Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Stop the Presses: Newsies Takes Over Village!

Cast of Newsies (Mark Kitaoka)
Disney’s Newsies
Village Theatre
Issaquah through December 28, 2017
Everett: January 5-28, 2018

There is a pack of muscular male singers and dancers taking over the stage at Village Theatre! They are demanding that audiences pay more attention and stop reducing it, in an effort to make a living! If audiences do not pay more, they may well strike! And we really do not want that because they are extremely effective at what they do.

A robust, energetic and rousing production of the musical, Newsies, which details the Newsboy Strike of 1899 against Joseph Pulitzer and William Randolph Hearst’s newspapers, brings Issaquah audiences to their feet. The very large cast is called upon to dance huge numbers in sync, including a major tap number at the top of the second act.

Wednesday, November 08, 2017

Strong Women Take Over "Coriolanus"

Nike Imoru in Coriolanus (John Ulman)
Coriolanus – Fight Like a Bitch
Rebel Kat Productions
(at 12th Avenue Arts)
Through November 18, 2017

Coriolanus is said to be a real general in Rome around the 5th Century. Caius Marcius attacked the Volscians of the city of Corioli viciously, and won. For that win, he was awarded the name “Coriolanus”. Some time later, during a grain shortage in Rome, Coriolanus advocated for a policy that would harshly affect the plebeians and the populace caused him to be put on trial and he was thrown out of Rome.

Sunday, November 05, 2017

November Theater Openings - Plenty of Entertainment

Leads in Holiday Inn at 5th Avenue Theatre (Mark Kitaoka)
You can tell it is holiday season when theatrical productions starting having a lot of holiday content in them. There is lots of music to be had this month and a couple of very-much anticipated dramas that hit the local boards. Check these out:

The Inappropriate Suitor, Ghost Light Theatricals, 11/3-18/17
Ghost Light presents a classic “us against the world” love story about a wild boarding school girl and a city boy, and the strange and oppressive world around them. Inspired by German Expressionism, boarding school gothic, and Medieval super-science, The Inappropriate Suitor is a show that will appeal to fans of melodrama, old New York, Tim Burton, doppelgangers, and ice skating.

Teatro Zinzanni, 11/1/17-4/29/17 (official opening 11/9/17) (at Marymoor Park)
It's opening night of the new Teatro ZinZanni, and the staff anxiously awaits the arrival of a world-renowned restaurant critic.  They are trying to put their best foot forward, without stepping on each other's toes! Getting swept up in the madness is the magical Maître d', who has staffed his restaurant with mechanical waitresses, chefs that defy gravity, and an amorous busboy who has finally met his match. With an aim to impress, the crew literally bends over backwards to give this critic the experience of a lifetime.

Thursday, November 02, 2017

“The Government Inspector” Hits the Funnybone and Misses the Commentary

A moment from The Government Inspector (John Ulman)
The Government Inspector
Seattle Shakespeare Company
Through November 19, 2017

There was a ton of laughing by the audience at the opening night of The Government Inspector at Seattle Shakespeare Company. I laughed some myself. Just, unfortunately, not nearly enough or maybe even too much.

Nikolai Gogol wrote this now-classic play in 1836. It is an ironic and subversive play (for the powers-that-be of Imperial Russia of the time) pointing out the rampant greed, governmental abuses, political corruption, and commenting on the public’s essential stupidity.

Wednesday, November 01, 2017

"Burn This" at Theatre22 May Be Too Dated

Cast of Burn This (Margaret Toomey)
Burn This
Theatre22
(at 12th Avenue Arts)
Through November 18, 2017

Lanford Wilson was a fairly prolific playwright in the 1970s and ‘80s and into the ‘90s who was known for a heightened realism with a touch of poetry in the dialogue. He was an openly gay man who included gay characters in his plays, which for that period was considered a challenging act.

Wilson also liked to write about characters on the fringes of society. He also dug deeply into the Talley family in a series of plays about the family and its small town characters.

Monday, October 30, 2017

Cross Bridges to Go Hear Beautiful "Bridges of Madison County"

Megan Renae Parker and Randy Scholz in Bridges of Madison County (Chris Bennion)
Bridges of Madison County
Showtunes Theatre Company
(at ACT Theatre)
through November 5, 2017

Showtunes Theatre Company is giving us a holiday gift - their usual practice of one weekend shows is extending to two, which means you absolutely can read this and still plan on going next weekend!

Maybe this will be a new normal, but no matter right now, because now you have to make tracks to see this staged musical and their two amazing leads. You may be familiar with the book by Robert Waller or the movie starring Meryl Streep and Clint Eastwood. It's the weepy romantic story of a tired Iowa housewife who has a life-changing affair with a magazine photographer. Wipe those iterations from your brain. 

The musical, with a book by Marsha Norman and music and lyrics by Jason Robert Brown, hews closely to the story of an Italian war-bride who makes a marriage of convenience and a life as a farm wife, eventually with two teenagers. An accidental meeting with a photographer on assignment who is taking shots of covered bridges in Madison County lures her into a surprise love affair.

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

How Theater Brings Historic Content to Current Life – “Ragtime” and “The Crucible”

Scene from The Crucible (Chris Bennion)
Ragtime
Through November 5, 2017

The Crucible
Through November 12, 2017

Seattle has a unique opportunity for the next few weeks to see two top-notch “best theater” productions that not only are wonderful evenings of theater but exemplify the specific way that theater can provide political commentary through historic examples. With meticulous technical support and very large casts of some of Seattle’s best, these productions demonstrate the power of theater to penetrate into people’s feelings in a most unique art form.

The beautiful musical, Ragtime, at The 5th Avenue Theatre, tells us some history, both good and bad, of the turn of the 20th Century and the difficulty of melding gentrified whites, struggling blacks whose artistic innovation (Ragtime music) was being appropriated even as they were overtly treated as second-class citizens, and immigrants, many who were very poor Jews from Eastern Europe and Russian.

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Light and Dark: "The World of Extreme Happiness"

A moment in The World of Extreme Happiness (John Ulman)
The World of Extreme Happiness
Seattle Public Theater
(with SiS Productions)
Through November 5, 2017

In The World of Extreme Happiness, by playwright Frances Ya-Chu Cowhig, the Chinese people are presented with two essential choices: to stay in the country and be penniless farmers or go to the City to work in factories to try to become someone more, someone famous, someone rich. 

This is a dark look at Chinese culture, but it easily resonates with any subculture, anywhere in the world, where people toil in thankless jobs that sap their courage, individuality, aspiration, belief, or health. If Cowhig wrote it about American field workers or factory workers, it would be no less applicable.

But if she did write it about America, it might be that audiences would be less open to consuming what she’s presenting. We don’t want to think about the unceasing toil that many people worldwide provide when we use what they’ve created, whether it’s Apple products or organic strawberries.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

BenDeLaCreme Brings Halloween

The entire cast of Beware the Terror of Gaylord Manor (Kevin Heard)
Beware the Terror of Gaylord Manor
BenDeLaCreme
(at ACT Theatre)
Through October 29, 2017

Just in time for Halloween, BenDeLaCreme has created a little silly morsel of a playlet that is clearly all about fun and barely about story. There’s a manor with a Count (Major Scales) who has a scary Mommy Skeleton (Sann Hall – puppeteer) who exhorts him to kill unsuspecting people who wander by.

Of course, BenDeLaCreme, as Patsy Jejune, wanders by and gets caught and subjected to being chased by dancing skeletons, and dancing ghosts, and a hunky weir wolf, so there’s a lot of running back and forth in ginormous heels while we all hold our breath to see if she falls down or not.

Beware the Terror of Gaylord Manor is probably best seen slightly buzzed. Certainly there is no need to pay much attention to plot, but the singing, mostly by Major Scales, who writes original tunes for this, is fine, and the costumes are great (designed by Danial Hellman – and others? the program isn’t exactly clear).