Thursday, May 25, 2017

June Theater Openings are Busting Out in the Beginning of the Month

Ben Gonio as Sweeney Todd at ArtsWest (John McClellan)
Seven shows are opening in the beginning of June on our local stages! But the back half is pretty quiet. Maybe that will give you a chance to catch up with all the stuff you’d love to see but can’t fit into two weekends! While there’s a lot of great stuff many have been waiting for, you may want to make a special effort to catch ArtsWest’s Sweeney Todd, with an multi-ethnic cast you won’t often see.

Sweeney Todd The Demon Barber of Fleet Street, ArtsWest, 6/1/17-7/1/17
Stephen Sondheim's bloody masterpiece tells the tale of an unjustly exiled barber returning to 19th century London to seek vengeance against the lecherous judge who framed him and ravaged his young wife. The road to revenge leads Todd to Mrs. Lovett, a resourceful proprietress of a failing pie shop, where her integration of an ingredient into her meat pies has the people of London lining up. An exemplary cast of people of color adds to what will transpire.

Lydia, Strawberry Theatre Workshop, 6/1-24/17
Lydia centers on two young women who move across borders—one between nations, and one across metaphysical borders between unknown, unseen worlds. Although technically hired as a maid, Lydia's primary responsibility is caring for the family's near-vegetative teenage daughter named Ceci, who was left in a coma after a mysterious accident that occurred right before her quinceanera, or 15th birthday. Unlike the family that surrounds her, Lydia is able to translate Ceci's thoughts—an adolescent stew of childhood memories, criticism and carnality.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Seattle Men’s Chorus at the Symphony

A rehearsal photo from Broadway Rocks (courtesy Seattle Symphony Orchestra)
Broadway Rocks
With the Seattle Men’s Chorus
Seattle Symphony Orchestra
Benaroya Hall
May 19-21, 2017

Seattle Men’s Chorus had a wonderful opportunity this last week to join the Seattle Symphony Orchestra in concert. About fifty of the members augmented three absolutely top-notch Broadway talents in a “Broadway Rocks” concert. This is part of the Symphony’s “Seattle Pops” concert series.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Three Times the Charm - Money & Run Trilogy at The Schmee

Money, Take Run (Dave Hastings)
Money & Run –
Money, Take Run
Of Nuns and Ninjas
Save the Last Dance For Run
Theater Schmeater – in repertory
Through June 10, 2017

Wayne Rawley really got his opportunity to begin seeing plays he wrote at Theater Schmeater in 1999. He told me, in a brief conversation in a marathon night of seeing all three of his Money & Run shows in one evening, that he wrote the very first episode of Money & Run for a Schmee late night run. Late night shows were on fire back then and got huge audiences. Usually, they are funny and made more funny by drinking a few before and during the show.

So, he wrote this episode about a young man named Run and a young woman named Money who “meet cute” by sticking up a bar at the same time – not planned together! And then they go count the money and fall in love. He ended up writing eight more episodes.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Tragically Small Audience for Impeccable Solo Show - "Ode"

Nike Imoru (front) in Ode (Navid Baraty)
Ode: A Stage Song
West of Lenin
Through May 20, 2017

Nike Imoru has many hyphenates. She teaches and casts the TV show Z Nation and produces and directs and coaches and writes and acts. She has a PhD and has worked around the world. So, to get to know her in an autobiographical solo show is to find out a little more about how she came to be the many parts of who she is.

Her solo show, at West of Lenin, is called Ode: A Stage Song. She performs it with actor-dancer Simone Bruyere Fraser. Fraser is mostly silent, but in many ways becomes the emotional center of Imoru's narration.

Friday, May 12, 2017

1930s "Midsummer" Musical Is Most Fun When It's Shakespeare's Script

The "mechanicals" from A Midsummer Night's Dream (Chris Bennion)
A Midsummer Night’s Dream
Seattle Shakespeare Company
(at Cornish Playhouse)
Through May 21, 2017

Did you know that Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream is the most performed play in the world? It’s a comedy and it’s Shakespeare and apparently that’s the golden ticket. Seattle Shakespeare Company is mounting it again, as we can certainly bet that they will continue to do, every four or five years. There’s always a new way to try, and audiences love to come.

This year’s production is in the style of a 1930s movie musical. There’s singing and dancing, the Busby Berkeley kind – they even use lighted props!! (thanks to the ideas of choreographer Crystal Dawn Munkers who also plays Hippolyta). There are a few head scratchy types of decisions by director/Theseus George Mount, like the entire play being performed “back stage” of a theater. “It’s a play within a play, see.” That and some other ideas don’t help, but then mostly they don’t hurt that much either.

Mount and his actors have a very firm grasp of the comedic elements, which are a joy. MJ Sieber, last year’s Gypsy Rose Lee Award nominee for a similar comedic master turn in A Winter’s Tale, also a Seattle Shakes production, is wonderful as Bottom, the simple man turned into a donkey by magic. Most of the common folk in the play-within-a-play (now –within-a-play!) are great fun. Steven Davis, a soon-to-be graduate of Cornish, is quite hilarious as Starveling, the Moon.

Wednesday, May 03, 2017

Cherdonna Plays House Until She Doesn't - And It's Kinda Great

Cherdonna's Doll's House (Jeff Carpenter)
Cherdonna’s Doll’s House
Washington Ensemble Theatre
Through May 15, 2017

Cherdonna Shinatra is a unique presence on the Seattle arts scene. She is the creation of performer Jody Kuehner who was awarded one of The Stranger’s Genius Awards in 2015. She might be described as a clown dancer. Her lithe body is ready to contort into many a dance move as her performance entity enlarges and amplifies her feelings.

She has teamed up with Washington Ensemble Theatre and Ali Mohamed el-Gasseir to create a unique experience of the Henrik Ibsen play, A Doll’s House. There are so many aspects of this evening that are intriguing and beguiling, at least from the beginning on toward the end.

Saturday, April 29, 2017

May Stage Flowers a'Bloomin'

Rehearsal photo for Skin by Deaf Spotlight (Patty Liang)
A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Seattle Shakespeare Co., 5/3/17-5/21/17 (at Cornish Playhouse)
This version of the classic “who loves who” comedy is placed in the realm of 1930s movie musicals about show business. George Mount says, “They're called backstage musicals. They’re movies about people on Broadway putting on plays. So we're going to do a play, based on the movie genre.” A band of local tradespeople gets mixed into the madness when one member is transformed into a donkey. The fairy Puck, who initiated the foolery, sorts it all out in time for a grand wedding and a nutty comic skit.

Skin, Deaf Spotlight, 5/4-7/17, 5/12-13/17 (at 12th Avenue Arts)
Deaf Spotlight is pleased to this story, which follows four Deaf Queer women who are struggling to make sense of violence, sex, love and friendship amidst a changing landscape, Seattle’s Capitol Hill. This will be performed in ASL and subtitled English.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

“Love” is not all there is

Here Lies Love (Navid Baraty)
Here Lies Love
Seattle Repertory Theatre
Through June 18, 2017

So many “why?” questions… The huge, immersive production of Here Lies Love at Seattle Repertory Theatre has the company investing tens of thousands of dollars (maybe hundreds?). Why? What makes this idea, this musical so worth the money? The company has invested months in the making of it, remaking their largest theatrical space into a “nightclub” atmosphere with a movable light-up stage. Why?

There are many ways to construct a nightclub. Why have they built something that limits their usual 800+ seats to less than 300? Why must the stage move? That must have cost an enormous amount more. It shrinks the allowable dance floor by a lot!

They must believe in what they’re doing. That also has to mean that doing so is worth all of it. The experience of attending Here Lies Love is different, somewhat, if you’re sitting in the balcony above or the sides of the nightclub or on the floor where you have to stand for most of the 90-plus minute show. If you’re standing, perhaps wanting to dance the night away, you might get to dance a bit, but for most of that time, you’re watching a fairly standard musical theater production with set songs – many of them power ballads, not terribly danceable to.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

The stereotype of the delicate Asian flower - "Nadeshiko"

Mi Kang and Maile Wong in Nadeshiko (John Cornicello)
Sound Theatre Company
Through May 16, 2017

An ambitious, vigorously mounted production from Sound Theatre Company seeks to weave together Japanese societal-cultural after-effects of World War II with a family’s modern descendants. Adventurous local writer Keiko Green uses some unconventional theatrical devices in Nadeshiko, along with traditional storytelling.

The main character in the play is a 20-something young woman, Risa (Maile Wong), who is struggling with formulating her path in life, and affording it. Taking a cue from her cousin, Sue (Mi Kang), our first introduction to her is as a hired sex object to a “White Haired Man” (Greg Lyle-Newton). When she accidentally runs away with money after not completing the task, she comes back a bit later to offer an apology (but no money because she says she needs it).