Wednesday, December 07, 2016

Seattle Men's Chorus gets Soul-ful

Up close with Paul Caldwell (courtesy Seattle Choruses)

Silver & Soul
Seattle Men’s Chorus
Benaroya Hall:
December 11, December 18, December 21, December 22, 2016
Everett Civic Auditorium, December 17, 2016
Rialto Theater, Tacoma, December 10, 2016

You know you’re in for a great concert from the very first moments of Seattle Men’s Chorus’ holiday concert! Titled Silver & Soul, this is where most subscribers will be introduced to new artistic director Paul Caldwell. He starts out with a drum!

Drummer John Stout gets center stage with a box drum and leads the chorus in a haunting, insistent, rhythmic song called Guadete, a sacred Christmas carol, which is thought to have been composed in the 16th century. (Michael Engelhardt is credited, perhaps as the arranger). Soloists Matthew Sherman, Tyler Stoops, and Nathan Wilson sound wonderful.

The concert is full of solemn and sacred music, as well as fun from Captain Smartypants, a cadre of dancers, some scarcely-clad reindeer, and an audience sing-along. The arrangements are tight and the men seem ready to ring in the season.

There are a lot of men on stage! It’s heartening to see how many wanted to sing the holiday concert as the transition of artistic director continues. Caldwell is gracious in his conduct and his remarks are brief, but heartfelt, as he reflects on his car accident (as related in a recent interview with him by SGN:  http://bit.ly/2hkz1fA) and his reception by the Choruses when he arrived.

If you are someone who practices avoiding Little Drummer Boy, you’ll be out by Song #3. I don’t know if it counts to bring earplugs or not.

Those who like to ring in the holidays with a Men’s Chorus performance will be completely satisfied with the seasonal music. The full sound of all the sections of singers is glorious to bask in and absorb.

Those who enjoy poking fun will like the silliness of The Twelve Days After Christmas, The Christmas Can-Can, and Hannukah in Santa Monica. A game try at Carpool Christmas Caroloke, with a James Corden, Johnny Carson, Judy Garland and Lady Gaga, falls a bit flat, but is mercifully pretty short. The audience sing-along is a fun little work out (you’ll see) led by Caldwell.

This concert series is the last for long-time interpreter Kevin  Gallagher and the Chorus acknowledges him in a lovely and warm fashion. His signature interpretive Silent Night is reprised, for those who look forward to that particular moment.

There a number of opportunities to clap along, including the last two songs: Go Tell It/Jesus, What a Wonderful Child and Dear Santa (Bring Me a Man This Christmas), helping you go back out to the streets in a terrific mood.


For more information, go to http://www.seattlechoruses.org/attend/concerts-events/silversoul/ or call 206-388-1400. 

Saturday, December 03, 2016

The Trial of Ebenezer Scrooge celebrates the Christmas spirit

The Trial of Ebenezer Scrooge (Eric Stuhaug)
The Trial of Ebenezer Scrooge
Taproot Theatre
Through December 30, 2016

While everyone, likely, is overly familiar with A Christmas Carol and Ebenezer Scrooge’s journey, playwright Mark Brown has come up with a twist that actually has some funny moments in it with The Trial of Ebenezer Scrooge. It sounds like Scrooge is on trial, but that’s not exactly true. In fact, a year after his life-altering visits by ghosts, it seems that crotchety Scrooge is back!

Scrooge (Nolan Palmer) has decided to take the Christmas Ghosts and Jacob Marley to court on charges such as trespassing, kidnapping, and assault! In a snappy presentation by Taproot Theatre, there are moments to chuckle at while some absurdities are on the docket.

Defense attorney Solomon Rothschild (Bill Johns) has all these clients to manage as well as Scrooge-like Judge Pearson (Steve Manning). In fact, the judge is more Scrooge-like than Scrooge in this version!

But the course of the trial is a sort of short recap of what happened last year, so…just like the regular story. Scrooge gets to assert that the Ghost of Christmas Past (an enchanting Anastasia Higham) kidnapped him after she trespassed into his locked home. And Jacob Marley (Robert Gallaher) is guilty of stalking him!

Rothschild calls witnesses like Bob Cratchit (also Gallaher), Scrooge’s sister Fan (also Higham), his nephew Fred (Daniel Stoltenberg) and maid Mrs. Dilber (Faith Bennett Russell) along with an assortment of others. (The actors play several roles each in most cases, with Russell bringing some of the most improbable fun with the randy maid!) The bailiff (Larry Albert) has to keep order of this chaos.

The script calls for running gags, including a major one for the bailiff, that run out of steam after one go. Mostly, it all feels fairly festive and funny, though not particularly innovative.

While I shall not spoil the small tidbits of surprise, the main thrust of the message is that “Christmas spirit” should not be saved up for only one day or even two a year. It’s a worthy message if a bit bombastically told. Taproot likes to try to do something different for the holidays each year, but there’s not a whole lot to choose from, so they’re repeating this from 11 years ago.

It’s a game production from director Scott Nolte, with beautiful (and silly sometimes) costuming as usual from Sarah Burch Gordon, inventive lighting from Kent Cubbage and spooky/funny sound design from Mark Lund.

It’s family friendly and at least you can laugh at Scrooge out loud, rather than chuckle under your breath. For more information, go to www.taproottheatre.org or call 206-781-9707. 

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Treasure Island might be great counter-holiday programming

Geoffrey Simmons and Alex Silva in Treasure Island (John Ulman)
Treasure Island
Book-It Repertory Theatre
Through December 24, 2016

Shiver me timbers and hey ho me hearties, argh! If you haven’t read Treasure Island in longer than you want to remember, you might want to sail on over to Book-It Repertory to catch their new adaptation of Treasure Island, now on stage. This might be a brilliant idea of counter-programming against the regular holiday fare.

This is not a simple book to adapt. Not that they take on simple books! It has all kinds of adventures and a complicated plot involving double-crossing pirates and honor and treasure and doing right by your friends. It has sword fights and mutinies, and cannon fire.

In the middle of it all is an almost-thirteen-year-old boy, Jim Hawkins (a terrifically poised and talented Alex Silva). Jim’s life as a help-meet to his mother at an inn is turned upside down when his father dies and a blustery pirate, Billy Bones (Jim Gall), draws other disreputable types to the inn to find Bones’ treasure map.

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Intriguing “King Charles III” at Seattle Rep

Robert Joy in King Charles III. Photo by Michael Doucett.
King Charles III
Seattle Repertory Theatre
Through December 18, 2016

The new and much anticipated play at Seattle Rep is King Charles III and it has a very intriguing premise. We all know that Queen Elizabeth II will die, like we all will at some point. That’s not very startling, and her son, Prince Charles, has been on tap to be king for a long time. Playwright Mike Bartlett supposes what a newly inherited King Charles might be like, and chooses some very contemporary problems to fold into the fantasy.

As the pomp and ritual of the Queen’s burial is ending, the new King Charles is presented with a bill to sign from the British Parliament by the Prime Minister. But it happens that the bill fundamentally restricts freedom of Britian’s famously rowdy and incendiary press. As Prime Minister Evans (a suitably restrained Ian Merrial Peakes) explains it, it seeks to reasonably prevent invasions of privacy like tapping of royal cell phones and then leaking photos and emails to the public (which we heard really happened in 2011).

Monday, November 21, 2016

Tapping and “Singing in the Rain” at Village

Singing in the Rain (Mark Kitaoka)
Singing in the Rain
Village Theatre
Issaquah: Through December 31, 2016
Everett: January 6-29, 2016

Village Theatre has perfectly cast its tap-happy production of Singing in the Rain! The entire ensemble has great energy and many of the roles have just the right actor on stage for it.

You have seen the movie numerous times. It’s a new experience on a theater stage, especially when people must perform all the way through what might have been many takes for the screen version.

The storyline is about the advent of the “talkies” when silent film suddenly finds itself dead in an instant, once audiences find out technology is capable of melding voice with picture. Lockwood and Lamont are a famous silent film duo and the studio has made a love story out of their relationship, for publicity only. With the advent of The Jazz Singer, they need to make a talkie, but Lina Lamont (the supremely funny and on-point Jessica Skerritt) has a terrible, screechy voice and can’t sing or act a lick. What to do?

Friday, November 18, 2016

New SMC/SWC Artistic Director Paul Caldwell introduces himself to Seattle

Paul Caldwell (Miryam Gordon)
Silver and Soul
Seattle Men’s Chorus
Benaroya Hall
December 4-22, 2016

You’ve probably heard by now, if you pay attention to the Seattle Men’s and Seattle Women’s Choruses, that iconic artistic director Dennis Coleman retired and that the Choruses are now being led by Paul Caldwell. If you were lucky enough to have attended the recent concert by the Women, you already know that the Choruses are clearly in great hands and ready to Sing Out, loudly and proudly, into the future.

SGN had an opportunity to interview Paul on the eve of concert series #2 for him: the Seattle Men’s Chorus annual Christmas-time holiday extravaganza. We sat down with him and Executive Director Steven Smith for a chat.

The Wonderland of Zinzanni

Lady Rizo as the Red Queen (Alan Alabastro)
Welcome to Wonderland
Teatro Zinzanni
Through February 26, 2017

An inventive new storyline is now playing at Teatro Zinzanni. They’ve chosen an Alice in Wonderland theme for their newest dinner/show and in a Zinzanni kind of way, they keep the magical and mystical flavor of that story, as well.

Economics has clearly put some pressure on the speigeltent folks. They’ve apparently realized that it’s enormously expensive to change all the characters and themes every three months and have decided to elongate the run of a show. That is simply smart, and it also allows for more thinking and planning and a smarter execution of a concept.

In this adorable show, Lewis and Carol (get it?), a sweet couple of innocence, get lost in Wonderland and find themselves separated while the Red Queen Rizo tries to cut off their heads. Of course there is the ubiquitous “just missing them” routine, and this Queen is not so hard-hearted that she won’t stop to let people eat soup or supper.

Friday, November 11, 2016

Quick Take: Farewell Funny Men - The Habit Bites the Dust

The Habit (WestCoast Bell)
The Habit
Bathhouse Theater
through November 26, 2016

Six guys walk into the Bathhouse....for the last time. I don't know about you but I really really really needed something to laugh at that had nothing to do with politics. The guys of The Habit provided that to me tonight for their opening night of their Last Stand. They've been making sketch comedy together for too many years and there are families and dispersings and I guess it's harder and harder to hang out and make jokes with each other.

The six "guys" are David Swidler, Jeff Schell, John Osebold, Mark Siano, Ryan Dobosh (all of whom you see on stage) and Lucas Thayer (who shall remain anonymous). They've put a show together with some of their best pieces from over the years.

It's silly, it's smart, it's fun, and they don't take themselves too seriously, either. It's the perfect antidote to what just happened and what may yet appear. Do 'em a favor and go see 'em and laugh. You might do yourself a favor, too.

http://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/2605125 or call 800-838-3006.

New Meaker play, "The Lost Girls," has some spooks

The cast of The Lost Girls (Dangerpants Photography)
The Lost Girls
Annex Theatre
Through November 19, 2016

Courtney Meaker writes engaging and untypical and very “current” dialogue in her plays. Her characters do and say things you don’t often expect and talk about life in often-blunt and sometimes funny ways. Having lived here for a number of years, she’s off in Iowa studying how to be an even better playwright.

Her latest work, The Lost Girls, is on stage at Annex Theatre. It contains aspects that Meaker likes to include: women characters (in this case, only women characters) and characters of fluid or Gay sexual orientations. These aspects are still far under-represented in the vast theatrical universe, so her additions are generally making up for that, one play at a time.

The successful parts of this play include a lot of the dialogue and relationship building among the five camp counselor college-aged women who all have been recruited for the very first time to this spooky camp. Except one of them attended camp as a teen and tells them the tale of the foundation of the property and why it has that haunted reputation. And there’s an interesting “women empowered girls and got killed for it” story in there.