The Boy Friend at Renton Civic Theatre in Renton, WA

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I closed out my weekend of theatre at Renton Civic Theatre to see their production of The Boy Friend, a story of a young girl, Polly, in 1920s France who is at a finishing school hoping to find herself a boyfriend so that she can end up married.  She fabricates a boyfriend until she falls for a delivery boy, Tony, whom she lies to about her identity because she’s a very wealthy heiress, and is afraid to tell him the truth for fear of him wanting her for her money.  Unbeknownst to her, he is also in disguise, as the son of an English Lord, which of course, is a wonderful thing to find out as that’s how Brits made marriages back in the day.  He has a title, she has money…a perfect match!

These young star-crossed lovers are surrounded by a cast of characters, one more unforgettable than the next, because this production was absolutely awful.  Let’s start with the fact that it’s a musical.  Therefore the music should be done well.  It was not.  Not from the pit, not from the stage, not from anywhere!  It sounded atrocious.  Music Director Aimee Hong took on the roles of music direction, conducting and playing keyboards, and I feel this was too much.  For a show of this magnitude, I was surprised to see Ms. Hong listed as playing the keyboard as well as conducting.  Perhaps if she streamlined her focus to conducting, and hired a piano player she could focus more on perfecting the music so that it’s pleasing to the ear.

Add to that, the fact that this is an old-school musical where it’s mostly singing and dancing, and by dancing I mean tapping, and this cast of 19 had maybe 4 people who could tap, and the rest couldn’t tap if their lives depended on it, and yet, all of them tapped so much.  Sooooooooo very much, it killed me!  Note to theatre-makers out there…if you’re going to do a tap show and you don’t get tappers out, only let the ones tap who know what they are doing and please, for the love of all that his holy, don’t showcase your worst dancers by placing them in the front and/or in white tights and black shoes to show off how terribly off the beat they are!  I’ve choreographed many a show in my day, mostly for community theatre shows, so there is a way to choreograph novice dancers in a dance heavy show, but the choreographer of this show clearly had no idea how to do that.

This is the type of show that needs a Director/Choreographer, and yet Renton Civic split those roles, to the detriment of both people tasked with these jobs.  I have no idea what the director, John Kelleher, actually had to direct, because by my count there was about 3.5 minutes of the 2.5 hour show that wasn’t dancing and singing.  This left nothing but stage time for Taylor Davis to create, and in my opinion, she failed miserably.  The choreography was too difficult for most of the dancers in her cast, repetitive choreography that was boring in so many parts, and too many people were dancing on that stage.  But the biggest shocker was she did have one phenomenal tapper in her cast, Miss Erin Glaman, who was buried in the chorus for most of the show save for one small duet where she was barely allowed to tap at all!  Made no sense to me.

Honestly, Ms. Glaman out-sang, out-danced and out-acted everyone, including the lead, and I’m not quite sure why she wasn’t cast as Polly, especially given that she’s actually the age Polly is supposed to be, but only the production staff knows what goes on around a casting table.  She was one of only two shining lights in the cast for me.  I look forward to seeing Ms. Glaman in more shows, as she’s only 17 years old, so well done, Ms. Glaman!  Good for you!

The other was Marc “Mok” Moser as Percival Browne, Polly’s father.  He was delightful, and the only actor on that stage who fully understood the presentational style needed for this style of musical.  None of the young actors had a clue how to do the presentational style they were directed to do, and I’m not sure if that’s a fail on the part of Mr. Kelleher or on the cast not knowing how to interpret his direction.  Either way, it drove me nuts!  But Mr. Moser’s scenes were quite wonderful so I am glad I stayed for the whole show to see his full performance.  And believe me, it was tough to do, as bad as this show was.

Did not like this show.  Was not entertained hardly at all.  And the sad state of the music alone will have me hesitating to go back to a Renton Civic show.  The cast looked like they were having a good time out there, but this critic was left seriously disappointed.

Ciao for now,

M sm

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Noises Off at SecondStory Repertory in Redmond, WA

Entertainment Review, play review, Theatre Review

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Noises Off by Michael Frayn is one of my all time favorite plays!  So, to say I am more judgmental of productions of shows I love is a major understatement.  And we all know I’m not shy about letting you know when I hate something.  Well, I’m also ready to shout from the rooftops when I love something, and I absolutely friggin loved SecondStory Rep’s production of Noises Off!!!!  It was sooooooooooooooo good!

Noises Off is a play within a play type of show.  The audience gets the joy of watching a goofy, quirky group of British actors rehearsing a play called Nothing On!  You get a look at all the magic that goes in to getting a play ready for an audience complete with a frustrated director, confused actors, exhausted stage hands, and egos everywhere!  Relationships that form within a tight knit cast is a very real thing, and Mr. Frayn exploits this in the best way possible!

These relationships take you on quite the journey that is a marathon of a show, not a sprint.  When you combine the heavy line load for the actors, the physical decathlon that the director has to create with staging all three parts, and the complication of the turning of the ENTIRE set, you have on hell of a show to pull off.  Well, Executive Artistic Director, Mark Chenovik put together an amazing production staff who then cast one of the best ensembles I’ve seen in a long time to more than pull this show off!

Let’s start with the set.  Unbelievable!  Amazing!  Phenomenal!  If you’ve never been to SecondStory, let me tell you this is not a big theatre.  The stage area is not that big, and I had no idea how they were going to manage to create a set large enough to hold this ensemble with all the ‘bathrooms and doors’ necessary for the story, not to mention then turn the sucker around for the second part, and then put it back for part three!  And yet….oh, and yet….it was done beautifully!  It was a masterpiece, and I am so glad I got to witness how it was done!  If you go see this show…or actually, WHEN, when you go see this show, when intermission rolls around, don’t go out to the lobby, instead stay in your seat and watch the magic that Mr. Chenovick and Jen Klos, Managing Director, pull off with just the help of one crew person.  BRAVO!!!

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Now, on to the rest of the production team.  Kevin Miller directed this beautifully.  Noises Off is great if one just lets it be what it is supposed to be, which is British farce/comedy, and Mr. Miller did just that.  He also cast a fantastic group of actors to tackle this beast and each actor was cast perfectly!  The costumes were delightful, the dialect was spot on with all of them, and every production element was on point!  Well done!

11390177_1008334859199918_5270324249647657058_nThe ensemble was pure magic.  Every single one of them had specific character development, wonderful line readings, and delicious chemistry.  They listened to each other, leaned in to each other, and played off each other so well, it was wonderful to watch.  Calling out standout performances is like trying to decide who is a better broadway diva, Patti LuPone or Alan Cumming!  But, I did have my favorites.  Sara Trowbridge as Belinda was simply spectacular!  I loved her high brow accent, her nosy nature, and her hilarious ability to manage Selsdon.  Additionally, her husband Freddie, played by Jaryl Draper, was wonderfully understated, deliciously dense, and 11537691_1008335015866569_3664335612755172545_nfantastically lovable.  And Dan Davidson as Tim was simply everything.  He was so brilliantly cast in this part, simply reacting to
all the madness going on around him in the most hilarious way!  He brought to life a character that can often get lost in this sea of dynamic roles, and yet Tim is the one I gushed about with friends after the show because Mr. Davidson committed to that character so completely, I was simply blown away!  Bravo to the entire cast for stellar performances all around!  You should all be very proud to be a part of this show, and I thank you for bringing it to life so beautifully.

Noises Off will continue to make audiences laugh through July 5th.  You should go get tickets now, because once the word is out, this show is going to sell out!  Ticket and show time information can be found on SecondStory’s website.

Loved this! So very much!  Please go see this show and support this wonderful cast and crew!

Ciao for now,

M sm

Photos from SecondStory Repertory’s Facebook page, credit to Michael Brunk