaning, she offers to do the actual cleaning. 

Matilda spends a lot of her time trying to create the funniest joke in the world to honor her parents' love - and claims her mother died after her father told the funniest joke in the world to her. But she's sad that she doesn't know what it is because her father shot himself directly afterward. She tells a number of jokes but most of us don't speak Portuguese (she's Brazilian), so we probably don't understand them.

And then there's Lane's doctor husband (Boyd) who suddenly announces he's fallen in love with Ana (Wilcox) and therefore, must leave Lane. This upsets Lane's careful life, of course, and the rest of the play deals with that fall-out.

It's an adorable and very different style of play. The script has characters that talk directly to the audience and some absurd events that are clearly not "realistic" yet the sum of the whole might easily reach an audience member's heart. It's also frequently very funny.

This cast is adept at managing both the character development and the style and silliness. Bhagwat is quite delightful as the maid who doesn't want to do the work. Her Indian-accented English is clearly not Brazilian, but the accent lends itself to the sense of "foreignness" called for, so it doesn't detract from the character. 

This is a successful debut for this company and you're encouraged to run out to Kenmore Community Club on Bothell Way and see for yourself. For more information, go to

Saturday, February 23, 2019

“Rock of Ages” is a Big Cheeseball You Eat Anyway

Diana Huey and Galen Disston in Rock of Ages (Tracy Martin)
Rock of Ages
5th Avenue Theatre
Through February 24, 2019

Piles of snow didn’t stop the crew of Rock of Ages from puttin’ on a show! Some of the hardier audience members were even able to snag $20 tickets. 5th Avenue admin made the decision to help entice people who were able to get downtown to come in from the cold and have fun.

The musical is mostly an excuse for talented singer/performers to belt their faces off to well-known rock-and-roll songs from the 80’s and 90’s. It’s got some good jokes and a barely-palatable “story” to hang the songs on. You don’t go for deep and thoughtful story content, you go to sing along with the performers. They know all the words, you just chime in when you remember a few! (I don’t mean you actually are supposed to sing along, but it’s kind of inevitable if you already know the song.)

A robust cast of local talents bring the fun to life, with an assist from “she who we claim as ours,” Diana Huey, as the lead young-girl-from-a-small-town-who-wants-to-be-a-star-and-runs-away-with-her-parents’-disapproval-to-a-big-bad-Los-Angeles Sherrie, and a “real” rock legend, Mickey Thomas from (Jefferson) Starship as club owner Dennis. A bashful-looking Galen Disston, lead singer of the local rock band, Pickwick, takes on a new challenge as Drew, the-boy-who-wants-to-be-a-rock-and-roll-star-and-starts-as-a-bar-back. 

Friday, February 22, 2019

Watching “American Junkie” is Hard, But Worth It

Ian Bond in American Junkie (Studio 19 Photography)
American Junkie
Book-It Repertory Theatre
Through March 10, 2019

Watching someone act out shooting heroin and hearing them describe it is definitely discomfiting. Hearing in the description that they are removing wads of tissues from holes in their body that reach the bone to find flesh decent enough to shoot into could make the hearer feel like running to the bathroom to vomit. Yet, that is part of what is in store for audiences of a searing, yet compelling new work at Book-It Repertory Theatre.

American Junkie, an adaptation of a novel by former junkie, Tom Hansen, by Jane Jones and Kevin McKeon, is an intense experience. If you’re naïve about what junkies go through or experience, this ride will certainly fill in a few blank spots.

So, why would you want to put yourself through that? Because it’s important to understand people who are different from you, or to understand your relative or friend or friend’s friend who is going through something similar. We’re currently living through what is being termed “an opioid crisis,” yet those whose lives are unaffected probably don’t understand why it’s so hard to get ahead of these addiction issues.