Monday, December 24, 2018

The Dina Martina Christmas Show Arrives at ACT Theatre

Dina Martina (courtesy Dina Martina)
The Dina Martina Christmas Show
ACT Theatre
Through December 24, 2018

Dina Martina is celebrating her 20th year of producing a Christmas extravaganza with her now-world-wide known persona. Off-stage, Martina-creator Grady West is likely one of those quiet types that doesn’t attract a great deal of public notice when sipping coffee in a shop somewhere. But Dina enters with panache and splash and attempts to win the audience over with a combination of bad pronunciations, off-key singing, and generally groan-worthy jokes. And that is all on purpose.

For the last bunch of years, her show has been a complete sell-out in the squished and run-down performance space at Seedle’s (Dina’s way of saying Seattle) beloved ReBar. It’s become a holiday tradition to pack into those hard folding chairs, grab a bunch of drinks and let Dina mash up her stories and forget lyrics to songs.

This year, it’s her first celebration at ACT Theatre, where her costumes have gotten even better, and the set is quite a real set, with faux paintings, a real movie screen for segments of moving pictures, and room for a grand piano for the grand Chris Jeffries, Dina’s “adult prodigy” musical accompanist, to play.

Friday, December 14, 2018

The Heart of “My Ántonia” Beats in the Heartland

Tim Gouran and Nabilah Ahmen in My Antonia (John Ulman)
My Ántonia
Book-It Repertory Theatre
Through December 30, 2018

Willa Cather’s best-known novel is My Ántonia. She wrote movingly about the vast heartland of the United States plains and the joys and hardships of living in the sparsely populated and wild-weathered countryside. She wrote in a kind of spare, nature-loving way about the people who lived there and their ways of thinking and thriving.

Annie Lareau loved the book and adapted it for first production with Book-It Repertory Theatre back in 2008. It won a lot of critical praise and recognition at that time and Book-It decided to bring it back this year, with Lareau directing.

Lareau writes in the program that she long thought of the story about making a “home” for oneself and, this year, realized the connection to the current issues around immigration and integration that are so politically potent. This is what comes across most strongly in the production, this year. It is so palpably about the difficulties of leaving one’s homeland to make a new life in a new and strange land.

Thursday, December 13, 2018

“Veils” – One of the Best Plays of 2018

Alaji and Fathiya Ritter in Veils (Joe Iano)
Macha Theatre Works
(at West of Lenin)
Through December 16, 2018

You can tell that Macha’s production of Tom Coash’s play, Veils, was made with love. They took great care to cast two talented women actors who are also of appropriate ethnic background to the characters (Arab or Muslim) – Alaji and Fathiya Ritter, and hired a newly transplanted-from-California Arab director, Lia Sima Fakhouri.  

They added set designer Parmida Ziaei, who created a dorm room that seamlessly transformed into a hotel room, fun college-age appropriate costuming by Sadiqua Iman, and solid sound design by Johanna Melamed and lighting by Zanna King. Projections are important in this production and were perfected by Suzi Tucker – one of the talented projection-creators in town, in case you weren’t aware.

Saturday, December 08, 2018

“Annie” Gets It Done!

Cynthia Jones as Miss Hannigan (Tracy Martin)
The 5th Avenue Theatre
Through December 30, 2018

Annie, the musical, may be 40 plus years old, but since it started life as a “period piece,” set in 1933, it feels as fresh as the day it was written. Sure, it elevates an oligarch to hero status, though he only “saves” one orphan on Christmas, but if you look past that part to the simple story of people finding those who need them, it’s warmly inviting and a bit tear-inducing.

Part of the huge success of Annie has been the music. It contains iconic songs that people have grown up with for so many years now that the whole audience can practically break out singing with the cast. Song titles you would recognize include: Tomorrow, Hard Knock Life, Maybe, N.Y.C. and Easy Street!

The story, based on a long-running cartoon strip, Little Orphan Annie, focuses on a sturdy 11-year-old girl in an orphanage who was dropped off at birth with a letter from her parents saying they would be back to pick her up. Annie (played by Faith Young the night reviewed, who nails the sturdiness and has solid vocals) longs for her parents to come back, but weathers the antics of the horrid Ms. Hannigan (a comedy-turn-gem by Cynthia Jones) who takes care of the orphanage.

Tuesday, December 04, 2018

December 2018 Theater Openings

Dina Martina (David Belisle)

Most years, the town provides a mix of holiday material and counter-programming for those who want to avoid it. The counter-programming is a bit sparse this year, but along with the reprises at ACT Theatre (A Chrismas Carol) and Seattle Public (Christmastown), here is a list of productions you might want to check out:

A Very Die Hard Christmas, The Habit Comedy and Seattle Public Theater, 12/1-23/18
From the comedy writers that have had Seattle in stitches for years, comes A Very Die Hard Christmas, a new musical parody. Sketch writers from The Habit team up with Seattle Public Theater to create a new holiday comedy perfect for those who like their Christmas entertainment with lots of action, 80s jokes, smooth soft rock jams, and snarky German terrorists.

A Charlie Brown Christmas, Taproot Theatre. 12/1-27/18
The all-ages holiday tradition is back! Charlie Brown is depressed by the never-ending commercialism surrounding the holidays. Thankfully, Linus is there to help him find the true meaning of Christmas in this musical adaptation of the cartoon classic.

Saturday, December 01, 2018

Charmed, I’m Sure, with “Miss Bennet: Christmas at Pemberley”

Shanna Allman and Calder Shilling in Miss Bennet: Christmas at Pemberley (Erik Stuhaug)
Miss Bennet: Christmas at Pemberley
Taproot Theatre
Through December 29, 2018

Have you ever daydreamed about what might have happened to the Bennet sisters after Jane Austin’s book, Pride and Prejudice, ended? Have you longed to spend more time with the family and wished to know more of their stories? If so, you’re in a bit of luck if you head over to Taproot Theatre for a holiday-light production of Lauren Gunderson and Margo Melcon’s play, Miss Bennet: Christmas at Pemberley.

If you know nothing else about the play, you can guess at several aspects. There will be some silly characters doing some silly things, a fair amount of good humor and some family squabble or other, and generally smart dialogue and, finally, a happy ending. It’s Christmas, after all, and a sad ending just won’t do.