Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Spoofing Musicals and Shakespeare, "Something Rotten" Smells Like a Good Time

Cast of the Something Rotten! National Tour (Photo by Jeremy Daniel)
Something Rotten
5th Avenue Theatre
Through October 1, 2017

If you love musicals, one of the fun parts of seeing the national tour of Something Rotten is the opportunity to listen hard for all the different musicals spoofed or mentioned or sung for one or two bars of music. In this YouTube video, https://youtu.be/LfVCMAmLxuw?list=PLG4bJvKx7lBvcXH_hTS-3jcNMNHiSch5Z, they'll show you which ones are mentioned in the song, A Musical. Musicals such as Fascinating Rhythm, Gypsy, Seussical, The Music Man, South Pacific, Les Miserables, RENT, A Chorus Line, Chicago, EVITA, Putting It Together, Annie, Guys and Dolls, Sweet Charity, Hello Dolly, Cats, Sweeney Todd, and Busby Berkeley-style dance moves.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

1964’s “Blues for Mister Charlie” Packs a Gut-punch

Cast of Blues for Mister Charlie (Bruce Tom)
Blues for Mister Charlie
The Williams Project
(at Franklin High School)
Through September 17, 2017

No matter that a piece of theater demands that the participants say the “n” word because it has to be said, it’s still a painful experience to me. How much more so might it be to people who have lived with the history of being labeled with such!

And say it they must for a historic play by James Baldwin, crafted as a memorial to the murder of young 14-year-old Emmett Till and Baldwin’s friend, Medgar Evers. Written in 1964, it reflects the language of the time, where people in small southern towns still peppered their speech with it and segregation was virtually the law of the land.

Thursday, September 07, 2017

September Blossoms With Theater Openings

The cast of The Who and The What at ArtsWest (courtesy ArtsWest)
If it’s back-to-school, that’s the signal for Back to Theater. 26 productions are listed here and there are likely others. Get out your calendars – you have some work to do!

Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike, Lamplight Productions, 9/1-17/17 (at Bathhouse Theatre)
Christopher Durang plays with Chekhov’s themes and comments on age, entitlement, and social media with ridiculous comedy. Siblings Vanya and Sonia live in the family home in Bucks County, PA spending their days doing nothing but lamenting. Masha, the third sibling (who is funding their life with her movie star career), returns home with a beautiful and very young boyfriend and life as Vanya and Sonia know it is threatened.

The Tempest, Fern Shakespeare Company, 9/1-16/17 (at Slate Theater)
Marooned on a deserted island with a child for twelve years, Prospero, the deposed Duke of Milan, finds that those that conspired against him have shipwrecked and washed up on the same shore. Shakespeare asks difficult questions. What will happen when Prospero’s past and present life collides? What does it mean to be human?  Do we ever truly have control over the events of our lives and those we love? Or is the adage true, that if you truly love something you must let it go?

The Who & The What, ArtsWest and Pratidhwani, 9/7/17-10/1/17
Brilliant Pakistani-American writer Zarina is focused on finishing her novel about women and Islam when she meets Eli, a young convert to Islam, who bridges the gulf between her modern life and her traditional heritage. But when her conservative father and sister discover her controversial manuscript, they are all forced to confront the beliefs that define them. From Ayad Akhtar, the Pulitzer Prize-winning writer of Disgraced.

Wednesday, September 06, 2017

Solid "August: Osage County" Reflects Harlequin Productions' Stature

Ellen McLain and Ann Flannigan in August: Osage County (courtesy Harlequin Productions)
Many folks in the Greater Seattle area don't get out to any theater location they think of as "boonies." That might include Renton, Bellevue, Redmond, Edmonds, Tacoma, the West Sound, Federal Way, Burien, Kent, and certainly Olympia.

I'll encourage you to consider venturing farther afield than Capitol Hill and Downtown Seattle because there are a lot of solid theater producers out there, including SecondStory Repertory (Redmond), Phoenix Theatre and Driftwood Theatre (Edmonds), Renton Civic, Burien Actors Theatre, Centerstage (Federal Way), Theatre Battery (Kent), Tacoma Musical Playhouse, and Harlequin Productions (Olympia).

It's not easy to consider driving 66 miles (from Seattle to Olympia), but those who do generally find productions that are equal to our midrange Seattle theaters like ArtsWest, Seattle Public, and Taproot.

Thursday, August 24, 2017

A Beautifully Mounted Fairytale at Sound Theatre Company

Goblin Market (Ken Holmes)
Goblin Market
Sound Theatre Company
Through August 27, 2017

Sound Theatre Company has provided us with a fairytale about sisterhood, based on a long poem written in the mid-1800s. Goblin Market, a cautionary tale about alluring Goblin Men who lure good girls into folly, which can kill them, has been turned into a burnished musical reverie performed with high gloss.

Let’s talk about the four talented women who take turns becoming Laura and Lizzie each night in a rotating fashion. Justine Davis and Claire Marx take turns as Lizzie and Kelly Mak and Miranda Trout become Laura. The alternating two become goblins, servants, whatever is necessary. When all four sing together, they make wonderful harmonies.

The harmonies are apparently newly arranged by local musical directer whiz-guy, Nathan Young. There is also a small band of musicians behind a semi-opaque scrim with conductor Aimee Hong on piano, Teresa Sandys on violin, and Rachael Beaver on cello. They sound heavenly and very Victorian. The piano is made to sound like a harpsichord sometimes, unless there is also one back there!

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Will You Feel “Much Better”?

Much Better (photo Zoe Burchard)
Much Better
Really-Really Theatre Group
(at 12th Avenue Arts)
Through September 2, 2017

Is it better to feel too much or too little? If you are tormented by your feelings and if you pour your feelings all over your life and if people are exhausted by your feelings and want to avoid too much time with you, is the answer to get your feelings surgically lessened?

This is the essential question in a science fiction play by Elisabeth Frankel, now being presented by new theater company, Really-Really Theatre Group. Much Better debates Ashley’s dilemma as a hyper-empath. Ashley not only feels her own feelings, she feels other people’s too!

But there is a solution, she finds. A technology called “Neuroclear” will lower her ability to feel, and perhaps bring her a measure of relief. It’s pretty clear, though, that it’s permanent, and like all technologies, there could be unintended consequences.

Friday, August 18, 2017

Writers Go Through Musical-Writing Development in Festival

Kirsten DeLohr Helland and Janet Krupin in Afterwords (Sam Freeman)

The second weekend in August has become an annual summer ritual in Issaquah, Washington. Village Theatre produces the Festival of New Musicals. This weekend was the 17th such festival. After a rigorous process of winnowing down hundreds of submissions from all over, even a few other countries, they bring together writers of new musicals and top singing/acting talent from the region (and sometimes New York and Los Angeles among others) for what are termed “29 hour workshops.” They provide directors and music directors and it all culminates in a three-day celebration of musical creation.

This year, there was a musical about Nikola Tesla, one about a little-known burial island in New York City (Hart Island), a developing fantasy musical to be staged by Book-It Repertory Theatre this winter (Howl’s Moving Castle) and a zombie musical.

I was able to interview the women behind a new musical called Afterwords, focusing on a young woman’s quest to uncover more about a suddenly-killed mentor’s secret love life. When she inherits his journals, she then discovers the woman has also suddenly died, and is driven to connect with the woman’s two daughters. The musical has many themes about family and connection and legacy.

Friday, August 04, 2017

“Statements After An Arrest” - a Timely and Compelling Drama

Darian Upshaw in Statements.... (Dave Hastings)
Statements After An Arrest Under the Immorality Act
Theater Schmeater
Through August 12, 2017

A production of the Athol Fugard play, Statements After An Arrest Under the Immorality Act, is a kind of must-see production. It reminds that there was a time not that far in the past where intermingling and romance and sex between folks of different shades of melanin were declared illegal. This happened in South Africa with national laws, but also in the United States in various areas.

The play includes an even more difficult emotional situation because Errol Philander, a "colored" South African is married when he sneaks into the local library at night to meet librarian, Frieda Joubert. His immorality is doubly deep, in that aspect. Once the couple is arrested, they expose to community judgment both themselves and his family.

Wednesday, August 02, 2017

Café Nordo Presents “Sundown at the Devil’s House”

Rebecca M. Davis in Sundown at the Devil's House and band (Joe Iano)
Sundown at the Devil’s House
Café Nordo
Through August 6, 2017

“It's the Devil's last night on Earth, and she and her cohorts will titillate, beguile, and entertain the audience with stories of the Devil's greatest triumphs and darkest secrets.” So says the website information. If there is a reason in there, somewhere, why it’s the Devil’s “last” night, it escaped notice, but the cast of players certainly did their best to titillate, beguile and entertain.

They sing some songs, and tell a lot of stories. There are pseudo-Biblical tales with completely different, though recognizable components. One of the strongest aspects of the script is the explanation of the Devil as the Fallen Angel, though the description of the jobs that angels do in “Heaven” might not match almost any ideas you ever thought would be done in Heaven, including “doing God’s taxes.” That one is a not-very-appropriate job choice, since God probably is not financially beholden to any country’s laws, no matter which kind of God you believe in.