Saturday, December 08, 2018

“Annie” Gets It Done!

Cynthia Jones as Miss Hannigan (Tracy Martin)
The 5th Avenue Theatre
Through December 30, 2018

Annie, the musical, may be 40 plus years old, but since it started life as a “period piece,” set in 1933, it feels as fresh as the day it was written. Sure, it elevates an oligarch to hero status, though he only “saves” one orphan on Christmas, but if you look past that part to the simple story of people finding those who need them, it’s warmly inviting and a bit tear-inducing.

Part of the huge success of Annie has been the music. It contains iconic songs that people have grown up with for so many years now that the whole audience can practically break out singing with the cast. Song titles you would recognize include: Tomorrow, Hard Knock Life, Maybe, N.Y.C. and Easy Street!

The story, based on a long-running cartoon strip, Little Orphan Annie, focuses on a sturdy 11-year-old girl in an orphanage who was dropped off at birth with a letter from her parents saying they would be back to pick her up. Annie (played by Faith Young the night reviewed, who nails the sturdiness and has solid vocals) longs for her parents to come back, but weathers the antics of the horrid Ms. Hannigan (a comedy-turn-gem by Cynthia Jones) who takes care of the orphanage.

Tuesday, December 04, 2018

December 2018 Theater Openings

Dina Martina (David Belisle)

Most years, the town provides a mix of holiday material and counter-programming for those who want to avoid it. The counter-programming is a bit sparse this year, but along with the reprises at ACT Theatre (A Chrismas Carol) and Seattle Public (Christmastown), here is a list of productions you might want to check out:

A Very Die Hard Christmas, The Habit Comedy and Seattle Public Theater, 12/1-23/18
From the comedy writers that have had Seattle in stitches for years, comes A Very Die Hard Christmas, a new musical parody. Sketch writers from The Habit team up with Seattle Public Theater to create a new holiday comedy perfect for those who like their Christmas entertainment with lots of action, 80s jokes, smooth soft rock jams, and snarky German terrorists.

A Charlie Brown Christmas, Taproot Theatre. 12/1-27/18
The all-ages holiday tradition is back! Charlie Brown is depressed by the never-ending commercialism surrounding the holidays. Thankfully, Linus is there to help him find the true meaning of Christmas in this musical adaptation of the cartoon classic.

Saturday, December 01, 2018

Charmed, I’m Sure, with “Miss Bennet: Christmas at Pemberley”

Shanna Allman and Calder Shilling in Miss Bennet: Christmas at Pemberley (Erik Stuhaug)
Miss Bennet: Christmas at Pemberley
Taproot Theatre
Through December 29, 2018

Have you ever daydreamed about what might have happened to the Bennet sisters after Jane Austin’s book, Pride and Prejudice, ended? Have you longed to spend more time with the family and wished to know more of their stories? If so, you’re in a bit of luck if you head over to Taproot Theatre for a holiday-light production of Lauren Gunderson and Margo Melcon’s play, Miss Bennet: Christmas at Pemberley.

If you know nothing else about the play, you can guess at several aspects. There will be some silly characters doing some silly things, a fair amount of good humor and some family squabble or other, and generally smart dialogue and, finally, a happy ending. It’s Christmas, after all, and a sad ending just won’t do.

Friday, November 23, 2018

Great production of “Matilda the Musical”

Nava Ruthfield as Matilda, and Ann Cornelius and Chris Ensweiler as her parents (Mark Kitaoka)
Matilda the Musical
Village Theatre
Issaquah: Through 12/30/18, Everett: 1/4/19-2/3/19

Village Theatre reports that their current production of Matilda the Musical is selling better than any show in history! One can’t call it a holiday show, but you might guess that a lot of kids would be excited to see it. They would be especially interested if they have read the Roald Dahl books.

Village’s production is as good a production of this musical as you’ll likely see anywhere! It’s particularly good to see it in a more modest theater than the cavernous Paramount or even the large 5th Avenue because – no matter what – the lyrics are going to be hard to understand. 

Thursday, November 15, 2018

“Framed” asks – Is it Art or is it Hobby?

A moment from Framed (Tom Chargin)
Snowflake Avalanche
(at 18th & Union)
Through November 25, 2018

There’s that marital saying that’s supposed to be true: “Happy wife, happy life.” Y York’s latest production, Framed, attempts to explore that idea in two very different marriages. Joan and Nick DaSilva (Susanna Burney and Joe Seefeldt) are the older couple with a long, successful marriage. May and Jake Carter (Maile Wong and Jeremy Steckler) are the very young married couple who may not have quite got the hang of it, yet. But York likes to mix things up and what you see on the surface might not be what’s going on underneath.

Joan is an artist and Nick is a successful businessman. They appear to be successful in all areas of their endeavors, with Joan selling her paintings moderately well at decent prices. Jake works as a car mechanic but longs for a “better” life and doesn’t want May to work. He wants her to do whatever she wants, like have hobbies, which she does not yet have any idea about.

Monday, November 12, 2018

We Are Each a “Lonely Planet”

The cast of Lonely Planet (John Ulman)
Lonely Planet
AJ Epstein Presents at West of Lenin
Through November 18, 2018

Steven Dietz’ play, Lonely Planet, was “about” AIDS as the background of the society and culture that two unlikely friends interact in, circa 1993. Jody (Michael Winters) and Carl (Reginald Andre Jackson) are about as different as you can get, and yet reflect that many unknowable connections can draw us together.

Carl presents as homeless… a rangy, hyperactive, rootless guy who likely would be diagnosed with ADD and/or on the autism spectrum today. 25 years ago, when this play was first produced, that kind of diagnosis would be less useful and with fewer medical supports.

Jody presents as a more mainstream business owner, a map store owner, but one who, more and more, cannot leave the store to face what’s outside in the big world. At the beginning of this “relationship play,” Jody seems to tolerate Carl, even as he knows Carl’s foibles, like lying and not taking “no” for an answer.

It starts with a chair. A chair just shows up in the map shop. Jody knows where it must have come from, but not why it appeared.

Saturday, November 03, 2018

Mike Daisey's "A People's History" - a riveting historic look at the U.S.!

Mike Daisey ready to begin (Angela Nickerson)
A People’s History
Seattle Repertory Theatre
Through November 25, 2018

Mike Daisey has an uncanny ability to cut subject matter down to bite-sized incisive bits of information. If you have never heard him opine, you owe it to yourself to pay a visit, at least once, to his current sit-down at Seattle Repertory Theatre!

This iteration, in A People’s History, Mike has decided to compare, in his roundabout, talk-about-everything-at-once way of discussing, his own public school history education during high school (the textbook used in his classroom) to Howard Zinn’s seminal book, “A People’s History of the United States.” He started, with Chapter 1, in 1492 when Christopher Columbus “sailed the ocean blue” over toward the New World. He’ll end, 18 specific performances later, in 2018. He says that is 27 hours of planned speaking, but those who attend Daisey performances know his 90 minute events are often at least 15 minutes longer. (There are 18 monologues; these are the "chapters"; they repeat once each during the run of this Seattle production.)

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Sing Out, November! (Theater Openings)

Y York's play Framed (Tom Chargin)

Somehow, November programming seems to be primarily MUSICALS. If you love musicals, you’ll be really happy this month!

Lonely Planet, West of Lenin, 10/24/18-11/18/18
An intimate portrait of two friends at the height of the AIDS epidemic, Lonely Planet is set in small map shop on the oldest street in an American city. Growing increasingly fearful of the outside world, Jody, the shop owner, retreats inside his store and refuses to leave. Jody’s quiet denial is in sharp contrast to his fantastical and extroverted friend Carl, who repeatedly urges Jody to leave the store. Through Carl's surreal extravagance, the friends are forced to confront their lives and a vanishing community and come to terms with their place in a changing world.         “Lonely Planet was born in Seattle and written in Seattle, dedicated to two of Seattle’s finest actors [Laurence Ballard & Michael Winters],” states playwright and director Steven Dietz. “I am delighted to have the chance to bring it back home to Seattle.”

Monday, October 29, 2018

Muhammad Ali started life as Cassius Clay – Get to know him at SCT!

A moment from And in This Corner: Cassius Clay (Elise Bakketun)
And in This Corner: Cassius Clay
Seattle Children’s Theatre
Through November 25, 2018

“Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee.” That quote might immediately bring Muhammad Ali to mind. He was known for pithy poetic sayings and poetry and rhyming were signatures of his career. But before he was Muhammad Ali, he was Cassius Clay, a young boxer who trained hard and went to the Olympics, winning a gold medal in boxing.

Cassius Clay’s early days and the tumult of the Civil Rights era are the focus of a new play at Seattle Children’s Theatre, And in This Corner: Cassius Clay, by Idris Goodwin. Directed by newly-minted University of Washington MFA Malika Oyetimein, a robust cast beats out a rhythmic telling of his life from age 11 to his Olympic victory and the challenges along his way.