Wednesday, January 08, 2020

A Decade of Great Seattle Theater: 2010-2019

Lorenzo Roberts and Jarrod M. Smith in The Royale
at ACT (Chris Bennion)

The change in decade brings to mind reflecting on the decade past and the concept of something that endures. Often, we have experiences that stick to us and influence us and theater often has that effect on people. If you take a little poll, a lot of your friends and family could likely relate to you a cultural experience that felt so full and connecting that it remains a solid memory today. Some people’s early experiences with theater even changed the trajectory of their choice of careers!

I thought I’d look back on the “Best Of” articles from each year and reflect on those memories and what still sticks out today as a significant memory that defies the passing of years. I hope you’ll join me in revisiting significant productions. I’ll quote myself liberally from back then.

Plays –
Bradford Farwell was riveting as mathematician Alan Turing in Breaking the Code” by Strawberry Theatre Workshop. “Gin Hammond’s one-woman play Returning the Bones was masterfully performed with her exceptional abilities.” Note: “Gin Hammond brought back her astonishing family story in 2019, courtesy of Book-It Repertory Theatre. It was an honor to see it and her again.”

“The unforgettable Condola Rashad brought the Congo to Intiman Theatre in Ruined and sang her way into our hearts. Intiman’s A Doctor In Spite of Himself (which starred Daniel Breaker) wasn’t really a Moliere translation as much as an homage to the great writer, but Moliere would likely have rolled in the aisles as this ensemble romped on the gorgeous set, shook their wonderful wigs, and cracked each other up.”

Musicals –
“Eric Ankrim showed us his strength with prince-and-pauper tricks in Village Theatre’s The Gypsy King.”

Local Playwriting –
Scotto Moore’s When I Come to My Senses, I’m Alive at Annex Theatre, was a not-so-distant-future science fiction exploration about being able to record someone’s emotions and then give them to an audience to feel (for a fee)!”

Wednesday, January 01, 2020

Seattle’s Best Theater of 2019

Sunam Ellis and Ayo Tushinde in Sheathed
(Laura Dux Photography)
A moment from Indecent at Seattle Repertory Theatre (Bronwen Houck)
It’s the time of year for idiosyncratic lists of “bests” summing up the last 12 months. It’s time to celebrate the strength and vitality of the theater scene that is the greater Seattle area! As I assembled my list for 2019, what jumps out for me has been the inclusion of live music as a significant production element in some of this year’s top plays.

The Top of the List:
While there was, as always, some terrific work on stage, I am celebrating two works in particular as the kind of theater that I long to see every time. Indecent at Seattle Repertory Theatre was full of everything brilliant about theater. The subject matter packed in layer upon layer by the brilliant Paula Vogel. The execution by director Sheila Daniels and an absolutely sublime cast. The best technical support and a trio of musicians that had to act, sing and move around a stage like no one’s business! It was not without trepidations that I became an audience member, but I left bursting with feelings and ideas that continue to weave through my mind.

In a very different, wonderful way, the new work, Sheathed, by inventive and lovely (local!) playwright Maggie Lee, was a wholly new work of essentially sci-fi fantasy, where strong sword-fighting women (Ayo Tushinde and Sunam Ellis) quested and struggled with deep questions of vengeance versus reconciliation. Adding to the atmosphere of this Macha Theatre Works production, live music by Leanna Keith also enlivened the event in essential ways.

Friday, December 27, 2019

January 2020 Theater Openings – Ripe for an Adventurous New Year!

Eric Ankrim and Allison Standley in She Loves Me at Village Theatre (Danielle Barnum)

January theater openings ramp back up in the usual robust way with significant world premiere productions, classics in both plays and musicals, and lots of politics! If you can’t find something that appeals to you, you just aren’t looking! Make your New Year resolution to go to a production from a company you’ve never tried before, or never heard of before! Get your adventuresome calendars out!

The Rivals at Seattle Shakespeare Company (HMMM Productions)
The Rivals, Seattle Shakespeare Company, 1/7/20-2/2/20
Not by Shakespeare, but by Richard Sheridan, an 18th Century reverie on the elusive magic of true love filled with extravagant characters and hilarious circumstances. Young and wealthy Lydia Languish insists on finding and marrying a poor man for the sake of true love. Captain Jack Absolute pretends to be a poor army officer. Aiding and thwarting Jack’s pursuit are a collection of comic characters including his cranky father, Sir Anthony, Lydia’s meddling and misspoken aunt, Mrs. Malaprop, and a pair of adversaries: the jovial Bob Acres and the salty Sir Lucius O’Trigger. Director George Mount and his design team create a twist to the story that involves both the original setting in the 1780s and the 1980s.

Reparations, Sound Theatre Company, 1/8/20-2/2/20 (world premiere) (at Langston Hughes Performing Arts Institute)
The idea of reparations (making some repayment to progeny of those brought as slaves to our country) resonates now more than ever as we navigate questions of ownership and accountability within ourselves, society and the American government at large. By examining the secrets and traumas we carry in our bloodlines, playwright Darren Canady urges us to inch closer and closer to decolonizing and deconstructing the dominant narrative.

Wednesday, December 18, 2019

Charming “Mrs. Doubtfire” Needs Fixes For Broadway

Rob McClure is Mrs. Doubtfire (Tracy Martin)
Mrs. Doubtfire
5th Avenue Theatre
Through January 4, 2020

There is a huge trend in recent years to turn movies into stage musicals. Some end up in the trash heap of historical flops (think Flashdance – the awful musical that toured into the Paramount in 2013). Recently, Tootsie the Musical gained a Broadway run for a time and now the 5th Avenue Theatre is hosting the out-of-town warm-up of Mrs. Doubtfire (the musical) before it enters the competitive Broadway world in February, 2020.

What that means is that right here in our fair city, you can see essentially the Broadway show just before it hits New York! So, the stellar cast, headed by multi-talented Rob McClure, already celebrated for his popular Broadway turn in Something Rotten, is here in Seattle strutting their stuff in what is sure to be very close to what people in Broadway theater will see.

There is no doubt that the cast of this show is top-notch. While adapting a tour-de-force performance by Robin Williams in the film into a stage musical was no sure thing, I can report that there are some very solid belly laughs to be had in this surprisingly charming show.

McClure demonstrates his talents throughout, and dominates the show. He juggles, he sings, he dances, he changes clothes and voices and personas, and all are excellently done!

Friday, December 06, 2019

It’s Definitely December! (Stage Openings)

The cast of The Bishop's Wife at Taproot (Erik Stuhaug)

As we close out the year and wait for the holidays, there are reprises galore and some counter-programming for those needing a break from the routine. Here are some of the productions opening in December.

The Bishop’s Wife: A Live Radio Play, Taproot Theatre, 12/1-28/19
Based on the classic Lux Radio Theatre broadcast starring Cary Grant, this original adaptation of the beloved holiday tale, adapted by Karen and Mark Lund, will fill you with warmth and nostalgia for the golden age of radio. Dudley is an angel and the answer to Bishop Brougham’s prayer to build a new cathedral. But when the angel turns his attention to the bishop’s friends and family, Dudley’s minor miracles require divine intervention.
The cast of A Very Die Hard Christmas at SPT(Truman Buffett)
A Very Die Hard Christmas, The Habit Comedy and Marxiano Productions, 12/1-28/19 (at the Bathhouse Theater)
This musical parody borrows from the iconic film and promises lots of action, 80s jokes, smooth soft rock jams, and snarky German terrorists.

Tuesday, December 03, 2019

“Howls Moving Castle” Casts a Charming Spell

Rachel Guyer-Mafune and cast in Howl's Moving Castle (Aaron Wheetman)
Howl’s Moving Castle
Book-It Repertory Theatre
Through December 29, 2019

A charming-though-complicated musical, Howl’s Moving Castle, has been crafted from a complicated book and is now making an updated and streamlined presentation at Book-It Repertory Theatre. Justin Huertas (music and lyrics) and Myra Platt (book adaptation) have mostly successfully captured the story, though if they’d trim a few more confusing details, it would feel a little less overwhelming to audiences that don’t already know the book or the movie.

The story focuses on the Hatter family, the mother, Fanny (Alyssa Keene), and daughters Sophie (Rachel Guyer-Mafune), Lettie (Fawn Ledesma), and Martha (Varinique “V” Davis). In the land of Ingary, a kingdom of magical properties where the story takes place, everyone has a particular job to do. Fanny decides that Lettie should apprentice at a bakery, Martha should learn spells, and Sophie should help run their hat shop. Sophie thinks her lot in life is to “never be successful” and tries to resign herself to it.