Saturday, February 24, 2018

Seattle Children’s presents “The Journal of Ben Uchida” and “The Little Prince”

Mikko Juan and Mi Kang in The Journal of Ben Uchida: Citizen 13559 (Elise Bakketun)
The Journal of Ben Uchida: Citizen 13559
Seattle Children’s Theatre
Through March 4, 2018

The Little Prince
Seattle Children’s Theatre
Through March 4, 2018

Two wonderful shows are going on at Seattle Children’s Theatre this month and they are very different from each other. The Little Prince is of course based on the well-loved children’s classic and has an interesting choice of casts. The book is written with all male characters except for The Rose, who is very (stereotypically) female. The play casts all women for all the roles except for The Aviator (played charmingly by Lamar Legend). The Prince, himself, is embodied by elfin Khanh Doan, who embodies the offhand naiveté and quizzicalness of the role. The rest of the cast plays multiple roles in wonderful costumes by Yao Chen and includes Dedra Woods, Anne Allgood, and Sydney Andrews.

With gorgeous projections (by L.B. Morse) on a desert set by Carey Wong, this handsome production is directed by new artistic director Courtney Sale. It’s geared toward ages 6 and up. It will help you recall, “It is only with the heart that one can see rightly. What is essential is invisible to the eye.”

Monday, February 19, 2018

“Hamilton’s” OK By Me

The company of Hamilton (not the 2nd Tour cast) (Joan Marcus)
Paramount Theatre
Through March 18, 2018

There are a lot of different reasons to appreciate or even to love Hamilton: the crazy public scramble for tickets, the hype, the panic, the draw for middle schoolers who don’t even care for musicals who ask to learn its songs, or the thousands of regular people suddenly interested in one of our less well-known founding fathers and a few of his contemporaneous buddies. It’s a phenomenon that has rejuvenated an interest in musical theater so much more deeply into the wider culture than Broadway has been penetrating in recent years.

The production of the show is beloved for being “sung through” in almost entirely Hip Hop and Rap style lyrics, with sides of jazz and Broadway sprinkled over the top. Creator Lin-Manuel Miranda’s longing to change the American Songbook has been a crowning achievement of this score.

Then there are the deliberate choices that upend most of the standard tropes in casting, choosing performers of color for almost every role, including those like Thomas Jefferson and George Washington who were slave owners, pointing out the irony without ever uttering a word in the script.

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Locally Grown “Mamma Mia” Is Sweet and Wacky

The cast singing Super Trouper in Mamma Mia (Mark Kitaoka)
Mamma Mia!
5th Avenue Theatre
Through February 25, 2018

The musical, Mamma Mia!, is almost too sweet. Certainly it’s a confection and maybe, for some, not their dessert of choice. But for most, it’s a silly, joyous, ridiculous story using boatloads of ABBA tunes that were revamped by the original ABBA writers with a few new lyrics that turn them into songs that fit a musical.

The Story Primer, if you need it:
A 20 year-old woman is getting married on the Greek Island she was raised on by her single mom. She finds Mom’s diary and discovers her missing father might be one of three different men and she invites them to the wedding behind Mom’s back. They arrive and histories are revealed. Will her father walk her down the aisle? Will she say “I do, I do, I do, I do”?

The stage musical has been touring for years, coming into Seattle on a regular basis and usually selling briskly. The 5th Avenue Theatre is the first regional theatre to be granted the rights to produce the musical on local terms. Aside from a couple of imports, the entire cast is local and the designers, directors, and musicians get to put a new stamp of their own on the material.

Monday, February 12, 2018

Improbable But Humorous True Story in "Ibsen in Chicago"

The cast of Ibsen in Chicago (Alan Alabastro)
Ibsen in Chicago
Seattle Repertory Theatre
Through March 4, 2018

The Seattle Rep debuted a world premiere (their commission), this week, developed through their new play development process they call The Other Season. Ibsen in Chicago, by David Grimm, feels like an old-style play, set as it is in 1882, but it turns out to be based on a real story: Ibsen’s world premiere of his (especially then) controversial play, Ghosts, was performed in 1882 in…Chicago! In Danish!

Friday, February 09, 2018

Classic “The Gin Game” Casts Classic Couple

Marianne Owen and Kurt Beattie in The Gin Game (Tracy Martin)
The Gin Game
Village Theatre
Issaquah: through February 25, 2018
Everett: March 2-25, 2018

A two-hander (two people) about a couple of older people in an old-folks home, The Gin Game opened in 1976 with the classic theatrical couple Hume Cronin and Jessica Tandy. I’ll bet these two were great to watch on stage. Now, Village Theatre has pulled off a similar feat by casting Kurt Beattie and Marianne Owen, the classic Seattle theatrical couple, in their production.

Directed by another Seattle treasure, Jeff Steitzer, the production is probably as good as you can imagine a production should be. Beattie and Owen hit all the right emotional notes as the two relatively new home inhabitants get to know each other and don’t much else to do but play gin.

Thursday, February 08, 2018

Tale of a Divided Korean Family

The cast of American Hwangap (Alabastro Photography)
American Hwangap
West of Lenin/SiS Productions
Through February 25, 2018

If your dad disappeared in your teens and then showed up expecting you to celebrate his 60th birthday, what would you do? What if your family was Korean and obedience to family was baked into your DNA? Family dynamics and reconciliation are on full display with Lloyd Suh’s American Hwangap at West of Lenin, co-produced with SiS Productions.

In many Asian cultures, the 60th birthday is very important. There are 12 animal years in the Asian Zodiac, each with specific social attributes, and after five cycles, you are honored for your long life. Min Suk Chun (Stephen Sumida) lost his job as an engineer in America, after moving with his wife to Texas and birthing three children. He is so demoralized about his future that he believes moving back to Korea would be best and essentially abandons his family.

Now, on the eve of his 60th birthday, he shows up again, and tries to make amends to his wife Mary (Kathey Hseih), and his adult children, David (Moses Kristjanson Yim), Esther (Mara E. Palma) and Ralph (Michael Cerado). Each of them has their own reaction and their own relationship with him and Suh allows them each to unfold for the audience.

Thursday, February 01, 2018

New Plays Abound This Month of February

The cast of American Hwangap (Alabastro Photography)
February includes an unexpectedly large number of world premieres! No one has ever seen them before and you can be their first audiences! If you like adventure, then world premieres must be your bag. There is music and politics and explorations of family and personal transition. This fine eclectic mix is sure to give you subjects to think and talk about.

American Hwangap, West of Lenin, 2/1-25/18 (ages 13+)
American Hwangap is a funny story about a weekend in the lives of the whimsically dysfunctional Chuns, a Korean American family living in West Texas in 2005. Min Suk wants to celebrate his hwangap - 60th birthday celebration, even after he abandoned his family and returned to his native South Korea. Lloyd Suh's deftly observant play drives at the heart of what it means to be a family.

You Are Right, If You Think, Theatre9/12, 2/2-25/18 (world premiere)
This adaptation of Pirandello’s 1917 Right You Are, If You Think You Are tells the story of a suspicious family that moves into a city "some time ago, but not too long" and excites the whole neighborhood to investigate their peculiar lives.