I Want to be a Yee!! ACT Theatre’s King of the Yees is a Downright, Fantastic Night of Theatre

Entertainment Review, play review, Theatre Review

Ok, People, we gotta talk right now about the current show going up at ACT Theatre:  King of the Yees.  This show, oh, this gloriously hilarious show is filled with outstanding writing, phenomenal acting, and wonderful design.  It was downright fun from the ‘turn off your cell phone’ message to the last blackout.  I cannot recommend you go see this show strongly enough!  GO SEE IT!

And let me get into a little more detail as to why you should go see it without giving too much away.  Let’s start with the design.  Set in the wonderful Allen Theatre, this show is done in the round.  And I love shows in the round, it’s such a fun challenge for Actors and Creative Team Members alike, and the Creative Team killed it for this production.  Carey Wong’s (I love that he’s a Wong, and you will have to go see the show to know why!) smart and simple set design used not only the stage beautifully, but the entire theatre with finesse.  Brilliantly done props and expertly using the space’s fly system, Mr. Wong created a some-what black box space for the actors to simply act without a lot of things in their way, and it definitely added to the complexity of this play.  Mr. Wong understands space in the most beautiful way, and I really loved what he did with this show.

Ancestor1Christine Tschirgi’s costumes were in a word, epic!  From her modern dress to her outlandish creative pieces, she dressed each character perfectly!  Each new character who joined the show had a look and style all their own, each so clearly defined, that you really did lose the actor playing, and just saw the character.  And is there any better compliment to give?  I could gush about the brilliance of Ms. Tschirgi’s work, but if I did, I’d give too much away, and I really want you to go see this show.  Ok, one teaser – Miami Vice meets Bubble Tea!  GO!

Sound and lighting also played a big part in this show, and both were expertly designed, and my kudos go out to Brendan Patrick Hogan and Jessica Trundy for the wonderful job!  All in all the tech was just outstanding in this show, and any actor will tell you, without good tech as your foundation, an actor can’t relax and be in the moment, and the tech in this show was stellar from start to finish!  Bravo!

Now, let’s talk about this cast, shall we?  A small cast of only five actors, these artists take character development to new heights.  Each one so nuanced and clear, I was mesmerized by the transitions from one to the next from every actor in this cast.

Lauren Yee, played by Khanh Doan, was so wonderful and dynamic in the way she seamlessly anchors this play.  The only actor to only play one character, her performance in this show was both uplifting and inspiring.  She takes a journey that any child who struggles with finding balance between the life you want for yourself and the life your parents’ want for you has had, and she did so with outstanding grace and respect.

Larry YeeStan Egl as Larry Yee, the title character, gave us so much fun loving dad stuff, that he had me and my friends in the palm of his hand.  He was goofy and delightful, and gave both my funny bone and my heart strings a workout during his performance.

Rounding out the cast are Actors 1, 2, and 3, with 2 and 3 played by Annelih GH Hamilton and Joseph Ngo respectfully and both had some epic characters to play!  Ms. Hamilton, fearless in her attack of the numerous characters she plays in this show, I found her charisma addictively hysterical.  She really took all the good stuff her fellow actors were doing and played off of them beautifully.  Mr. Ngo had extremely dynamic shifts from one character to the next, and had one of my most favorite moments of the night with some footwear that, honey, I don’t know how he did it, but he did the damn thing in those! No two characters for these two actors were anywhere near each other, and I applaud them both for their impeccable character development and commitment to seamlessly transitioning from one to the next.  Bravo!

But let me just talk to you, right quick, about the genius that is Ray Tagavilla, Actor 1, in this show.  Now, some might call me biased, as I went to UW with Ray, and have been witness to his genius for sometime (you’ll remember me gushing about him in my review of Four Dogs and a Bone at Theatre Schmeater a few years ago), and to those people I say, ‘If you think I’m biased, you’ve clearly never seen Mr. Tagavilla on stage, because if you had, you’d know, I’m not biased, I just speak the truth.’  Cuz, oooooooooooooooo, did he kill it in this show!  Mr. Tagavilla’s comedic timing is something that has always blown my mind, and in this show, oh my god, it’s on a whole new level.  The way that he is able to sink so deeply into the character he is playing, that every small gesture specific to that character, and that character alone, is absolutely mesmerizing.  I brought five friends with me to this, and at both intermission and after the show, they just kept asking me, “How does he do that?  How does he just shift so quickly from one character to another like that?”  Answer: Training and Talent!  And Mr. Tagavilla has both running through his veins.  He gained five new fans with this performance, and nothing warmed my heart more than when my friends said “Let us know the next time Ray is in a show, because we are there!”

I’m always proud of Ray when I have the joy of watching him on stage, am always mesmerized by what a truly phenomenal actor he is, and love him in comedic roles more than anything because his timing is absolute perfection, but this show in particular, these characters that he brought to life, really impressed the hell out of me.  Bravo, my amazing friend!!  Thank you for bringing the thunder with this performance, for your epic character development, and for pulling audiences into the story in the way that only you can.  You know, through talent, and training, and bedazzling prop work, and most of all through the delicious, yet arduous task of sipping on some bubble tea.  Oh, those chewy bubbles!

Lauren Yee1Seriously, though, these actors are no joke, and are expertly directed by Desdemona Chiang.  She truly created a space for actors to play, and the way she brought the real Lauren Yee’s words to life was delightful and thought provoking.  Her staging in the challenging round theatre was fantastically simple, and allowed for the actors to just listen to each other and lean in to each other, and create real, powerful moments on stage.  Some will leave you dying laughing.  Some will leave you thinking about your relationships with your own heritage.  And for this theatre lover, it left me so damn proud that I live in a city filled with such talented people, and theatres that invest in such good work, where my talented friends can share their gifts with the world.  But I guarantee, whoever you are, this show will leave you wanting to be a Yee!

This is not a show to miss, I’m telling you.  Go see it!  Take friends.  Take family.  Take everybody!  But there isn’t much time left, as the show closes on Oct 1, so go get tickets now.  RIGHT NOW!

Tickets and show information can be found on ACT Theatre’s Website.

Thank  you all for an amazing night of theatre that I’ll not soon forget!  Bravo to everyone involved in this show, you really have created something special!

Ciao for now,

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Review: Bootycandy at Intiman Theatre in Seattle, WA

Entertainment Review, play review, Theatre Review

I didn’t know what to expect when I entered the Alhadeff Studio behind the Cornish Theatre for Industry Night of The Intiman Theatre’s production of  Bootycandy.  There is not a bad seat in the intimate black box space, the small cast has names I already know and am impressed with, and coming off of how good the last show was that I saw at the Intiman (Orpheus Descending, and it was glorious!), I had high hopes for a good night of theatre.  And, oh, was I right!

11178355_10153708631987578_1616562143855765840_nBootycandy follows a cast of characters, held together by the journey of Sutter, played by the ridiculously talented Tyler Trerise, as they shift back and forth through a conglomeration of multi-faceted, multi-dimensional scenes, one more scintillating than the next.  This ensemble, these brilliant masters of the stage, these actors brought to life so many amazingly real, complex, and honest characters, navigating real, complex and honest moments, that my actor’s heart was so full by the end, I jumped to my feet and cheered for their success!  I laughed, I cried, I laughed so hard I cried, I was shocked, and I was awed, and as the show goes on, so does the brave choices of this phenomenal ensemble.  You must go see this show.

In addition to Mr. Trerise, the rest of the ensemble play so many characters, there are too many to list in the program.  Cited in the program as simply Actor One, Actor Two, Actor Three, Actor Four, Angel Brice, Rebecca M. Davis, Chris Ensweiler, and Isaiah Johnson friggin blew my mind with every new character they brought to life.  I don’t want to go into detail, because I don’t want to ruin even one moment of discovery for any of you who have the privilege of seeing this amazing show!  I will just congratulate all the artists bringing this story to life for their honesty, their commitment to every character, and their bravery to sink so selflessly into these relationships.  What they were able to do with this sensational script, well frankly, there are just not enough words for how beautifully they performed it.  Let’s just say that I am forever changed after seeing this show.

Malika Oyetimein, Director

Malika Oyetimein, Director

A show this complex, this authentically open, needs a strong hand at the helm, guiding it towards excellence, and director Malika Oyetimein’s grip was firm and steady on this production.  I came in to this a fan of Ms. Oyetimein’s, as I saw her directing project of Bus Stop at the University of Washington, and was spellbound by her direction of that show.  As a proud alumni of the University of Washington’s acting program, to see the talent that is still coming out of my alma mater makes me so happy, because she is killing it out there!  Her strong concepts and ability to pull performances from performers, as well as her ability to perfectly cast shows are quickly becoming her trademarks.  I cannot wait to see her next project.  She’s a director to watch!  Bravo!

Brilliantly costumed, stunningly lit, and perfectly staged, the design team was on point!  They created a simplistic, yet accurate world for this amazing ensemble to play upon, and all elements came together perfectly!

When it comes to good theatre, the Intiman was my go-to back in the day, and I have always had immense respect for this theatre, especially when they paused for a moment to take a breath and regroup in 2011.  I must say, after the last two shows I’ve seen, clearly that was the right decision, because under the Producing Artistic Direction of Andrew Russell, all I can say is, The Intiman is back, y’all!!!  His ability to bring artists together to create great art is a wonder to behold.  And you really should go see this show to fully experience the sheer brilliance that is happening in a little black box theatre in the Seattle Center.

BC_600x315_WebBootycandy runs through October 3rd, and tickets and show information
can be found on the Intiman’s Website.  Please go support this wonderful local theatre, because the art they are putting out is fantastic!

I give Bootycandy a resounding standing ovation and a Yassssss, honey!  Bravo!!!

Ciao for now,

M lg

Photos from the Intiman’s Facebook page and the University of Washington School of Drama website.  

Review: Sweeney Todd at Renton Civic Theatre

Entertainment Review, play review, Theatre Review

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In going to see Sweeney Todd at Renton Civic Theatre, I was already at a disadvantage because the only exposure I’d ever had to this show was the Johnny Depp movie that I neither enjoyed, nor finished.  I knew the story well enough, had heard the hits from the show, but it is just not the type of musical I enjoy, and I think it’s because in order to really enjoy Sweeney, one must enjoy an operatic sound, and I do not.  So, to review it is tough, because I now know it’s just not a show I enjoy, so I think I’ll focus on the elements of the show and look at it with a technical eye.

Let’s start with the successes first.  There is some serious talent in this cast, primarily the three main adult characters in the show.  Let’s start with the title character, shall we?  Sweeney Todd, played by the fantastic Brian Lange was absolutely stellar.  Mr. Lange’s voice is perfect for this role, and his physicality and ability to create dark and vengeful moments made him the perfect Sweeney.  Costumed to look very much like the Johnny Depp movie version, Mr. Lange’s tall, slim frame really added to the Demon Barber of Fleet Street’s edge.  He was menacing and wounded at the same time, and was the absolute anchor of this show.  His presence and ability to sink his teeth into this tortured soul made everyone in scenes with him better, and I was extremely impressed by his performance.

And the yin to Sweeney Todd’s yang, is of course Mrs. Lovett, played by Rachel Wilkie.  Cunning, manipulative, and quirky, Ms. Wilkie brought to life a delightful Mrs. Lovett.  She had wonderful chemistry with Mr. Lange, and gave a vibrant zest for life which beautifully juxtaposed Mr. Lange’s constant melancholy.  A little sprite of a thing, Ms. Wilkie flitted and floated around the stage with a Puck-esque mischief state at all times, and I really enjoyed her.  Spot on cockney accent, on-point comedic timing, and a wonderful energy on stage, she was definitely the life of the show.

Lastly, the third point to the main adult character triangle is Judge Turpin, played by the delicious Brian Pucheu.  Judge Turpin is a despicable human being, one who made this reviewer’s face grimace with disgust on numerous occasions, because Mr. Pucheu pulls absolutely no punches.  He doesn’t hold back, he commits fully to the many dimensions of this character, making every moment from fawning over Johanna to self deprecating flogging real and tactile, so much that you feel it all, even from the back row where I sat. (And honestly, even if you don’t like opera, you should check out this show just for the flogging scene because, good God is it breath taking!)  Mr. Pucheu unapologetically travels through the Judge’s journey, and is so phenomenal at making him human, that I had moments of really liking the Judge and almost, not quite, but almost understanding and sympathizing with his side of things.  Judge Turpin is the law in all the land, both inside and outside his home, so when that control starts to crumble around him, Mr. Pucheu’s ability to take us on that journey was sensational to watch.  To constantly flirt with the line between judge and deviant so seamlessly, with so much humanity simply made my actor’s heart soar.  This is one brave actor, and I am very much looking forward to seeing him on stage in the future.  Bravo!

Mirroring the trio of adults is a trio of young adult characters, and sadly these three weren’t as strong.  The best performance of the three, in my opinion, was Tobias Ragg, played by Nick Hyett-Schnell.  Mr. Hyett-Schnell’s Toby was adorably sweet and naive, with strong physicality and a lovely voice.  Mr. Hyett-Shnell’s ‘Not While I’m Around’ was so perfect, it brought tears to my eyes it was so honest and touching.  Mr. Hyett-Schnell’s performance only fell short for me in two areas, the first of which is that his cockney accent went in and out, and was jarringly noticeable.  Secondly, there are few panic moments for Toby, and only one of them felt honest and true and big enough for the circumstances of the scenes.  You’ll remember that Mr. Hyett-Schnell is a former acting student of mine, as I reviewed his directorial debut of The Addams Family back in July.  So, I have higher expectations of this kid than everyone else up on that stage, and not only did he not disappoint, he made me so very proud.

The other two children are the young lovers of Johanna and Anthony, played by Shelly Traverse and Matt Lang, and I didn’t care for the performances from either of these actors.  While they were both vocally strong, and sang well, their acting was no where near the level of the rest of the cast around them.  Ms. Traverse had a very strange smile on her face the entire first act that didn’t make any sense based on the lines she was delivering.  The smile had no connection to the acting moments, as if her voice and her face were in two different moments, and it was really disappointing because it made it difficult to watch her.  There’s a moment where the Judge tells her he’s going to marry her, and against Mr. Pucheu’s ridiculous ability to be authentic and terrifyingly creepy, Ms. Traverse’s Stepford wife smile as she realized what he was doing made no sense.

Additionally, Mr. Lang, while a lovely tenor, moves awkwardly on stage, creating a kind of characature rather than a real person making it almost impossible to connect with Anthony.  There’s a tension, and uncertainty to his movement around the stage, and he appears to be trying so hard to ‘play’ Anthony, that I never believed anything Anthony had to say in this show.  Like Mr. Hyett-Schnell, Mr. Lang’s British accent goes in and out and doesn’t sound natural.  There’s a duet with Anthony and Johanna, where his accent was absolutely non-existent, and the lack of chemistry between these two actors made the scene simply painful to watch.  The adult leads in this show effortlessly created very real multi-dimensional characters having real moments throughout the show, and sadly for these two young actors, that contrast really shined a light on how one-dimensional and weak their acting performances were, making it tough to care about their journey to each other.

The concept of the show by director, Vincent Orduña was a strong one.  He definitely created a fun playground for his actors to run around on (and I do mean run around, these actors are up and down staircases constantly!). He had quite a challenging show to do in a small community theatre, as well as the challenge of how difficult this show is musically.  There was a lot of just standing and singing, which I appreciate!  Mr. Orduña understands the beauty of a still picture to just let actors be and sing, the most successful for of which was during Pretty Women, where Mr. Lange and Mr. Pucheu were in a tableau with Sweeney standing behind the Judge, who was seated in the Barber’s chair; a stunning moment, both visually and vocally.  My only criticism was the varied use of British accents, cockney or otherwise, when they clearly weren’t working.  Mr. Lange never used an accent as Sweeney, Mrs. Lovett’s accent was perfection, and so I wish all accents had been pulled from everyone except for those who could do it consistently and naturally.

And speaking of vocally, I was extremely impressed by the vocals on the entire cast.  Music Director, Aimee Hong did a fantastic job of utilizing the voices in her ensemble to make the sound of this highly complicated score full and strong. I especially enjoyed the opening Ballad of Sweeney Todd, as it set the tone for the rest of the show.  The pacing was quite good, especially given a show this long and complicated. As I said, that operatic sound doesn’t resonate with me as something I enjoy, but I can very much respect the caliber of the vocal performances of this show, led by Ms. Hong. Well done.

Design elements were also strong!  While the set design was a bit clunky, it was built beautifully, the star of which was the barber’s chair!  OH!  This piece of brilliance was clearly constructed for this show and this set, and I give a huge congratulations to Scott Shaver for creating this masterpiece!  Bravo!  Loved it!  Mr. Lange had to have just been thrilled to use it!

The costumes were fantastic as well.  The show had the feel of Tim Burton’s film with both costumes and make-up, but I’m not mad about it, because it worked!  My one confusion was at the end, the wig Toby suddenly has on didn’t make sense to me.  I understood it in the beginning of the show, but it made no sense at the end.

My favorite costumes, however, were Mrs. Lovett’s, especially her opening number skirt that looked like a crocheted blanked my grandmother had when I was little.  Bustled beautifully, full of rusty colors of oranges and golds, it just popped against the dreary grey of Mr. Todd.  The entire cast was costumed and made up exactly as folks in 19th Century London would look.  Some of the best costuming I’ve seen in a while, so I give congratulations to Courtney Kessler for her vision.

Overall, Sweeney Todd is a good show, and it’s heads and shoulders above anything else I’ve seen at Renton Civic Theatre, well, ever.  They should be very grateful that Mr. Orduña upped the level of production for their space, because it truly was a 180 from The Boy Friend, and I chalk that up to a better vision and direction, as well as an understanding of utilizing performers strengths so that every actor up on that stage was set up for success.  I was worried about coming back to RCT after the Boy Friend experience, but given how well this production was done, I will definitely be back, especially when Mr. Orduña is at the helm.

If you’re a fan of Sweeney Todd, like operatic-style musical theatre, or just appreciate strong vocals, you should definitely see this show.  It’s very well done from start to finish.  You know it has to be a quality of show for me to recommend seeing it even though I don’t like the style.

11053513_10153587882668708_570959848608434253_oSweeney Todd runs at Renton Civic Theatre through October 3rd, and ticket and show time information can be found on RCT’s website.

I give this an appreciative applause for a job well done.

Ciao for now

M lg

Noises Off at SecondStory Repertory in Redmond, WA

Entertainment Review, play review, Theatre Review

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ciao for now,

M sm

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