Hey Guys, Wanna See Some Raw Emotion?

Dance Show Promotional, Entertainment Review

I’ve been given the gift of getting to know the Whim W’Him Dance Company on an intimate level.  They have been gracious enough to invite me into their rehearsal space, and been brave enough to let me watch them create, explore and inspire, and every time I go, I am never quite ready for how profoundly they move me.

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Artistic Director, Olivier Wevers works with Tory Peil and Patrick Kilbane   

The rehearsal I saw was for Artistic Director, Olivier Wevers’new creation: A Disagreeable Tale of Duplicity.  People, the Maestro has outdone himself with this piece, and I was blown away by what I saw, because what he has created is 100% pure raw emotion.  It’s haunting and stunning at the same time, and that was before it was fully cleaned, fully developed, and fully ready for an audience.  I can’t even imagine how breathtaking and heartbreaking the final work will be, but I can’t wait to find out.

I don’t want to give away too much, but I really want to talk to you about the bravery of The Maestro and his dancers.  This piece feels very personal, as it takes on the theme of love, both found and lost, and the impact both can have on a person as they wander, both happily and torturously through the garden that love grows.  The Maestro has cut himself open with his choreography, and is bleeding all over the stage with complete artistic abandon.  His characters beautifully and fully developed, his story hauntingly clear, his genius alive and all encompassing…you do not want to miss this!

But a choreographer’s vision can only go so far if he or she does not have dancers willing to go there as well. And by there, I mean complete and utter vulnerability and courage.  And for this story to work, it needs a brave and charismatic anchor, and The Maestro has that in the beautiful, powerful and brilliant Tory Peil.  This artist, because that is what she is!  This artist physically embodies dance, and on top of her impeccable technique and stunning lines, this chick has the ability to sink so deeply into a character that you completely lose the dancer and just, quite literally feel the dance.   Without a doubt you will see and feel whatever she desires that you see and feel because she has your very soul in the palm of her hand, and with every flick of her gorgeous feet, every deep exhale of her powerful breath, and every nuance of her body, you will be pushed to your emotional limits.  And in this piece, she takes you on an emotional journey so raw, so real, vulgar at times and excruciatingly tender at others, that I guarantee you will not be the same person you were when you walked in to the Cornish Playhouse to see this show.  She brought tears to my eyes during a rehearsal and I had to fight to keep from ugly girl crying right there, and I fear that she is going to make me sob come opening night, and I eagerly anticipate the cleansing!

Ms. Peil is surrounded by the rest of the WWDC dancers, and the company all play a part in her journey, some driving her story, some affecting it, some torturing it, and others helping her through it.  But regardless of their role, each and every one of them provide a foundation by which Ms. Peil can fully let go, fully immerse herself into this story the Maestro has created on her, because her company fully has her supported and the trust between them all is simply beautiful to behold.  I’d love to go into details, but trust me, you don’t want me to spoil it.  You want to experience this brilliance and bravery for yourself.

I will be at Whim W’Him’s OUT-spoken to not only see The Maestro’s genius, but to also see the wonderful works I’ve no doubt are waiting for me from James Gregg and Annabelle Lopez Ochoa (who I hope to meet this time around, not only to see her amazing work because I’m a huge fan, but also to find out what it was like to work on Intensio, because Daniil Simkin is my spirit animal!)

This show is not one to be missed, so please, please, please join me for this performance!  Me and my darling +1 will be there on June 3rd, opening night, and I would very much like to experience it with all of you as well!!  Won’t you join us??!!?!!?!  Show time and ticket information can be found on Whim W’Him’s website, so please give yourself the gift of pure art, and join me in celebrating dance in Seattle!

I wish Mr. Gregg, Ms. Lopez Ochoa, the Maestro, the dancers, and the entire Whim W’Him

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Tory Peil and Patrick Kilbane

family a gigantic Merde!  I will be there cheering you on opening night, and look forward to the art that only you can create!

Ciao for now,

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All Photos by Bamberg Fine Art

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Assassins at ACT Theatre: Kill Me Now!

Entertainment Review, Musical Theatre Review, Theatre Review

I used to think I was a Stephen Sondheim fan through and through, but there a few of his shows that I encounter that make me wonder what the hell he was smoking when he wrote it, and Assassins is one of those shows for me.  Now, much like Sweeney Todd, I realize I just don’t like this show’s concept or story (and I use the term story loosely as the plot for this show is nonexistent), and the music doesn’t do enough for me to make the weak book worth sitting through.

Perhaps it was because, at the request of my +1, I sat in the first row of the balcony, so I wasn’t able to see the acting head on, or perhaps it was because everyone else who I know saw this show raved about it so my expectations were too high, or maybe it was just an off night for this clearly talented cast as it was a Thursday night…I don’t know, all I know is I was no where near entertained; in fact I was bored out of my mind the entire time. So bored, I just felt like Cumberbatch in that one episode of Sherlock, you know the one where he shoots the wall out of boredom.  Sadly, with all the guns in the room, none were available to me to put myself out of my misery with having to sit through Assassins.

There is no intermission in this show, which is a bummer, cuz trust me, I would not have stayed for a second act.  And never one to be shy about leaving in a blackout, but again, as I was my +1s ride, I couldn’t just walk out like I wanted to, so I suffered through the entire show, and here are my thoughts in quick and dirty form, as I don’t really want to relive that experience too vividly:

1. Most of the characters are forgettable, their stories told through one scene into one song, and then on to the next assassin.

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The standout acting chops for me go to Kendra Kassebaum, who played Sara Jane Moore.  Ms. Kassebaum was so committed to her character, so consistent in her choices, I was impressed with her performance

I also thoroughly enjoyed Brandon O’Neill as Leon Czolgosz.  Mr. O’Neill’s monologue
delivery tugged on my heartstrings, and his confession of love to Emma Goldman was hauntingly beautiful.

2. On the flip side, the worst performance of the night for me went to Laura Griffith, playing Lynette “Squeaky” Fromme, as she was NOT in good voice that night.  Off pitch, off key, and offensive to my ears, I literally cringed as she sang, and as her commitment to her character was so strong, she practically screamed every note when she sang and it was excruciating.  Louder isn’t better, just FYI.

I also really didn’t enjoy Louis Hobson’s John Wilkes Booth.  There was an awful accent problem going on…sometimes British, sometimes Southern, sometimes PNW non-accent…it was annoying.  Hard to pay attention to the songs sung by Mr. Hobson when you don’t believe his character at all.

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3. Vocally the cast was on point (save Ms. Griffith), and there’s one 4 part harmony section sung by Mr. Hobson (Booth), Mr. O’Neill (Czolgosz), Ms. Kassebaum (Moore), and Richard Gray, who played Charles Guiteau.  Great vocal number, Ms. Kassebaum stole the scene with her impeccable acting score.

4. With a minimal set, and singular costume choices for the cast, shined a light on the performances, and all elements were just kind of meh.

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5. That theatre is entirely too small for the loudness of the gunshots going on, so rather than have a realistic impact, it just added to the overdone/trying-too-hard feel of this performance.

6. You know a show is boring when the biggest reaction from the audience is when Lee Harvey Oswald’s windows came up out of the floor.  That theatre magic got more oohs and ahhs than any number performed.  And the actors could tell, cuz most of them were just trying too hard to get reactions, which just perpetuated the problem.

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7. When a show happens on a night where at 8pm it’s 60 degrees outside, would be great if the theatre would kick on the air conditioning, cuz it was like watching a show from a theatre in hell.  It was so effing hot in the balcony, which definitely didn’t help how much I loathed this experience!

Maybe I just saw a bad night of this show, because the friends who told me it was good are theatre lovers, so they should know if it sucks.  But for me, this show sucked, was a waste of my time, and I am seriously sad about the two hours of my life I’ll never get back.

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On the other hand, good to know that now Assassins is just a show I don’t enjoy.  The music is dull, the plot is non-existent, and the ridiculously long drawn out monologues drag you along with them at the pace of molasses in January, that I was literally counting the minutes until I could get out of there!  And musically there were many moments that sounded so very familiar, meaning they were basically a poor-man’s Into The Woods when it comes to rhythm and message.  And I’d have given anything for a witch to come out and zap them all in the groin just to add a little action and plot depth to this dull show.

I love ACT Theatre, and this is the first time I’ve ever not enjoyed a show there, although it’s also the first time I’ve ever seen a musical there.  I have come to know ACT as one of, if not the best straight playhouse in Seattle, and even though I didn’t enjoy Assassins, I’m very much looking forward to seeing Stupid F*cking Bird there in a few weeks.  I never avoid a theatre due to a bad production here and there, but I will avoid Assassins in the future no matter what!

And if perhaps I just happened to attend on an off night, well then shame on those actors, because those of us who paid on Thursday should get as quality of a show as those who paid on a Saturday.  Get it together, people!

Based on my experience, I’d skip this one if I were you, because clearly I can’t guarantee you’ll get a good show.  However, if you do go, and have a totally different experience than I did, I’d love to hear about it.

I give this a should-have-left-in-a-blackout disappointed glare.  200_s-2.gif

Assassins plays through May 8, and ticket and showtime information can be found on ACT’s website.

Ciao for now,

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Through Control and the Forehead, NW Dance Project’s Louder Than Words was Epic!

Dance Review

Portland is about 3 hours away, by car, from Seattle, and there are few things that would entice me to make that drive knowing that I have to turn around and come back the same day.  And the thing at the top of that enticing list is NW Dance Project.

You’ll recall I raved about this brilliant company in my last review of them back in October, and I had no doubt this show would be as wonderful as that one. However, I was shocked and awed this go round, because this show, titled Louder Than Words, is the best piece of art I have seen since I took fingertips to keys to start this blog!  I was not prepared for the impact each choreographer would have on me, both as a dance lover and as a human being.  My only regret is that I’m only ever able to see these shows on closing night, because I wish I could see it early enough to tell you about it and have you get the chance to experience it yourself.  But since that is not an option, let me walk you through the mesmerizing brilliance of three spectacular choreographers:  Alex Soares, Sarah Slipper, and Ihsan Rustem.

The first piece of the night was titled Trace in Loss, and was choreographed by Alex Soares and took the audience on a journey through three phases of a relationship, and was danced  beautifully by Samantha Campbell, Elija Labay (still have a huge crush on this one!), Franco Nieto, Andrea Parson, Viktor Usov and Ching Ching Wong.  The movement Mr. Soares placed on these six stunning dancers was as bold as it was bashful, as controlled as it was charismatic, and as delicate as it was daring.  The first phase took us through the beginning of love; that delicious time where you’re exploring and learning about your lover, falling deeper the more you learn.  The second phase told the story of friction when in love; possibly betrayal, definitely anger the more you learn.  And finally, the end of a relationship; perhaps through death or through walking away, but loss none the less.  The story was so clear, the choreography so perfectly placed on individual dancers, the collaboration of this company and Mr. Soares was breathtaking to behold.

The two themes throughout this entire show that impacted me the most were control and the forehead.  Mr. Soares introduced both to me in this piece, because there were so many phrases where the dancers, the female dancers especially, would hold seemingly impossible positions effortlessly, with complete control.  And then in the middle phrase where the anger came in, the push and pull of control within the movement, and with each other, Mr. Usov and Ms. Wong blew my mind!  And the final phrase, loss of control over the relationship’s mere existence mirrored in the movement.  Stunning all the way around.

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NW Dance Project,Dress rehearsal,”Louder Than Words”,Choreographers: Sarah Slipper, Ihsan Rustem, Alex Soares

And the forehead, Mr. Soares had so many moments where the male dancer would touch his female partner’s forehead with his palm; sometimes leading her, sometimes caressing her, and sometimes violently pushing her away.  The forehead is such an intimate place to be touched.  We all know the impact of someone kissing us on the forehead.  Buddhists greet each other by touching foreheads.  It’s a connection that Mr. Soares really played with beautifully in his piece and it really spoke to me.

Lastly, I want to mention that Mr. Soares, along with lighting designer Jeff Forbes, utilized a white draped fabric with a projector behind it which gave the most intense geographic shapes on to the screen that enhanced each phrase in the most beguiling way, especially the end moment where a relationship ended amidst the lights.  It was absolutely brilliant!  I’m an instant fan of Mr. Soares and hope to see more of his work in the future.

The second piece, titled Airys, was choreographed by NW Dance Project’s Artistic Director, Sarah Slipper, and people, this piece, this glorious piece literally knocked the wind out of me with its power and beauty.  I didn’t know anything about the story going in, but afterwards, in speaking with Ms. Slipper, she told me she was inspired by news footage of the war in Syria, where a female reporter was inside the war torn area, and behind her was a woman holding her dying child who had been mortally wounded in the bombings.  The child died during that broadcast, and it impacted Ms. Slipper right down to her soul.  The next day, the female reporter was killed as well, and all of that loss, all of that violence, all of that sorrow inspired Ms. Slipper to create one of the most hauntingly stunning pieces I’ve ever seen.

The piece opens with two black curtains draped from the ceiling to the stage floor, and they are placed in such a way that depending on where you are sitting will determine how much of the dancing you will see.  From my seat I could see the featured dancer in this piece, Andrea Parson performing phrase after gracefully controlled phrase in a soft light wash.  However, those to my right couldn’t see her at all, and I could hear murmurings from the audience members expressing their frustration with not being able to see what was going on.  It was in that moment, I realized, that was Ms. Slipper’s intention.  She didn’t want everyone to see the same thing.  She wanted limited views, limited frustrations, because that energy fed the story being told on stage.

Ms. Parson, oh Ms. Parson, this sensational dancer, ebbed and flowed through this piece, a dazzling combination of control and emotion, so in the moment during every phrase, she literally stole my breath.  The rest of the company, dancing in and around Ms. Parson added to the story in the most impactful way.  They physically embodied struggle, heartbreak, loss and fear.  One phrase, with Ms. Parson downstage twisting and turning, all the while the company running around the stage in a group, lost, as if not knowing where they would be safe, eventually pulling Ms. Parson into their herd.  And as the audience, you just want them to find a safe place!

The curtains eventually fall in two large clumps of fabric, and while the company frantically rolled one curtain off the stage as quickly as they could, Ms. Parson handled the other with the care and gentleness a mother would have holding her infant.  And Ms. Slipper confirmed for me that is exactly what she intended.  The complex dichotomy of these two moments happening simultaneously brought tears to my eyes that continued to flow down my face for the rest of this emotional kaleidoscope of a piece.

And what I mean by that is just when the sorrow and the loss and the grief began to take over the room, the music changed, and the lights changed, and suddenly there appeared a soft waterfall of earth pouring down onto the stage.  And Ms. Parson, who had been clothed in a tight black top and pants turned her back on the audience, removed her top and simply stood and breathed for a few beats, and something in that subtle movement brought me peace.  And then Ms. Parson was joined by the single most stunning male dancer I have ever seen dance live in my life.  And his name is Franco Nieto.

Mr. Nieto’s movement, his lines, his ability to complete a movement all at the same time being so emotionally connected to every moment was something I was NOT ready for!  Mr. Nieto did not perform with NW Dance Project last October, so this was my first time seeing him, and people, I think I found a new religion, and its name is Franco Nieto!  Bless me, Father, for I have sinned, because I was so mesmerized by the charismatic authenticity this dancer brought to this role, I was afraid to blink for fear of missing one single moment!

So when the graceful sprite that is Ms. Parson was joined on the floor by the heart-stopping dance God that is Mr. Nieto, both topless and vulnerable to the element of the earth falling around them, connected immediately in both rhythm and soul, my dance lover’s heart was so full I feared it would burst in my chest from sheer joy!

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NW Dance Project,Dress rehearsal,”Louder Than Words”,Choreographers: Sarah Slipper, Ihsan Rustem, Alex Soares

This entire series, Mr. Nieto lifting and leading Ms. Parson, in and around the earth falling around them was full of intensity, and yet had a lightness that signaled a bit of peace for Ms. Parson. She was headed to her grave, you could sense that the moment this phrase began, and as the section went on, Ms. Parson’s movement because more and more peaceful and calm, while Mr. Nieto’s became more intense with a push and pull of ‘stay with me just one more moment’ and ‘I know you have to go.’  More forehead touching came in during this piece, in that same tender way, and I would give anything to have Mr. Nieto palm my forehead, because he does it with such an intimacy, such controlled connection, and it hit me how much the forehead was featured throughout Louder Than Words.

When he finally laid her to rest amidst the the pile of earth on the floor, and allowed the earth to fall on her still body, Mr. Nieto’s weeping could be heard throughout the theatre, and it was the perfect ending to this magnanimous story.  He wept for her, and we wept along with him.  And when the lights went out, there was that hush.  You know the one I mean, that delicious hush that comes when the audience is so impacted, so moved by what they just saw, there’s a brief pause while their heart reconnects to their brain reminding them that it’s over, and time now to bring the thunderous applause that these dancers deserve.

Afterwards I thanked Ms. Slipper for this piece, because it truly changed my life.  I’ve never been affected by a piece like that which I knew nothing about going in, and not only was the story clear, the artistry with which she reminded us of the very real horrors that people in war torn places endure is something everyone should see.  Bravo to Ms. Slipper for her bravery to take this on, and Bravo to the company for bringing her vision to life.  We are all the better for having seen it!  And I will never forget it.  Thank you all!

The final piece of the night came to us through the creative genius that is my beloved Ihsan Rustem!  It’s no secret I’m in love with Ihsan’s choreography, but last Saturday I saw a whole new side to Mr. Rustem, and good Lawd, was it a good time!  After all the heaviness and emotional turmoil in the first two pieces, Mr. Rustem ended our night by reminding us that comedic genius is also something that is Louder Than Words!

Le Fil Rouge, a delightful and whimsical journey soundtracked by the likes of Doris Day, Edith Piaf, and La Lupe was gorgeous from moment one!  It started with Mr. Nieto on stage in front of the curtain, wearing the very French ensemble of black pants, a black and white striped shirt, and a black tuxedo jacket.  And when he slid, albeit was pulled, under the curtain to kick off the laughter, I knew we were in for a treat.

The entire company was in the same outfits, with one single red balloon looming over the stage making me wonder how that would play into this piece.  The dancers moved through a black and white world with their black and white costumes changing from the striped shirts/pants to booty shorts and tuxedo tops, to shirtless men and bandeau top wearing women, but always with a bright red accent somewhere within the piece.  Loved the choice, loved the colors, loved it all, loved it!

Whether the entire company was on stage, or just two or three dancers at a time, the through line of this piece was evident: Fun and Flirty!  There was a pas de trois where three female company members danced practically in the dark with red bicycle lights in their mouths, and they were lip synching along with the music, so whenever they opened their lips, this glowing red light shined and contrasted the dark lighting, and it was hysterically hypnotic!   I also loved the moments when the whole company was on stage, where two to three dancers would be downstage dancing solos, and the rest of the company would be all the way upstage, backs to the audience, flirting with us in silhouette utilizing their coats over their booty shorts in a very Gypsy Rose Lee montage, and it was tantalizingly spectacular!

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All the dancers were brilliant in this piece, but the one who stood out to me this time was Kody Jauron.  Mr. Jauron truly embodied the comedic style that Mr. Rustem was trying to achieve.  He sunk down into each phrase, and was giving some serious face to the audience in the best possibly way.  He stood out from the company, phrase after phrase, and I hope there are more opportunities for Mr. Jauron to do comedic dances in the future, because he was friggin fantastic!

And speaking of Mr. Jauron, my favorite section of this amazing piece was danced by the captivating Mr. Jauron and the devilishly handsome Elijah Labay (we’ve talked about how much I’m in love with this dancer, right?  Oh, right we have, from the last blog, wanting to be a  purple shirt soooooo badly, right, ok…moving on!) Anyway, Mr. Rustem created a pas de deux for these two to Doris Day’s Perhaps, Perhaps, Perhaps, and people, I can’t!  It was so good!  So, Mr. Jauron spends the number trying to tempt Mr. Labay into a delectable sexual tryst, and Mr. Labay was seriously playing hard to get, but in that way that a spider plays with a fly.  Like, I totally want you, but am not going to give it to you that easily, so how hard will you work for it?  And Mr. Jauron werrrrrrrked for it! Loved it!  It had a very Brian Kinney and Justin Taylor feel to it.  (And if you don’t know who those two characters are, I suggest you Google search those two and then invest in some Netflix time, because it’s all kinds of hot!)  And Mr. Labay and Mr. Jauron were just as hot, and fun, and flirty, and sexy, and naughty, and Bravo to these two men for committing so fully to these characters!  I loved it!  And just like the purple shirt moment from the last show, now I also never wanted to drag someone across a floor by their ankle so badly in my life! Yummy!  Thank you, Mr. Rustem, for this tantalizing piece!

This witty and whimsical creation was the perfect ending to a dazzling night of dance.  And in Mr. Rustem’s piece, guess what else showed up?  More touching of the forehead!  I know these three choreographers didn’t collaborate on these pieces, especially since both Trace In Loss and Airys were created in 2012, whereas Le Fil Rouge was world premiering, and yet the forehead being such a dominant movement choice really struck me.  I simply adored it.

The control with which the NW Dance Project company dances is an inherit talent that I’m not sure can be taught.  Because with that control comes the ability to know when and how to let go of that control.  And with dancers with that innate bravery, it has to be such a gift for any choreographer who is blessed enough to get to make dances on them.

I know I said I left my heart in Portland in my last blog, and I meant it.  It’s still there.  And I look forward to the next time I get to visit it to see more beautiful art created by choreographers who Ms. Slipper brings in to collaborate with her company.  And as always, I can’t wait to see what else Mr. Rustem has in store for this company because it really is a match made in heaven!

I hate that there isn’t an opportunity for you to go see this show, but trust me, if you can make the trip to Portland to see this company, please do!  And if you want to go with me next time, shoot me a note and let’s go see it together!

559112_332957660122406_1191550343_nBravo to NW Dance Project for the brilliant art you create!  I can’t wait to see you all
again soon.

Ciao for now,

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Weird Romance at STAGEright Was…Well…Weird. In a Really Wonderful Way!

Entertainment Review, Musical Theatre Review

Ok, so we all know I love me some STAGEright goodness, because they always bring either a new twist on a classic show like with their Gregory Award winning Into the Woods, or a new crazy show I’ve never heard of before like Are You There God? It’s me, Karen Carpenter.  So whenever a new show is on the horizon at this fun and whimsical theatre company, I am excited to attend and see what they have in store for me this time.  And for this go round, they brought Weird Romance.

This is story I’ve never heard of before, with book by Alan Brenner and Music by Alan Menken.  Yes, you read that right, Alan friggin Menken!!!!  And with the music at the hands of my favorite Music Director, Josh Zimmerman, I was seriously stoked to see what this show was all about, because if nothing else, I knew the band would be rockin’!

Ok, so as with the Romeo et Juliette review, for those of you planning to see this show and want to be surprised by every little element, well stop reading, buy a ticket and go see it.  However, I feel I must divulge details for my readers who want to be in the know about the ups and downs of this very interesting show.

The program calls this show ‘Two one act musicals of speculative fiction’ and that is a fantastic description, although the show starts long before the lights go down and the music starts.  Upon entry, you are told to select your seat, leave your coat and walk through the curtain to the Act 1 area where you are only to sit in certain spots around the stage, and after quickly doing the math, only about 10 people or so could sit, which means the rest of the audience were to just stand around and be part of the show.  Ugh, I haaaaaaaate interactive theatre!

I do, I really hate it, and this production shows exactly why: I can’t fully immerse in the watching of the story when I’m being pushed around the acting space by the snarky characters.  When special lights are showing right above you, blinding you and melting the non-actor makeup down my face, it distracts from seeing what is happening with this story.  Which is sad, cuz it’s actually a really interesting story, which I’ll get to in a moment.  Also, even those who sit, don’t get to stay in their seats, because actors force you to move to the other side of the room, demand that you ‘get out of the way’ every time you turn around, and often you’re in the dark so you end up stepping on your fellow audience members.  It felt like STAGEright was trying to recreate their own version of ArtsWest’s American Idiot experience, but it didn’t work for me.  Most of the audience seemed distracted and that’s not what you want at a show.  Immersion is a privilege, not a right, and I didn’t get anything special from standing the entire time, often in the way of an actor, and my +1 felt the same way.

That being said, when I wasn’t being distracted by getting out of the way of an actor entering or exiting, I saw some absolutely amazing performances.  Let’s start with my favorite: Noah Duffy!  This bitch, and by bitch I mean the character he played in Act I titled The Girl Who Was Plugged In.  The character was called Zanth, and holy motherfucking hell!  And apologies for the vulgarity, but there are no other words for how absolutely brilliantly this character was played.  Over the top, working a pair of platform boots and sparkled thong codpiece like he wears one every damn day blew my mind!  Completely in every single moment, I was not ready for this level of acting, but Mr. Duffy is a genius!  His voice was on point, his dancing was epic (the high kicks on this boy!), and his acting was flawless.  Yes people, I said flawless!  His performance of Zanth alone should have you running to Brown Paper Tickets to purchase your seats for this experience.  He was almost good enough to make me forget about how irritated I was at having to stand for 90mins for the first act, that’s how unbelievably good he was!

unspecifiedAnd then Act 2 rolls around titled Her Pilgrim Soul where he switches gears to be Dan, a computer scientist/assistant to a doctor where he strips down to a modest button down shirt and pants, the makeup and glitter gone, and transitions seamlessly into the happy, curious, amazing character of Dan.  A chameleon in our midst, showing even larger range of voice and acting than I was ready for, so yeah, I’m an instant fan of this amazing artist.  Thank you, Mr. Duffy for the performances you gave in this show.  You’re absolutely phenomenal.  Bravo!

12728986_1071569456198235_8485375698718407884_nThe perfect chameleon counterpart to Mr. Duffy’s performance was one of my all time favs doing what she does best which is 100% commit to whatever outrageous character anyone throws at her and kills it every time!  I’m talking of course about the incomparable, brilliant, fucking amazing Olivia Lee!  You’ll remember my raving about her in shows like Hair, Into the Woods, and Are You There, God?  It’s me, Karen Carpenter.  She is so good, people, I can’t even with how good she is!  In Act I, draped in crimson goddess Gaga-esque fabrics, she’s all sparkles and lashes, and belting voice, and embodying some epic diva known as Shannara.  And I adored her as always!  She steals my focus whenever she is on stage with that ridiculously amazing voice and stage presence of hers, and the chemistry between Ms. Lee and Mr. Duffy was off the effing charts!  Boom!  Go see them in this show!  Just don’t wear your heels, cuz you won’t wear them as well as Ms. Lee, mmmmkay!?!?!?

Now, on to Act 2 where, just like Mr. Duffy, Ms. Lee strips out of her fabulous getup down to a dowdy, make-up less (yes, you read that right!  No make up on her gorgeous face!) snack-loving Rebecca, where I finally got my fix of Ms. Lee’s brilliant comedic timing.  I’ve said before, Ms. Lee must be the love child of Cher and Cherie Oteri, because damn can this chick crack me up!  And why? Because she’s so committed to her characters.  A true actor, who fully develops a character and bravely brings her out for the audience to enjoy.  As much as I adored Shannara, Rebecca is what I left thinking about because Ms. Lee is superb in this role.  Even when singing with a mouth full of cookies, the performance took my breath away and brought me to happy tears because I was laughing so hard.  Thank you, Ms. Lee for you consummate professionalism and commitment to the art of acting.  J’adore you!  Brava, Diva!

Other actors in the show had some decent elements.  Let’s talk about the women first.  I enjoyed Linnea Ingalls in both acts, but more for her acting than anything else.  She really is a stellar actress, was absolutely delightful in Act 2, especially, but her voice was just so-so for me throughout the show.  I also really enjoyed Tiffany Chancey in both acts both vocally and acting wise.  And Jasmine Joshua and Varsha Raghavan play the same character, well sort of (I’ll get to that in a moment), and together they really were one perfect performer. Ms. Joshua’s acting chops were outstanding, but her voice wasn’t quite on pitch a lot of the time, whereas Ms. Raghavan had a lovely voice, but her acting felt very one note through both roles from Act 1 to Act 2.  They weren’t bad notes, mind you, but would like to have seen a bit more range from her given the characters she was playing.

As for the men in the ensemble, Samuel Jarius Pettit gave a sweet performance in Act 1, and did well in the very minor part he had in Act 2.  Andrew Murray has a nice voice, but lacked chemistry with Ms. Raghavan in Act 1, as he played Ms. Raghavan’s love interest.  I didn’t buy that relationship at all.  However, in Act 2, he’s quite delicious as a seductive lounge singer splitting his attention between an angel played by Ms. Joshua and the devis played by Ms. Raghavan.  The strength of his voice came through in this act, and I finally saw a fully developed character!  The sultry lounge singer definitely sits better on his abilities than the sweet boss’s son fawning after a pop star (I know you’re prob confused, just hang with me).

And along with the ups also come a few downs.  Dan Posluns seriously disappointed in Act 1 with a voice rarely on pitch, and a very one-dimensional, dry acting performance.  However, in Act 2, his jewish business man character was rather well done and likable, so no idea why there was such an inconsistency in performance from one act to the other.

And finally, Matthew Lang, who you’ll remember I reviewed in Sweeney Todd had the same problems in this show that he’s had in every other show I’ve seen him in, only this one was worse as in addition to another one-dimensional performance where I saw him trying  so hard to ‘play’ the various roles he was cast in, he stumbled over line after line, and I’m not sure if it was nerves or lack of knowing his lines, but man he couldn’t get a sentence out smoothly to save his life.  His voice was weak throughout the entire show, more noticeable in Act 1 than Act 2.  Mr. Lang has more of a voice for classical musicals, so rock opera style just doesn’t sound good when he sings it.  And for all the honest, amazing performances going on around him from Mr. Duffy and Ms. Ingalls, both of whom gave him buckets of amazing stuff to work with, the light shone very brightly on how weak and flat Mr. Lang’s performance was as he awkwardly stumbles through this show.  Once again, I didn’t see one real moment from him, and he left me very disappointed.

Now, what do all these performances combine to make?  Well, Act 1 tells the tale of a unspecified-1world where advertising is against the law, and a creepy business man and sweet scientist have created a way for one average person to inhabit the robotic body of a superstar.  This is tested on homeless people, and this story focuses on a homeless woman named P. Burke who allows the sweet scientist to send her mind, heart and soul to transport into a stunning beauty named Delphi where she can have the world at her feet.  The goal is these robots wear a body lift bracelet that will entice consumers to want one and create profit for the company without actually advertising.  The boss’s son falls in love with the robot Delphi, and she falls in love back and tells him the truth and the entire secret robot embodiment/Avatar business is brought to a very ugly head.  For all the standing around of the audience, and all the running around of the cast, I felt that director Brendan Mack, assisted by Josh Moore pulled off an interesting concept, creative design and fantastic casting.  The costumes by Cherelle Ashby and Jonelle Cornwell were amazing!  The choreography left me a bit bored, but the dancing was minimal, so I wasn’t so worried about it.

unspecified-3Act 2 switches gears and tells the story of Kevin, a doctor working with his assistant Dan on virtual reality where suddenly a baby they didn’t create appears on the screen, and this baby grows into a young girl named Nola who can see and interact with Kevin and Dan.  She’s virtual, but can see, talk, and eventually touch them.  She ages by the hour and we follow Nola’s memories from young girl to teenager to young collegiate to wife and mother, to eventually learn she dies in a very painful childbirth.  As she grows, Kevin bonds on a deeper and deeper level with her, so much so that he begins neglecting his wife, Carol, in order to spend more time with Nola.  There’s a twist in this story where it turns our that Kevin in the reincarnated husband of Nola, and she’s come back from the afterlife to help him see that he needs to live his life more fully.  He needs to have children, cherish Carol, and be happy.  It’s a very lovely, touching story, and man, Ms. Ingalls is amazing as Nola.

My main complaint about this act is that randomly, suddenly, when Nola is a collegiate girl, Kevin is able to touch her.  He’s able to physically touch a hologram, and I don’t understand this choice.  I asked director Brendan Mack if that was part of the script, and he said no, it was a choice they made to allow the actors to fully interact.  Personally, it bugged me, because I think it would have been so much more impactful if, as the connection between Kevin and Nola deepens, the fact that they can’t touch would have increased the tension and raised the stakes.  And, given how good Ms. Ingalls was at depicting a few of her memories, if Mr. Lang wasn’t able to touch her, his strange reactions to her wouldn’t have muddied up the scene so much because he wouldn’t have been allowed to infiltrate her hauntingly beautiful moments with his mediocrity.

Other than that element though, this act was wonderful.  The story is heartbreaking and hopeful at the same time.  It had the feel of Menken, with a Disney-esque happy ending after a few obstacles, and a few toe tapping songs that make you smile.

Overall, this was a really fun night of theatre, and I highly encourage you all to go see for yourself if you enjoy a bit of interactive theatre and don’t mind sort of being part of the show, because the stories are really interesting and the music is really good.

I give this a solid applause with a note to self to bust out my Ben Nye makeup for any 12366300_1040988085923039_8095817807704081999_nfuture STAGEright performances just in case I find myself part of the show!

Weird Romance plays through Feb 20 at the Hugo House on Capital Hill.  Tickets and showtimes can be found on STAGEright’s website.

Ciao for now,

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Le Sigh – Romeo et Juliette at Pacific Northwest Ballet

Dance Review, Entertainment Review

Ok, so I went to the ballet on Friday night.  The classical ballet company here in Seattle, Pacific Northwest Ballet, to see the ballet version of one of my favorite stories of all time: Romeo and Juliet.  Although, when purchasing tickets, I was quite surprised to see the title written in a French version of Romeo et Juliette, and that should have been my first clue that this would not be the story I know and love.  But my dumbass ignored that sign, and went to McCaw Hall expecting to be taken on an emotion filled journey of love and tragedy as only the two young lovers conjured out of Shakespeare’s imagination could take me.  And oh, how disappointed I was.

This piece takes place in two acts, with one intermission and a pause halfway through the second act.  FYI, there will be spoiler alerts to both story and design, so if you plan to go see this monstrosity to form your own opinion and want to be surprised, then stop reading now.

Anyway, back to this show, so the first act started out all kinds of weird.  Friar Laurence, danced by Miles Pertl starts the show with two acolytes dancing with him and starts the show as if remembering the story of Romeo et Juliette, with odd, jarring choreography that didn’t sit well on Mr. Pertl’s body.  One of the acolytes danced much stronger than him, so the casting seemed off right out the gate.

Then we move in to the street scene to introduce our hero, his two buddies Mercutio and Benvolio, as well as the antagonist, Tybalt.  This scene followed the standard story with the Capulets and Montagues picking at each other and provoking each other.  Although, in the dance world this was shown mostly through sad, pathetic shoving of each other.  Whether it was women shoving women, or men shoving men, the force of the shoves was laughable, the overacting of the ones being shoved made my eyes roll every time they ‘fell’ or ‘stumbled’, and yes I’m using quotes because it was that poorly acted.  There were no weapons to be seen on any of the men, no daggers or swords, which given the amount of falling down from everyone, I get that choice, but definitely foreshadowed problems to come within the story.

Romeo, danced by James Moore is introduced straight away, and while a beautiful man and a stunning dancer, I didn’t really feel a connection between him and his mates, although he did a nice job fawning over Rosaline, danced by Kylee Kitchens.  Although, Mercutio also seemed besotted with her, which isn’t part of the story, so that was odd to see. There was lots of shoving to get her attention, including from Tybalt who also seemed to be both protective of Rosaline as well as wanting her.  The choreography was uninteresting, repeats of steps over and over, and the energy seemed low for an opening night.  Ugh, just boring.

Eventually all the girl slapping and play fighting in the street ends, and we land in Juliette’s bedchamber where the Nurse, delightfully danced by Margaret Mullin was draped in the ugliest costume I’ve ever seen!  Ms. Mullin had wonderful acting chops, so she was somehow able to tell the story through this mammoth dress she was wearing, so good on her for that!  Couldn’t have been easy.

Here we meet the one who is supposed to be the leading lady of this show, Juliette, danced by the lovely Noelani Pantastico, and the actual leading lady of this show, Lady Capulet, danced by Laura Tisserand.  Seriously, Ms. Pantastico danced mere minutes in this entire scene compared to Lady Capulet, who had solo after solo in the opening scene.  Mama C slinked and slithered her sexy self around the stage, and I’m telling you, girlfriend didn’t know this show ain’t about her!

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Clearly the choreographer didn’t either, because the phrases created by Jean-Christophe Maillot let Ms. Tisserand dance foreeeeever throughout this scene, so I think he thinks this show is about Lady C as well.  Ugh.  Perhaps if they called it Lady Capulet, instead of Romeo et Juliette, I’d have liked it more!

Moving on, we get to the ball, the young lovers see each other, fall instantly in love, and try to continue to spend time together while party goers twist and turn about the stage getting in their way.  Tybalt, danced by Seth Orza, constantly interrupting, Mercutio, danced by Jonathan Porretta, constantly interrupting, and Rosaline just always kind of there creates the tension.  And how do they interrupt?  More shoving of course.  Bored!  So friggin bored!  And it went on forever!

And just when you think ok, we’re about to move on, nope Mama C is back on stage working her program with another solo.

Additionally, there were a lot of comedic moments in the whole first act, and it’s like, um, this is not a comedy.  It’s a tragic love story.  But there was a lot of sexual humor, the Nurse got it the worst.  A lot of groping of her breasts by Mercutio and Benvolio that made absolutely no sense whatsoever.  There was similar behavior towards the women in the street scenes.  I didn’t get it, it just didn’t fit.

So enter the famous balcony scene, and by balcony I mean ramp.  There was a ramp that they elevated one end to create the ‘balcony’.  I didn’t hate this choice, but Romeo could actually reach Juliette, so it definitely didn’t create the feel that moment is supposed to have.  And finally the tragedy of the show reveals itself in the chemistry between Mr. Moore and Ms. Pantastico.  They had none.  Zero. Zilch.  I mean, both danced the show beautifully but I didn’t buy the relationship at all and could not connect to their journey at all.  Juliette had more chemistry with the Friar during their pas de deux than she did with Romeo.  Also, there was a lot more push and pull with these two, and in order for them to even get to the first kiss Juliette had to grab Romeo’s face and plant one on him, and even then he pulls away at first.  It was just weird all around.

We need to get to the wedding, and I can’t remember if this next part happened before or after the wedding, but I think before, but anyway, some genius decided to toss a puppet show in the middle of the ballet.  So, all the dancers in the street take a seat and watch a puppet show that literally tells the entire story of Romeo and Juliette all the way to everyone being dead.  Why?  Why was this necessary?  Why take up about 10mins or more on this stupid puppet show.  By this point, I’m so irritated, I can’t even tell you.

We eventually get to the wedding, and the Friar and acolytes are back, and the lack of chemistry still abounds between the young lovers.  They marry secretly, end up in the finally going to have some sex scene, and again, rather than let the audience into an honest, innocent moment of passion and connection, right as the young lovers sit on the triangular platform this is to be their marriage bed, they both sit up straight stare out at the audience, gasp as if they can see us, and quickly pull the covers up over their heads like a pair of 6 year olds at a slumber party.  Kill me now.

So the wedding has happened, and the dance goes on, blah blah blah, and we come to the scene where Mercutio and Tybalt die.  I’m thinking, how is this going to happen because again, there are no weapons anywhere in sight. Is Tybalt going to shove Mercutio to death?  The puppet show had a blunt bat like object, but that has yet to appear.  And just like that, the cast starts moving slow motion.  A random Capulet tosses Tybalt a blunt bat like object, and he hits Mercutio on the side of the head, killing him instantly.  Mmmmmkay, yeah, tough to suspend my disbelief on that one.  We continue in slow motion.  Romeo collapses onto Mercutio, giving silent scream after silent scream.  Seriously, there’s more passion in those screams from Romeo as he cradles Mercutio in his arms than any kiss he gave Juliette, just sayin’.

Eventually the silent screaming stops, and Romeo rushes for Tybalt.  And by rushes I mean moves in slow motion to chase him across the stage and up the ramp that used to be Juliette’s balcony.  He catches him mid-ramp, and gets him on his back and as his hands wrap around Tybalt’s neck, everything speeds up to normal speed and Romeo chokes the life out of Tybalt.  This is the most brutal, violent slaying of Tybalt I’ve ever seen in any production of R&J I’ve ever seen either as a play or as a ballet.  It was raw and gruesome, and given how boring the rest of the show was up to this point, I was ecstatic!  I truly believed Mr. Moore in that moment of passionate rage.  It was well staged and beautifully acted by both men, and it was great.  It is also the last of my compliments.

Guess who arrives on the scene to have her own set of silent screams?  Yep, Mama C is back, stealing any spotlight possible, and she was so in her moment, that when the music stopped, and she’s being dragged away from Tybalt’s body, you could hear her wailing.  And people, I was in the first balcony and could hear her.  It’s a ballet, girl, everything is supposed to be silent.  I applaud being in the moment, but get it together!

Let’s fast forward through a bit: Juliet finds out about Tybalt’s death, she’s mad at Romeo, he gets banished blah blah blah, she goes to the Friar for help, yadda yadda yadda, Friar has a plan, should include poison, it doesn’t, just some magic flick of his wrist or something, I don’t know, and poof! Juliette is ‘dead’ in the tomb.  And by tomb I mean another triangle shaped platform that is black, and she’s lying on it with her feet towards the bottom point.

Funeral processions starts, and Mama C arrives for another friggin solo.  Whipping her hair back and forth, milking the beautiful choreography, kicking her long stunning legs all over the place, without much acknowledgement of her daughter until the end.  She finally exits, and Romeo enters thinking Juliette’s dead.

Now, what should happen next , if they followed the story, is that Juliette appears dead, Romeo drinks potion to join her in death not knowing she’s only faking.  She wakes up, finds his ass dead, takes his dagger and stabs herself to join him in death.  That. Is. Not. What. Happened. Next.

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Instead, after more silent screaming by Romeo (Mr. Moore is quite good at these by the way), he eventually slowly backs away from Juliette all the way to the very corner of the downstage right side of the stage.  He’s so far down, he’s standing in the dark.  The music stops, and I’m thinking, “What the fuck is he doing?”  And suddenly the timpani drums begin to beat and this boy, with all the grace of a gazelle takes off running towards Juliette’s platform grave and friggin slides, penguin style sliding into the point of the triangle of the platform and impales himself and dies instantly on impact.

Yep, you read that right, I’ll give you a second to reread it to make sure you weren’t hallucinating.  The boy impaled himself on the set, people!!  Penguin style slide suicide! On the corner of that triangle in the pic above!  It happened!  And it was so stupid!  WTF?!?!?

And when that happened I though to myself, “Self…if he died by triangle platform set piece, how the hell is she going to die?  Cuz boyfriend does not have a dagger for her to have her ‘oh, happy dagger’ moment.”  Careful what you ask.

This chick wakes up, sees Romeo there on his face, impaled on the platform, rolls him off of it, pulls a piece of red fabric from what i can only guess is his dance belt, and pulls it up and away from him only to go upstage of him on the triangle platform, and strangle herself with the red fabric that, where it’s strategically placed looks like she’s choking herself out with Romeo’s lower intestine.  And the curtain drops.

I can’t.

I don’t know what I saw, but it was not good.  I was not entertained.  I was confused most of the time.  I was irritated by the costumes, the hideous, god awful costumes.  The set was creative and I didn’t mind the simplicity of it, but when Romeo impaled himself, penguin style, on to it, I just lost all respect for the creative team with the liberties they took with a pretty straight forward, hauntingly beautiful story.

My +1 for the night, not my beloved Random, but another friend said “I thought Romeo and Juliet was supposed to be sad.  That was trying to be funny, and instead was just laughably bad.”  I couldn’t agree more.

Shakespeare’s masterpiece ends with this line:  Never was there a tale of more woe than that of Juliet and her Romeo.  Well, for this ballet, I rewrite to say: Never was there a bigger miss and lie than PNB’s Romeo et Juliette…Le Sigh.

I give this a don’t even bother unless you want to see the story of Lady Capulet’s fantastic kicks, and laugh at the ridiculousness of Romeo impaling himself on a set piece and Juliette strangling herself with his lower intestine.  Other than those three moments, it was a waste of my time.

Ciao for now,

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How to Succeed in Theatre: The 5th Avenue’s How to Succeed in Business Has What It Takes

Entertainment Review, Musical Theatre Review

It has been a very long time since I went to the theatre and smiled the entire time!  I’ve always been a fan of the musical How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying, but given its 1960s campy nature and goofy storyline, it can be a cheesy mess from the first note if not done well.  And people, the 5th Avenue not only did this show well, they knocked it out of the friggin park!

Let’s start with the music, shall we?  I’ve said in numerous of my reviews of musicals, if you’re going to do a musical, the music better be good, and the music in this show is impeccable!  The orchestra is so on point, I even loved the overture!  And I hate overtures!  And the cast, every voice up there on an even keel of excellence, I don’t even know where to start.

Oh yes, I do, let’s start with the show’s leading character, J. Pierrepont Finch played by the delightful and adorable Eric Ankrim.  This kid!  This ridiculously talented kid stole my heart right out the gate.  He brings to life the ambitious Finch in the most captivating way.  The protagonist in this story, Finch is a window washer hellbent on climbing his way up the corporate ladder by following the rules of a book called How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying, and the show follows his journey from the mailroom to the boardroom, and all the steps in between.  He’s cunning, calculating, creative, and downright charming all the way through.  You root for him whether you want to or not, whether he deserves it or not, you just want him to get everything he desires because he’s so damn likable!  Outstanding acting, the perfect tenor voice, and wonderful dancing, Mr. Ankrim is a triple threat, the likes of which I haven’t seen on a young male actor since I moved back to Seattle.  I loved him so much, that his performance alone has me already planning another trip to the 5th Avenue to see this again.  Bravo, Mr. Ankrim, I’m a huge fan of yours!  Bravo!

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Sarah Rose Davis and Eric Ankrin                                                                          Photo by Tracy Martin

The leading lady to our leading man is a lovely secretary named Rosemary Pilkington, played by the incomparable Sarah Rose Davis.  I’ve been watching Ms. David on stage since her Issaquah Kidstage days, and to this day she is my favorite Eponine I’ve ever seen live.  But I digress, Ms. Davis has blossomed into one hell of a performer, and everything she did on that stage blew me away!  Her voice, as angelic as ever, but with a grown up strength and professional finesse.  Her acting, perfectly on point with stupendous comedic timing, matching Mr. Ankrim beat for delicious beat.  Her dancing, delightful and playful, and also just downright likable.  You root for Rosemary as much as you root for Finch, and the emotional journey Ms. Davis takes us on through this show will have you giggling along with her, pining along with her, and hoping and praying she gets all that her heart desires.  There are actors, and then there are stars, and Ms. Davis is definitely a star.  Broadway better get ready, because I’ve no doubt that is where she is headed, and it will be so amazing to watch the journey.  Well done, young lady!  Bravo, and thank you for an amazing night of theatre!

I could gush about each individual cast member in this show, which would keep you reading forever, so let me just say that all around the cast was phenomenal.  Each character fully developed from the CEO to mailroom boy to the left and everyone in between, each dance step perfectly danced, each note right on pitch.  They all worked together beautifully to bring this world to life.  I had so much fun!  Bravo to the entire ensemble!

 

But before I move on to the design and direction, I do have to call out one other performance that blew my friggin mind!  Hedy LaRue played by Jessica Skerritt.  People!

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Jessica Skerritt (center  in green) as Hedy LaRue        Photo by Tracy Martin

People!  People!  This chick’s acting chops, I can’t!  I just can’t!  She’s soooooooooo friggin good!  And I apologize for not being more eloquent, but there aren’t words for how amazing she is in this role.  And having just seen Ms. Skerritt in the Sound of Music in December, well, seeing her go from an Austrian Baroness to a mistress-extraordinaire both played beautifully, the range on this superb actress is just astounding.  She’s a true chameleon, and she stole this show for me.  Good on her for taking the risks she took with this role, for her commitment to this wonderful character, and for making me long to be tall with legs for days!  I’m such a fan of Ms. Skerritt’s and will go see anything and everything she is in, cuz wow!  Just simply wow!

Now, on to the design…every element was as impeccable and perfect as the cast!  The How_to_Succeed_06_Sarah_Rose_Davis_Eric_Ankrim_and_Sarah_Rudinoff_credit_Tracy_Martin-600x400costumes, so period perfect, so wonderfully constructed, each new piece was better than the ones before.  The specifics that costumer Rose Pederson created in these pieces, from the specific color choices per character (Rosemary’s pink dresses were absolutely stunning), to the uniformity of the executives, to the flirtatious frocks of Ms. LaRue were absolutely dazzling.

The set design was a-maz-ing!  Color blocks of panels moving through the space as if choreographed along with the cast created a kaleidoscope of a world that kept me on the edge of my seat.  How would it move next?  Oh my god, that panel opens!?!?  What?  No it did not just slide that way!  Yeah, that’s how my brain went throughout this show overtime there was a scene shift.  I am so impressed with what scenic designers Tom Sturge and David Sumner pulled off for this show.  Bravo, fellas, bravo!

A show this big needs a solid director at the helm, and Mr. Bill Berry did a brilliant job with this show.  He cast it perfectly, staged it brilliantly, and clearly spent quite a bit of time on character development with each actor, because no matter if the stage only held Finch and Rosemary or if the entire cast was dancing and singing about the Brotherhood of Man, each actor on that stage was so clear in their intentions and character choices, that I was highly, highly impressed.  Mr. Berry’s concept for the show was crystal clear, he didn’t fudge with the script or try to make it something it wasn’t.  He embraced this Mad Men-esque world, and brought to life a fun-filled, lively show that anyone who sees it will leave with a smile on their face, and a song in their heart.  I know I was randomly just singing “Roooooooosemary” for at least a week afterwards.  Wonderful!  Outstanding!  Well done, Sir!

And much like Mr. Ankrim and Ms. Davis complimenting each other, so Mr. Berry’s perfect counterpart was music director Dan Pardo.  As stated above, Mr. Pardo’s music direction was fantastic!  Everything musical was perfect, every single note!

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How to Succeed in Business Ensemble                      Photo by Mark Kitaoka

And I save the best for last, because the choreography!  OH!  The wonderful, beautiful, fun, feisty, fantastic choreography done by Bob Richard!  I. LOVED. IT!  Mr. Richard did the one thing I’ve been yearning for in a show: a choreographer who uses the talent of his dancers to the best of their ability.  Were there tap sequences?  Yes! But only by the dancers who could tap his combinations.  Were there complicated jazz sequences? Yes! But the strong jazz dancers.  And when the whole cast was moving on the stage, the choreography was perfectly suited for every dancer up there!  My favorite numbers were both in Act II.  Cinderella, Darling and Brotherhood of Man took a tie for gold for the best in the show.  Thank you for a wonderful show, Mr. Richard!

This show had so many ups, and the few down weren’t really downs, but perhaps nerves at the top of the show that fizzled and died quickly as this highly skilled cast leaned into each other to pull off one of the best night’s of theatre I’ve seen in a very, very long time. Congratulations to the cast, crew, and creative team of How to Succeed!  You earned the rousing standing ovation you got the night I was there by the entire audience, and will enjoy, I’ve no doubt a standing ovation every night for the rest of the run.  Bravo!

I give this a thunderous applause and a very stern direction to all who read this to get thee1516_H2S_PageHeader_783x340 to the 5th Avenue Theatre and see this show before it closes on Feb 21!

Tickets and showtimes can be found on the 5th Avenue’s Website.

Ciao for now,

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Genius in Triplicate: IN-spired at Whim W’Him

Dance Review, Entertainment Review

Last night was my fourth experience with my favorite Seattle based dance company, Whim W’Him, and after being given the wonderful holiday gift of attending a Whim W’Him rehearsal in December, I was extremely excited to see what the Whimmers had in store for me this time around.

I’ve come to expect a few things from a night with Whim W’Him: creativity, collaboration,  emotional journey, and stunning choreography.  And last night met my expectations and then some!  In the hands of three genius choreographers, Mark Haim, Dominic Walsh and Olivier Wevers, the Whim W’Him dancers gave me some of the best dancing I’ve seen from them to date.

Three dances, completely varied in concept, design, and intension, united together to create a labyrinth so perfectly intricate, even Jareth would be envious of its brilliance. (Rest in Peace, Mr. Bowie).  As the lights went down, and the curtain rose to reveal the first piece, Brahms and Tights, by the Maestro, Olivier Wevers, I was immediately punched in the sensory face by the vibrant colors gliding across the stage, and I was instantly engaged.

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Neon blues and greens in every shade you can imagine splashed across the dancers in varying costume pieces, no two alike sending the audience into a visually stunning experience.  The words ‘Whimsy’ and ‘Wevers’ often go hand in hand in my reviews, and this one is no different.  The choreography, as tricky and sophisticated as the ingenuity of Brahms Violin Concerto in D Major, Op. 77, which was the soundtrack for this piece, took me on a journey full of joy and breathlessness.

The dancers, twirling and twisting, stretching and lifting, filling every complex count that the Maestro created for them with strength, grace, finesse and power all at the same time was mesmerizing to behold. Without giving too much away, because I desperately want you all to go out and see this show, let me say that my favorite part of this piece was the way Mr. Wevers utilized the legs/wings of the stage, cannoning his dancers on and off the stage in such a creatively captivating way, that you were never sure which dancer was going to join the next phrase, where they were going to enter from, or how they were going to exit, and it kept me on the edge of my seat!

The dancers synchronicity appeared to be a bit off from each other in the first few minutes of the piece.  It looked like they were feeding off of and being ushered along by the heightened excited energy coming at them from the almost packed house and were dancing a bit frantically to mirror each other, so they had me a bit worried at first.  But once the energy settled, and they all began to breathe together as one (another element I’ve come to see as a signature of Whim W’Him, I might add), they locked in to the dance and blew my mind from that point forward!

unnamed-21With the colors as vibrant as they were, under the always brilliant lighting of Michael Mazzola, at times they reminded me of tropical fruit taffy being stretched on a taffy puller, ebbing and flowing, folding over and over onto itself, twisting and turning to create new color combinations every few seconds.  This piece was brilliantly choreographed, deliciously costumed, stunning fluid, elegantly emoted, and wonderfully danced.  Bravo to the Maestro on this stunning piece of art, I loved every single element, and congratulate you on such a successful piece!

After a brief intermission, Overflow, choreographed by Mark Haim took the stage, and people, I was not ready for the emotional journey that Mr. Haim and the Whim W’Him dancers took me on last night!  This piece, this complex and gorgeous piece, a contradiction in so many ways that kept my mind engaged and my emotions in flux all the way through it.  Bear with me as I reflect on these delicious contradictions:

  1. Simple design and complex movement simply stole my breath from the first step that Mia Monteabaro took to kick off the dance through the final step of Jim Kent.
  2. Flowing costume pieces with hard hitting movement clashed to somehow create a push and pull of emotions for the dancers throughout the piece that had my eyes bouncing back and forth from dancer to dancer, praying I didn’t miss one detail.
  3. Like Mr. Wevers, Mr. Haim also chose classical music for his piece, but he went with Wagner’s Prelude and Liebestod from Tristan and Isolde, and if you don’t know that music, look it up, because it’s brilliantly composed to somehow be heart wrenching and hopeful at the same time.  And that is the ultimate contradiction the made me love this show.  Mr. Haim’s ability to wrench on my heartstrings through phrases within his piece, but to leave me hopeful for new beginnings by the end, yeah, people, I’m in love with Mr. Haim’s creative genius!

Additionally, there is a set piece in this show designed by Corrie Befort that I can’t even talk about because I don’t want to ruin it for anyone, but trust me, this inanimate object somehow becomes the 8th character in this piece, and it informs the journey of the dancers and the narrative of Mr. Haim’s concept in a way like I’ve never seen.  I can’t, I just can’t with how impactful this one single set piece was and how affected I was by Overflow.  GO SEE THIS SHOW!

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And the dancers, good lord, I saw performances from them that I was not read for!  Tory Piel and Kyle Matthew Johnson, you know I love a duet danced by these two, but Mr. Haim gave them a section of his piece that was danced all the way downstage, and since I was in the third row, I felt every emotion these two gave!  They stretched themselves from an acting perspective in a way I’ve never seen!  No idea they had those types of acting chops!! They were so in the moment, so raw, so open, it literally brought tears to my eyes with how good they were!  Mia Monteabaro and Thomas Phelan performed some of the most connected performances I’ve ever seen from them in any other piece, they were so connected to their intentions.  And Jim Kent, oh, Mr. Kent’s final solo, I’m still affected by how beautiful it was.  Mr. Kent physically embodied hope for me in this piece, and his lithe and graceful lines through his final solo, as the music slowly brought this magnificent piece to an end made me cry happy, hopeful tears.  Thank you all for so honestly and openly sharing Mr. Haim’s world with us.  Bravo!

The third part of last night’s genius trifecta goes to Dominic Walsh who brought us The Ghost Behind Me, so aptly named, as it was one of the most beautifully haunting pieces I’ve seen in a long time.  I want to start with the sound and design of this piece, and will get to the choreography and dancers in a moment.  Mr. Walsh had live music playing for this piece, and it’s an original work created specifically for this piece by Two Star Symphony, who were tucked into the upstage right corner of the stage, costumed exactly like the puppet master of the show, danced by my beloved Justin Reiter, black hooded sweatshirts, with long electric blue goatees. Playing completely from memory, Two Star Symphony’s music penetrated my soul and took over my world with their powerful arrangement.  Hard beats, sensual strings, and pulsating percussion drove the dancers on, and the music so beautifully matched the choreography, my mind was absolutely blown with how brilliant it all unfolded.

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The costumes came in three forms:  The puppet master, with his dark hoodie and electric blue goatee that hung down to his waist, The Collaborators dressed in shorts and sleeveless collared button down shirts, and The Man was dressed in the same shirt, but in long pants.  It had such a feel of Spring Awakening, so much so, that this felt like the kids from Spring Awakening reliving their journey as adults.  I have no idea if Mr. Walsh intended that connection, or in any way was inspired by that show, but the aesthetic was so similar, I couldn’t help but see comparisons all the way through the show.  The entire color palettes were grey with pops of white, all lit under a cool grey wash with pops of bright white boxes and a golden hand held spotlight.  The aesthetic of the costumes really informed the story for me, and Mr. Walsh designed them, so his vision was clear through every element.

Now, on to the choreography.  Sweet god, Mr. Walsh’s choreography is unbelievably brilliant.  Strong, powerful, dark and deep, every phrase more intense than the one before.  He wrote out in the program that the characters the dancers embody are like those in any story:  Protagonist, danced by the newest member of Whim W’Him, Patrick Kilbane.  Collaborators: Mr. Kent, Ms. Monteabaro, Ms. Peil, and Mr. Phelan. The Man: Mr. Johnson.  The Puppet Master: Justin Reiter.  Mr. Walsh cast the company perfectly!

The collaborators were the perfect greek chorus, following along the story being told through Mr. Kilbane and being manipulated by Mr. Reiter.  And let’s talk about these two, shall we?  There were phrases where Mr. Reiter was literally pulling the invisible strings on Mr. Kilbane’s body, the two moving in complete synchronicity that you’d swear the strings were real!  A hip hop locking feel, I was so proud of Mr. Reiter’s ability to sink into the menacing character of the Puppet Master!  I asked him after the show if he’d ever done movement like that before, and he said this was a first.  Well, I was uber impressed by his performance before knowing that, and as proud as possible after I learned that little fact.

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A phrase towards the middle, involving Mr. Kilbane, Mr. Johnson and Ms. Peil, and people, this phrase is so intensely provocative, so pulsatingly haunting, that I don’t know that I exhaled through that entire phrase!  Following the Spring Awakening analogy it was like a combination a grown up coming of age moment between Melchior and Wendela, and adding in the maternal responsibility that is lacking from the Spring Awakening story.  Ms. Peil exuded both a maternal instinct to protect Mr. Kilbane from Mr. Johnson’s influence as well as an overarching freedom that Mr. Kilbane’s character yearned for, and fought to achieve.

I don’t want to go into any more detail than that, because, let me say again in case you missed it above, I want you to GO SEE THIS SHOW!  But the entire journey Mr. Kilbane takes through Mr. Walsh’s world was hauntingly thrilling, with a final moment that will be etched into my dance lover’s heart forever.  It’s a ride you don’t want to miss, trust me!  Thank you to Mr. Walsh for creating this story; thank you to Two Star Symphony for the perfect soundtrack to Mr. Walsh’s movement; and thank you to the dancers for so bravely bringing this story to life.  I’m humbled to watch you all perform, and am forever changed by witnessing this amazing piece.  Bravo!

I give this an over-emotional standing ovation, and a giant thank you to all involved with this brilliant show for a wonderful night of dance!  Bravo!  Bravo!  Bravo!!

WWDCOW4IN-spired runs Jan 22-30, and showtimes and ticket information can be found on Whim W’Him’s website.

Ciao for now,

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All Photos courtesy of Bamberg Fine Art

The Maestro at Work: A Visit to Whim W’Him

Dance Show Promotional, Entertainment Review

It’s always a good day when I get an email from my favorite Seattle based Dance Company, Whim W’Him, inviting me to come watch a rehearsal.  But it’s a friggin fantastic day when the choreographer I get to watch create at said rehearsal is none other than the Maestro, himself, Olivier Wevers, Artistic Director of Whim W’Him, as he prepares for WWDC’s next show IN-spired.

I was giddy for days leading up to getting to go watch Mr. Wevers work, because of all the pieces I’ve seen WWDC perform, the ones that felt the most natural on these dancers were created at the hands of Mr. Wevers.  As it should be, I think, when an Artistic Director creates a company in his vision.  Little balls of clay, if you will, for him to mold and sculpt into phrase after delicious phrase.  So, off to the Francia Russell Ballet Center I went, to watch the Maestro create.

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Olivier Wevers, Artistic Director, working with (L-R) Patrick Kilbane, Justin Reiter, and Tory Peil. 

And it was everything I’d hoped it would be and oh so very much more!  As I arrived, Mr. Wevers was on the floor, creating a phrase for Mia Monteabaro, and he moved like graceful lightening across the floor, twisting and contorting his body into interesting and complex shapes.  Ms. Monteabaro, dancing behind him, following along and imitating Mr. Wevers’ moves, barely a beat behind him, I swear, she was somehow reading his mind!  It was glorious!  I was such a big fan of Mr. Wevers during his career with the PNB, so watching him dance brought a bit of a tear to my eye and just set the tone for what was to be an absolutely wonderful day of dance.

So, for the next few fabulous hours, I sat and watched as Mr. Wevers continued to create. Cannoning his dancers on and off the stage, creating duets and trios twisting and turning around each other, designing lifts and splits which show off the strength and flexibility of the company had this dance lover’s mind spinning with glee!  And all to the delectable and delightful Brahms Violin Concerto in D Major, which seems to absolutely inspire Mr. Wevers, as every time he’d run the phrases with music, you could see his mind racing with new ideas and movement to try on his dancers.

 

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Olivier Wevers, Artistic Director, standing in for Tory Peil, in between Justin Reiter and Patrick Kilbane as they create his piece.

 

And speaking of the dancers, these seven talented balls of clay, they are the perfect medium for Mr. Wevers’ art.  Changes to the company have happened since last I saw WWDC in September, and now there are five gorgeous men and two stunning women making up the company.  The addition of Patrick Kilbane (the legs and feet on this guy, I can’t even tell you!  #SquatGoals like you wouldn’t believe!) is a seamless change within this company as his power and strength fit right in with the talents of the six I’ve already come to know and adore!  Kyle Matthew Johnson, Thomas Phelan and Tory Peil dance one of my favorite phrases that I saw that day, partnering together so beautifully!  Ms. Monteabaro and Jim Kent also have a lovely duet section that was gracefully fluid and dynamic at the same time.  And Justin Reiter, the little chameleon that he is, flawlessly gliding between phrases whether mirroring or partnering, taking my breath away like he always does!  Getting to see these seven artists work together to bring Mr. Wevers vision to life was an experience I won’t soon forget.

The last rehearsal I saw back in September was more of a run-through of a completed piece.  But this time, I truly was immersed in their process to create, and damn, do they work hard!  As a former jazz dancer, I have no idea how contemporary dancers hear the music, because they flow along with it, rather than being held to downbeats and 8-counts.  The same goes for the Maestro.  He has sections of music, and shifts his creation with the changing of the concerto, but does not hold himself to the rhythm of Brahms, but rather creates a syncopated one that compliments and contradicts in a spectacular way, finding nuances within the music that I never would have heard, and it’s magical to watch.

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L-R: Justin Reiter, Patrick Kilbane and Tory Peil

 

I can’t wait to see how the Maestro will finish his creation to this beautiful piece of music.  I’m so excited to see how the seven stunning balls of clay, each with their unique color and texture, come together to make a stunningly creative, deliciously complex, and fantastically entertaining sculpture, the likes of which only the Maestro can create.

Thank you to the Maestro (Olivier, I’m calling you that from now on, so get used to it!) and to Katie Bombico, Executive Director, for allowing me to tip toe into the Whim W’Him world for a few wonderful hours.  Watching true artists create art is the best way I can think to spend a day.  I will see you both at the show and wish you all a very enthusiastic and supportive Merde!!

Tickets and show info for IN-spired can be found on Whim W’Him’s website and Brown Paper Tickets.

Ciao for now,

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Photo Credit: Bamberg Fine Art

The Hills are Very Much Alive at the 5th in Seattle!!

Entertainment Review, Musical Theatre Review, Theatre Review

People, people, people, let me start by saying I am a devoted fan of the Sound of Music film starring the phenomenal Julie Andrews, and my beloved Christopher Plummer, so I have purposefully stayed away from stage versions of the show for fear of it not living up to the beauty of the film I adore with every fiber of my being.

However, when I found out that Kirsten DeLohr Helland was playing Maria, I decided it was time to face my fears, because if anyone could make me fall just as in love with the stage version as I am with the film, it would be the ridiculously amazing talent of Ms. DeLohr Helland.  And I was not wrong!

I’m actually going to start with the design of this show, because the set was stunning, the costumes were perfection, and the lighting was inspired!  The set was marvelously constructed, utilizing the stage so beautifully, and from my seat in the balcony, I could still see every detail, and it truly brought Austria to life.  Small details pushed it over the edge of perfection into mesmerizing beauty from the intricate work on the Abbey gates, to the perfectly rounded staircase, to the trampoline of a bed for the thunder and lightening scene.  Each scene so perfectly design, so brilliantly built, and so expertly crewed, the scene transitions were seamless.  Glorious!  Thank you, Phillip Lienau for your stunning design, and congratulations on a highly successful debut  at the 5th Avenue! I look forward to seeing more of your work in shows to come.

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Photo Credit: Mark Kitaoka

 

The costumes, oh you guys, the costumes were absolutely stunning.  Again, the details made all the difference.  Things like the transition of vivid/bright colors on Frau Schraeder at the top of the show, to her muted subtle final outfit before she chooses to leave Austria showed her journey through her wardrobe!  Oh, and the delicious hot pink/purple hued tie on Uncle Max adding whimsy to his perfectly tailored suit that fit his character beautifully.  The perfectly constructed uniforms the children wear, and the absolutely menacing accuracy of the Nazi uniforms all enhanced the world of 1930s Austria on the verge of invasion, and I loved it.  My favorite piece is Maria’s wedding dress, it actually took my breath away.  That dress alone should have you all running to see this show!  Bravo to the entire costume team for bringing to life the sensational costume design by Melanie Taylor Burgess.

Lighting by Mary Louise Geiger, and sound design by Christopher Walker were spectacular throughout the show, especially during the thunder and lightening scene.  And through all the long belty numbers in this show, the sound was perfectly balanced, and even in the balcony, the sound was crisp and clean.  Well done to both of you and your board ops for a flawless tech of Wednesday night’s show.

Now, on to the performances!  People, this, THIS is a musical!  And it is anchored by Ms. DeLohr Helland so beautifully, I can’t EVEN with how good this chick is on stage!  A true chameleon she can literally play anything.  You’ll remember I raved about her amazing ability to bring a role to life in my review on American Idiot at ArtsWest, and she brought it even harder as Maria!  To take on an 5thSOM4iconic role like Maria, a role made so famous and so well known, Ms. DeLohr Helland literally made it her own!  She found nuances as Maria that were delightful and playful and while vastly different than the film, it was still so honest and true to the character.  I was worried she was too young for the role, but I was so very wrong.  Her youthful exuberance, her whimsical way of bonding and playing with the children was absolutely delightful to watch.  She was downright sprightly as she brought life and music back into the von Trapp family.  Her vocals, always on point, this chick can hold a note like you wouldn’t believe. She just floats in on out there and subtly and slowly pushes power to it and it just hooks your heart and makes you feel everything she’s feeling.  And then in the next breath she is playfully running down a scale to a low note that just, I mean, I can’t!  I just can’t!  She’s absolute musical theatre perfection!  I’m so impressed by this young actor, and am so excited for the future she has ahead of her.  Bravo!!!

And for all Ms. DeLohr Helland’s vivacious love of life as Maria, Hans Altwies’ straight laced, zero-fun-having, super-strict Captain von Trapp was her perfect match.  The chemistry between Ms. DeLohr Helland and Mr. Altwies was absolutely delicious, and let’s just say there’s a hot, steamy, unexpectedly hot and steamy, moment between these two that was so hot, I felt like I should look away because I truly felt like I was invading on a real, private moment!  Lawd!  I mean, honestly!  LOVED IT!  Like a moment out of a romance novel come to life!  Delicious!  Good on you both!  Ha!  Ok, sorry, I digress.

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Photo Credit: Mark Kitaoka

 

Back to Mr. Altwies, who absolutely commanded every scene he was in and his transformation from heartbroken, shut down widower, to doting father and husband was wonderful.  A lovely voice, quite alike in tone and power to Christopher Plummer’s, his Edelweiss brought me to tears.  A dynamic actor, a strong stage presence, and a lovely voice makes Mr. Altwies the perfect leading man.  Thank you for keeping true to all the layers of one of my most beloved, favorite characters, Mr. Altwies, I’m so much the better for having seen you play this role.  Bravo!

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Photo Credit: Tracy Martin

Now, can we talk about these children, please, because I mean, they were all fantastic, each and every one of them!  Little miss Gretl, played by Kendall Bonham is absolutely darling.  Marta, played by Isabel Menna was simply adorable.  Aubrey Thomas as Brigitta was sassy and smart and kept the adults on their toes!  Kurt, played by Coleman Hunter, was delightful and whimsical.  Victoria Ames Smith as Louisa was deliciously mischievous and lovable at the same time.  Mark Jeffrey James Weber was absolutely wonderful as Friedrich.  And Shaye Hodgins who played Liesl absolutely stole my heart.

 

Ms. Hodgins, who reminds me very much of another young actress I mentored once upon a time, who unfortunately was taken from us too soon. So watching Ms. Hodgins flit and float across the stage as a girl on the cusp of womanhood, I couldn’t help but remember, and I thank Ms. Hodgins for that.  Her portrayal of Liesl was delicate and honest.  She didn’t force any moments, and even carried her scenes with Rolf (played by Kody Bringman), who I found to be the most underwhelming performance in the show.  But honestly, it was hard to even care about that, or notice him, because Ms. Hodigns is so good in this role.  Her voice is angelic, her dancing filled with beauty and grace, and her acting chops completely on point to be a simply stunning Liesl von Trapp.  This one is one to watch for sure!

My hat is off to all seven children who brought the von Trapp children to life for Seattle audiences.  I just loved them all!  So much fun to watch!  Bravo!

Rounding out this cast were a mix of talent like I haven’t seen on a stage in a while!  Anne Allgood as Mother Abbess was sheer and complete brilliance!  Jessica Skerritt as Elsa Schraeder was stunning and powerfully confident.  David Pichette’s Max Detweiler was irresistibly delightful with genius comedic timing and delivery.  Frau Schmidt, played by Lori Larsen was a lovely combination of sass and strength.  And I was so excited to see Darragh Kennan on stage again (you might remember him from my review where I raved about him as Iago in Othello at Seattle Shakespeare), and he was brilliantly menacing and bone chilling as the Nazi Herr Zeller.  Any chance I get to see Mr. Kennan perform is a good day!

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A strong ensemble balanced this show perfectly from the waltzers at the party to the nuns at the Abbey.  Speaking of, the collection of voices on the group of nuns cast in this show was stupendous to behold!  Perfect harmonies, perfect pitch, they were wonderful!

This is my first David Bennett production, and I must say, what a wonderful director he must be to work with given the caliber of each performance on that stage from ensemble to lead and everything in between.  Mr. Bennett understands the beauty that comes from just letting actors stop moving and stand still and perform!  He put together such a lovely kaleidoscope of pictures that had me mesmerized from the first note to the last, and I was quite sad when it was over.  And the very last moment, the moment that happens before the lights go out revealed a secret in the set that was the perfect stage for one of the most stunning closing moments I have ever seen on stage, and it reminded me why I love this thing called musical theatre so friggin much!  A perfectly directed moment performed perfectly by the actors, yeah, this is not a show to miss, people.  Bravo, Mr. Bennett!  Thank you for this wonderful experience!

The last thing, and I know this post was long, but I had so much to share, was the music in this show was simply wonderful.  Every voice on stage, every instrument in the pit worked in perfect harmony without one glitch.  I’ve said it in so many posts, that if you’re going to do a musical, the music needs to be good.  Well this music transcended good right into epic! Thank you to Music Director Kat Sherrell for a wonderful night of music.

I give this a thunderous, tear-filled standing ovation!

The Sound of Music Plays at the 5th Avenue Theatre through January 3rd, and I highly recommend you see this show.  Tickets and show information can be found on The 5th Avenue Theatre’s website.

Congrats and Bravo to all involved with this wonderful production.  It truly brightened up my holiday spirit!  5thSOM1

Ciao for now,

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Photos provided by The 5th Avenue Theatre’s Press Page

UW’s Loot Let Me Down

Entertainment Review, play review, Theatre Review

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I don’t know if it’s the fact that the last few shows I’ve seen at UW were spectacular; I don’t know if it’s that I’ve been so impressed with the acting chops of the current grad students at UW; but either my expectations were too high for this show or I caught the cast on a bad night, because I was absolutely underwhelmed by the opening night performance of Loot at the University of Washington.

Given that two of my current favorite young actors, Skye Edwards and Zack Virden, both of whom I have raved about in my reviews of Bus Stop and Pippin, I was so excited to see them back on stage together again, and in a farce, no less!

I’m a big fan of British Farce, and of the Playwright, Joe Orton, so to me, this was a match made in heaven, given the chameleon-esque quality of the current talent within the PATP at UW.  But sadly, the night I saw the show, it was flop after flop.

For those of you who don’t know Loot, it’s a whimsical, albeit dark farce set in the home of Mr. McLeavy, who has just lost his wife, and is a pillar in the Catholic community.  The play opens between the time of viewing the body of the late Mrs. McLeavy, and getting her to the burial site.  While this should be a time of mourning, Orton throws his audience into a whirlwind of over the top ridiculousness by way of Hal (son of Mr. & Mrs. McLeavy) and Dennis (Hal’s friend/lover) who have recently robbed a bank, and have to find a way to hide their loot, all while under the skeptical/investigative gaze of Nurse Fay (former nurse of Mrs. McLeavy, hoping to become the next Mrs. McLeavy) and Inspector Truscott (claims to be from the water board, but is clearly a police detective from, I think, Scotland?).  Let the mayhem ensue.

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While there was mayhem, the direction was so spazzy, the blocking so unnecessary in so many places, and the poor actors trying to commit so fully to it, there was very little entertainment.  I was completely bored out of my mind, actually.  I also reviewed Director, Sean Ryan’s work on Bus Stop, and was less than thrilled by his work there.  I had hoped he had improved since then, but I found the same faults with his concept of this show as I did with Bus Stop:  strange blocking, awkward character choices, laughable/unrealistic fight scenes, and overall weak concept. For all his love of farce called out in the director’s notes in the program, the superficial-one-note characters that I watched awkwardly move around that stage told me doesn’t truly understand farce.  To like farce is not enough to successfully bring one to life, and Mr. Ryan did not successfully pull one off, in my opinion, the night I saw Loot.

My biggest complaint is twofold: character development and accents.  I didn’t believe one relationship on that stage, it was so bizarre!  And with the awkward blocking, there were many times where it felt like the actors 1) didn’t know where they were supposed to be and 2) were not even remotely connected to what they were saying, let alone each other.  And for the latter, I’m wondering if it’s because they were all focusing on their accents, only one of which felt natural.

Mr. McLeavy, played by John Murray had a very convincing easy British accent.  Nurse Fay’s (played by Jess Moss) and Hal McLeavy’s (played by Zach Virden) accents went in and out quite a bit, and shifted from different versions of British (cockney one moment, high brow London the next, etc.), and it was quite tough to listen throughout the first act.  And Inspector Truscott (played by Skye Edwards) was, I think, supposed to be Scottish, although at times he sounded Russian and then would slide up into Irish now and again.  And unfortunately for Mr. Edwards, I’ve been watching a lot of Outlander lately, so I have Scottish accents burned into my brain right now, and his was nowhere near consistently correct.

Character development also left me disappointed, especially for the roles of Hal and Nurse Fay.  Ms. Moss was Maria in Twelfth Night, and was brilliant!  And we all know Mr. Virden was my favorite thing in Pippin!  So I know these two actors are phenomenal at character development and commitment, but they both left me underwhelmed in this show.  Mr. Virden’s Hal was clearly a gay character, and he was playing him sporadically over the top.  So, there were flouncing moments that looked forced and fake, which puzzled me, because trust me, Mr. Virden is a brilliant physical actor!  But this role did not showcase his talent well at all.  Ms. Moss’s Nurse Fay, who is supposed to be the object of desire of a few men in this show had the most one note performance I’ve seen in a while, which again, goes seriously against the layers of depth I know Ms. Moss is capable of as an actor.  Based on what I know of the talent of these two young actors, I can only lay the blame at the feet of their director.  Were they under rehearsed?  Were they not clear on the characters?  Did they not dig deep into these relationships during rehearsal?  I don’t know, it just didn’t work. And it was quite telling by the very few laughs the audience dolled out during this show, the most obvious and awkward of which was a scene where Ms. Moss is undressing the corpse of Mrs. McLeavy behind a screen, tossing her clothes over to Mr. Virden who is doing a ridiculously long monologue while holding up the female garments to himself and acting effeminate in a completely unrealistic way that just left the audience silent because it was so odd.

I will give major kudos to the designers on this show, however, as the set and costumes were fantastic!  I also really enjoyed the lighting, although the tech was a bit wonky, what with lights coming on prior to the actor’s actually getting to the light switch.  I’m guessing a newbie board op had an itchy go-button finger on opening night.

I was so bored and irritated, that I left at intermission.  However, I’ve seen that some folks are raving about the show, so perhaps I just caught Loot on a bad night.

I give this a blah, underwhelmed sigh that would have had me leaving in a blackout, had there been one at all in the first act. Since there wasn’t I suffered until intermission.

Loot plays for one more weekend, and show times and ticket information can be found on the UW School of Drama’s website.

Ciao for now,

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Photos from UW School of Drama Website