Sunday, September 30, 2018

“A Small History” is Sweet and Unexpected

The cast of A Small History of Amal, Age 7 (Pankaj Luthra)
A Small History of Amal, Age 7
Forward Flux Productions and Pratidhwani
(at West of Lenin)
Through October 6, 2018

Pratidhwani combines forces with Forward Flux Productions to present a “small” play, simply presented with few set pieces, many sound effects made directly by the actors, about a small seven year old Indian boy. It’s a production that enchants and delights in the small moments of life. A Small History of Amal, Age 7 by Lindsay Joelle, is exactly what the title says it is.

We’re introduced to Amal (Nabilah S. Ahmed), who is sick, though we don’t know why. His uncle has to leave him in the hospital to go to work. Uncle (Gurvinder Pal Singh) is worried about his nephew, and feels badly leaving, because Amal’s mother and father are both dead and Uncle is all Amal has. But Uncle works on trains and must keep working.

We get to know Amal as he interacts with his doctor (Abhijet Rane),  nurse (Meenakshi Rishi), the hospital aide (Jay Athalye) and meets a small girl, Suda (Varsha Raghavan), who has to periodically visit the hospital for monitoring. The cast also becomes train passengers and siblings of Suda, and helps create the playful atmosphere of discovery that Amal infuses his world with.

Thursday, September 27, 2018

This "Legally Blonde" is the Top of its Class!

Alexandria Henderson (center) and her Delta Nu cohorts in Legally Blonde (Danielle Barnum)
Legally Blonde The Musical
(in concert)
Showtunes Theatre Company
through September 30, 2018

When I first heard that Showtunes Theatre Company was choosing Legally Blonde as a musical, I was perplexed. I had a preconceived idea that the company chooses – mostly or entirely – musicals that likely will never be fully produced on Seattle stages for a variety of reasons. They might have too many cast members; they might have stupid books/librettos but great music; they might not stand the test of time in terms of relevance. Legally Blonde felt like none of those things. It’s been produced frequently in semi-professional and non-professional/student productions all the time.

Then I heard who would be playing Elle Woods. Alexandria Henderson is a talented rising star in our musical theater “family” and would clearly do a great job. And she is also black – or African-American – or a person of color! In other words, she’s not anything like Reese Witherspoon or the stereotype of the Hollywood Blonde. And I was so excited!

The execution of this concert-style musical is flawless (as directed by Faith Bennett Russell)! It’s even a significant step up for the company, as they hired choreographer Jimmy Shields (what? In a 29 hour rehearsal time?) to work with four dancers to heighten the professional look and feel of the concert.

Thursday, September 20, 2018

“Richard III” – Fascistic (and Oddly Funny)

Sarah Harlett and Suzanne Bouchard in Richard III (HMMM Productions)
Richard III
Seattle Shakespeare Company
And upstart crow collective
(at Seattle Rep)
Through October 7, 2018

15 black-clad determined women have overtaken Shakespeare’s Richard III this week, as Rosa Joshi and upstart crow collective combine their vision of all-female Shakespeare productions with Seattle Shakes. They’re finally tackling the play that finishes off their histories of Henry IV (Parts 1, 2, and 3 which they combined into a two-part Bring Down the House in 2017).

It must be said, first!, that Sarah Harlett is a masterful, powerful and sinister Richard III! She commands every scene she is in and infuses the whole piece with sly scheming that is actually…FUNNY. Dark, sinister and funny. It’s not funny that Richard blithely murders massive amounts of kinspeople, and that Shakespeare lays at Richard’s feet the slaying of his young nephews King Edward V and brother Richard in the Tower of London (though to this day no one is sure what happened).

But there is almost a glee in how Harlett’s Richard rises from sixth in line to the throne to King. It’s a macabre comedy, at that point.

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Take Note and See “The Noteworthy Life of Howard Barnes”!

King 5 New Day Northwest appearance!

The Noteworthy Life of Howard Barnes (Mark Kitaoka)
The Noteworthy Life of Howard Barnes
Village Theatre
Issaquah: through November 18, 2018
Everett: January 17-March 24, 2019

Musical theater lovers and theater lovers (in particular) should run right out to see the jaw-achingly funny world premiere musical, The Noteworthy Life of Howard Barnes! By the end of the long-one-act (100 minutes?), you’ll have given your smile muscles a really great workout.

The title might give you a moment’s pause. It seems a bit clunky in the titling department, but it’s reflective of the punny sense of humor of the writers Christopher Dimon (book and lyrics) and Michael Kooman (music). The main character is a sort of schlub (Yiddish Slang - “schlub - a stupid, unattractive, clumsy person. It is akin to hick or yodel. It comes from the Polish word żłób, from which the English word "slob" is also derived.”) A guy who usually doesn’t get noticed very much, doesn’t make much of an impact on anyone’s life.

That’s Howard Barnes. He’s not particularly “noteworthy.” Until! Until one day he starts hearing music that no one else hears. And sees people singing and dancing that no one else sees! And no, he’s not crazy, his life has become a musical and he can’t seem to find the way out.

Monday, September 17, 2018

When Theater is Faith and Faith is Theater ("The Journey of the Saint")

A snippet of video of The Journey of the Saint

The Journey of the Saint (courtesy eSe Teatro)
The Journey of the Saint
eSe Teatro
(at ACT Theatre)
through September 30, 2018

Director and translator Rose Cano has a strong sense of dramatic ritual and theatrical staging. That is a major experience to be had in the latest production from her company, eSe Teatro. Cano saw a reading of Cesar de Maria's play The Journey of the Saint in Peru. de Maria is a prolific Peruvian playwright and Cano was drawn to translate this absurd, comic journey of some bones of a Saint across seas and mountains and rivers to reach seekers in Peru who wanted to worship her.

The script pokes gentle fun at theater and its ability to create "magical" effects by having theater impresario Tomaso (Paul Sobrie) tell a story of how many times he'd been asked to create "miracles" for his local church leaders so their flock would be impressed and adhere to their religious order better. And Juan Del Camina (Pablo Lopez) is an actor who has vowed to Heaven to no longer lie - so does that mean he has to stop acting?

It's an improbable tale told with pageantry, lots of props, and suspension of audience belief.  With a hearty band of ensemble players, beautiful music contributed by Meg Savlov, and a quick 90 minutes, this journey may make you think about how much people desire magic and miracles in their lives.

For more information, go to

Thursday, September 13, 2018

“Waitress” – A Little Sour with the Sweet Bakes Up Nicely

Charity Angel Dawson, Desi Oakley, Lenne Klingaman in Waitress (Joan Marcus)

Paramount Theatre
Through September 16, 2018

Waitress, a small indie film by Adrienne Shelly, about a pie-making waitress who is unhappily pregnant with her abusive husband, was turned into a celebrated musical by Sara Bareilles (music and lyrics) and Jessie Nelson (book), which debuted in 2015 and moved to Broadway in 2016. Part of the particular legacy of that musical is that it was also directed and choreographed by women, making it the only Broadway musical in history to have such a plethora female energy.

It’s essentially billed as a comedy, but there are a lot of dark parts to it, as well. Though Jenna, the waitress, and Earl, her ne’er-do-well husband are said to have begun their relationship as teenagers, Earl has clearly become more dangerous and abusive. The musical also makes it clear that Jenna’s mother and father were immersed in an abusive situation that hits at the heart.

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

“Native Gardens” says "Don’t Fence Me In"

Cast of Native Gardens (Naomi Ishisaka)
Native Gardens
Intiman Theatre
(at Jones Playhouse)
Through September 30, 2018

Oh, the difficulties with neighbors! Have you ever moved into a new house and shortly afterward figured out that the perimeter of your plot shows that the next door neighbors have encroached a few inches or feet over your plot line? It’s actually not all that uncommon. That’s what happens to Pablo and Tania del Valle in Karen Zacarias’ play, Native Gardens.

You can see how they handle their dilemma in Intiman’s smart, funny production housed at the Jones Playhouse. The crackerjack cast of Phillip Ray Guevara as Pablo, Sophie Franco as Tania, Julie Briskman as Virginia and Jim Gall as Frank (with some help from Gloria Alcala and Yolanda Suarez) handle all the angst and banter with perfect comic timing.

Thursday, September 06, 2018

New Village AD Jerry Dixon Envisions Musical Theater’s Future

Jerry Dixon (Serge Nivelle)

Wouldn’t it be such divine fun to have one of our local musicals headlined by Mario Cantone as the lead? Alas – I’ve been informed by a close source that Mario would rather not work that much and if he does work, he goes for big bucks to make it “count.” 

Who’s my “in the know”? Why, it’s his husband, the new artistic director of Village Theatre: Jerry Dixon! He’s a pretty good source!

SGN got to sit down with Mr. Dixon to have an extensive and wide-ranging chit chat about the shape of Musical Theater and what might be coming down the pike. Mr. Dixon is a powerfully intellectual thinker with deep appreciation for the collaborative art that is theater and few limits on visions for the kinds of people he’ll meet as a new ambassador for Village work in the future.

SGN spoke to Dixon…. Ok, I’m switching to “I” and “Jerry”…. Here is a little primer on Jerry Dixon: Wikipedia says he is an “actor, director, lyricist, choreographer, and composer best known for his work on the Broadway stage.” He married Mario Cantone in 2011, having been constant companions for 20 years by then!