Saturday, December 20, 2014

Off-beat and Off-the-beaten-path Christmas shows

Cast members of Judy's Scary Little Christmas (Michael Brunk)

There is still time (barely) to see a couple of Christmas-themed shows that end tonight or tomorrow: 

Tiny Tim is Dead is a very different kind of play about homeless street people on Christmas eve. It's being put on by Play Factory (recently known as Playwrights' Theatre) and is being performed at Hugo House. A strong cast, including several actors new to Seattle stages from elsewhere, reflect the mental illness, drug abuse, and poor veterans that are often to be found on the streets. The script by Barbara Lebow is uneven, but partly reflects the difficult and uneven lives she is portraying on stage. The message is strong: every night people are freezing outside could be Christmas Eve for them...and they need us.


A complimentary donation drive allows you to drop off clothing and/or food for several agencies that serve the homeless populations in our area. Tickets at http://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/909168. Ends tonight.

Hallelujah Girls! is a funny, loosely connected to Christmas, show at Phoenix Theatre in Edmonds. It's a sweet and silly play about a group of small town, southern women who are trying to support one who wants to better herself and prove she can do something of substance - so she opens a spa. There's a local rich bitch who keeps trying to shut her down, and an unlikely romance. If you're tired of seeing young things on stage and like the idea of watching some middle-aged characters interact, this is the show for you. Through tomorrow: http://phoenixtheatreedmonds.com/ 

The very off-beat is at ArtsWest where Judy's Scary Little Christmas plays through December 28th. This is kind of a musical but several of the songs are ones that Judy Garland used to sing. There are some original songs by Joe Patrick Ward (with book by David Church and Jim Webber). 

A terrific cast, directed by Troy Wageman as he continues to develop his formidable directing and choreography skills, gives the audience a ton to laugh at in the more fun first act. Lovely Lisa Mandelkorn, transitioning from opera to musical theater, shows off some powerful singing. Though she looks somewhat like Judy, she doesn't portray Judy's insatiable desire to appeal to her audience, and is a little too laid back.

David Caldwell milks every laugh he can as Liberace and Kate Jaeger belts her best as Ethel Merman. Brian Lange finds Bing Crosby's mellow baritone and Ryan McCabe chews up what's left of the stage as Joan Crawford.

But the script goes into a muddled darkness when Death walks in the door of the tv studio. The whole second act feels forced and just odd. What these characters are supposed to atone for is pretty indecipherable and therefore what the message of the entire piece becomes completely lost.

It's certainly Christmas-time and ArtsWest has a history of having a Christmas-themed show, but let's hope that next year they find one with a more clear message, even if it's still off-beat and surprising.

But the cast is still worth visiting in their incarnations of famous people. More information at http://www.artswest.org/theatre-plays/judys-scary-little-christmas/