Friday, November 15, 2019

Fresh Choreo Enlivens “Guys and Dolls”

Cast of Guys and Dolls (Mark Kitaoka)
Guys and Dolls
Village Theatre
Issaquah: through December 29, 2019
Everett: January 3, 2020-February 2, 2020

“What’s playing at Village? I’ll tell ya what’s playing at Village: a thing about a guy who wants a doll but can’t stop gambling and needs a thousand bucks so his blood doesn’t make a big spillage. That’s what’s playing at Village!” (with apologies to Frank Loesser)

It’s an oldie but goodie, Guys and Dolls is! The almost three-hour musical classic is so good that you can examine it through and through and still probably can’t figure out what to cut to make it shorter. That’s class!

A splendid version is now at Village Theatre, helmed by stage vet Billie Wildrick who is making her name as a musical director more often these days. You might have seen Wildrick as Miss Adelaide at the 5th Avenue in 2011.

Thursday, November 14, 2019

Guest Post: Nathan Cox Writes About Saving "Jet City Improv"

Courtesy Jet City Improv
On the north end of the Ave in the University District, nearly every day of the year, there are people laughing at live theater in an old, bright yellow building with Jet City Improv painted across the front of it. In about a year that building will be gone, replaced by apartments. You’ve probably heard a similar story before, but you can do something about it now. We need your help and here’s why you should.

Growing up in Seattle, my parents surrounded me with all of the arts experiences that they could on a meager budget. This city felt like a vibrant, thriving space where you could experience most anything, but everything still felt like Seattle. I moved away to Whatcom County in 1995 and before I returned in 2011, I had fallen in love with improv, or improvisational theater. I’ve been performing, teaching, directing and watching a lot of shows in the past 15 years. Jet City Improv fast became my artistic home in Seattle, even if the arts friendly Seattle I grew up with has changed. 

Saturday, November 09, 2019

“Dracula” cast sinks their teeth in!

Brandon O'Neill as Dracula and Claudine Mboligikpelani Nako as Lucy (Chris Bennion)
ACT Theatre
Through November 17, 2019

It’s not often that a published play by a playwright, done in dozens of productions around the country, is rewritten by the same playwright for a major theater. But Steven Dietz did that rewrite for this new production of Dracula, now performing at ACT Theatre.

To a large extent, the new version seems to re-center the character of Mina as the hero of the play, the one who ultimately vanquishes Dracula, despite all the misery he visits on her person. For those who know the characters in the book, there is no Van Helsing in this stage version. Much of Van Helsing’s dialogue is now delivered by Mina, herself.

So, Khanh Doan, as Mina, must carry the play through force of personality, which she excels in throughout. She is strong, compassionate, determined, “pure,” thoughtful, well-reasoned (in a complicated play of faith versus science), and sexy.

Thursday, November 07, 2019

November Theater is full of Music

The puppets of Faerystruck at Annex Theatre (Brett Love)

Somehow, November is full of musicals! Five big musicals are opening in our area, including world premieres. Since Mrs. Doubtfire is already slated for a Broadway opening, Seattle has the opportunity to see the Broadway cast, first. We’ve had that chance for shows like Shrek, Young Frankenstein, Catch Me If You Can. Get your calendars ready…

Faeriestruck, Annex Theatre, through 11/23/19 (world premiere)
A fantastical show written by Kyleigh Archer about a young runaway who sells their family out to a changeling in exchange for an adventure in Faerieland. Featuring puppetry designed by Kyleigh Archer with found and recycled materials, it is a touching and simple tale with bigger environmental ramifications. Faeriestruck is a bizarre spectacle for adults and children alike.

Guys & Dolls, Village Theatre, Issaquah: 11/7/19-12/29/19, Everett: 1/3/20-2/2/20
Considered by many to be the perfect musical comedy, this brassy and colorful musical has been an iconic crowd-pleaser since it first hit Broadway in 1950. Infamous gamblers, woebegone yet determined missionaries, a troop of dancing showgirls, and one momentous craps game come together on the streets (and in the sewers) of New York City. This beloved multi-award-winner is a non-stop treat full of romance, hilarity, and irresistible charm.

Thursday, October 31, 2019

Spooky Fun with “The Brothers Paranormal”

The Brothers Paranormal (Roger Tang)

The Brothers Paranormal
Pork Filled Productions
(at Theatre Off Jackson
Through November 16, 2019

Prince Gomolvilas kind of hit the jackpot with a “rolling world premiere” for his play, The Brothers Paranormal. It’s a new kind of world premiere where several theater companies across the country choose to present a brand new play all around the same time. In the past, a new play was “world premiered” at one theater company and then no other company really wanted to do the “second” production! So, as an innovation to get over that dumb hump, this new way was invented.

So, Seattle and Pork Filled Productions were a part of the roll-out of this new play. PFP is presenting it at Theatre Off Jackson. Gomolvilas was there for opening night and the company was so delighted that they were able to surprise the playwright: They innovated a creepy special effect that he hadn’t seen any other company do where an actor was swallowed by a wall grate.

What? Yep, swallowed by a wall grate. The Brothers Paranormal is a wonderfully creepy, mostly funny, play with a hint of dark reality that gives it a fuller feeling than “just” having fun. It is, of course, masterfully positioned at the end of October so you can go to it as a timely celebration of spookiness.

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

Theatre22 Presents “Festival of Revolution”

The Revolutionists (Truman Buffet Photography)

White (Truman Buffet Photography)
The Revolutionists and White
Through November 9, 2019

Theatre22 is present two plays in rotation and they are calling this a “festival of revolution.” The plays are The Revolutionists by Lauren Gunderson and White by James Ijames. To accommodate both plays, set designers Parmida Ziaei and Margaret Toomey had to design a set that works for both plays and lighting designer Ahren Buhmann had to arrange suitable lighting for both – with wildly different subject matters and different projection designs (Buhmann is one of the masters of projection design in town) and lighting emphases. I think Buhmann had the harder overall job there.

The Revolutionists
Gunderson’s play takes a look at four French revolutionist women from the lens of today. Her dialogue is current and slang-filled and also is clearly from a 21st Century perspective on women, what their rights and responsibilities should be, and how they felt about their circumstances. She has real-life writer Olypme de Gouges (Angela DiMarco) being sought by blended-character Marianne (Anjelica McMillan) - who represents the real Haitian ex-slaves who somehow successfully managed to free their country from colonial overseers. Marianne wants Olympe to write exciting pamphlets for her to entice help for Haiti.

Tuesday, October 29, 2019

“Austen’s Pride” - Enchanting and Fulfilling

The cast of Austen's Pride (Laura Michelle Kelly seated) (Tracy Martin)
Austen’s Pride
5th Avenue Theatre
Through October 27, 2019

Pride and Prejudice and other books by Jane Austen have been favorites for tens of dozens of years. There are whole Austen societies out there and you may have seen a few of the Puget Sound variety ( if you attended a performance at the 5th Avenue Theatre recently. They would be the ones in garb reminiscent of those in Austen books circa 1813.

Their ardor is for a world premiere musical called Austen’s Pride. Writers Lindsay Warren Baker and Amanda Jacobs must be lovers of Jane Austen themselves, because they’ve fashioned a love letter to her in the form of this musical.

As the curtain rises, we meet Jane (a transcendent Laura Michelle Kelly – though somewhat hilariously also quite pregnant IRL, which would be terribly scandalous for a spinster such as Austen)  in the middle of a success that also causes a quandary: she has had such success with Sense and Sensibility that her publisher wants more work, and she isn’t ready with anything new.

Thursday, October 24, 2019

Sandra Bernhard Brings “Quick Sand” to JCC Nov. 2!

Sandra Bernhard (Brian Ziegler)

Sandra Bernhard, performer, actor, celebrity, writer, has long been known as a proud, bold supporter of the LGBTQ+ community and one of the early celebrities that somehow was able to openly own her own sexuality while cutting a path through the bullshit of censors and erasers of others’ rights. Those who have followed her career will be excited to hear that she’s coming to Seattle for the first time in a lot of years!

In an exclusive interview on a range of topics, Sandra wants you to be prepared for a great evening, November 2nd at the Stroum Jewish Community Center on Mercer Island at 8:00PM. She debuted this new piece, entitled “Quick Sand,” at Joe’s Pub in New York City in December 2018, so this is her newest touring production.

Sandra says, “The important thing is that I’m coming to Seattle, and it’s been a very long time since I’ve been in town and I don’t want people to miss it. People know I do a hybrid of storytelling and music and comedy, and it’s a very entertaining hour and half of what I do.”

Friday, October 18, 2019

Village Presents a Highly Amped Up “Spelling Bee”

A moment from The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee (Mark Kitaoka)
The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee
Village Theatre
Issaquah:  Through 10/20/19, Everett: 10/25/18-11/17/19

Village Theatre is presenting a favorite of many high schools and colleges because it is about middle schoolers and eminently appropriate to stage for them. The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee can be quite subversive, though, and a lot of fun for grown ups to watch.

It is a strange-but-true aspect of putting on a show about middle schoolers at a theater like Village that means that all the middle schoolers are actually quite adult actors. Many of them still look close in age to middle school and the “suspension of disbelief” part of watching a play and pretending it’s really happening is pretty easy. One cast member here, though, is a bit too long in the tooth to have been cast as a thirteen-year-old.