Interview Part 2: Green Tea, Octo Sushi and Chit-Chat with Kitten La Rue of The Atomic Bombshells

November 11, 2013

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Kitten LaRue

Last week, I had the pleasure of sitting down at Octo Sushi with the enchanting Kitten LaRue of The Atomic Bombshells during a break from rehearsing her upcoming show “Lost in Space” which opens this week at the Triple Door (November 13). In Part 1 we discussed Kitten’s initial exposure and interest in burlesque growing up in New Orleans, her college studies and early interest in teaching and we began to touch upon the other influences in her life. In Part 2, we will broaden our discussion to include her recent marriage, relationship with her parents, touring experiences, how she came to call the Emerald City her home and how The Atomic Bombshells came to be.

Amongst the background noise of the restaurant, I took a moment to reflect upon the vibrant and gifted young lady sitting next to me as she took another sip of her warm green tea. Clearly she was bright, engaging and talented. She not only choreographs, scripts, directs and performs in her shows, but manages, produces and books them as well. No stranger to keeping busy, she recently got married, returned from her debut guest performance in an off-Broadway musical at Ars Nova in New York, begun rehearsing for “Lost in Space” and also is preparing for an Australian Tour with The Atomic Bombshells coming in 2014. It was hard to not be impressed by this go-getter, but I found myself intrigued about the experiences in life that helped to shape her into the unique person that she had become. I determined to start with her parents. I inquired how her parents reacted to her decision to pursue burlesque as her chosen vocation.

“That’s an interesting question. My mother and step-father…we have a “don’t ask don’t tell” policy because they are very religious, but my father, who is a musician and artist himself, loves it. He’s come to several of my shows. He’s totally amazed by them and very supportive.”

Interview Part 1: Green Tea, Octo Sushi and Chit-Chat with Kitten La Rue of The Atomic Bombshells

November 8, 2013

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Kitten LaRue
On Tuesday evening, I had the unique opportunity to sit down with Kitten LaRue of The Atomic Bombshells during a break from rehearsing her upcoming show “Lost in Space” which opens at the Triple Door for six shows running from November 13 through November 16. We met at Octo Sushi, a clean and enjoyable out-of-the-way sushi joint nestled away inside a non-descript building in the Capital Hill area of Seattle. We sipped warm green tea at the sushi bar, as we discussed her life, the upcoming show at the Triple Door and the 10th anniversary of The Atomic Bombshell burlesque troupe, she founded in 2003.

“You grew up in Louisiana.” I said, drawing a nod of agreement from Kitten LaRue, “At what age did you decide that burlesque was something that you were drawn to?”

“I started doing burlesque and became aware and interested in it while I was living in New Orleans as a young person. I went to go see a show there which was incredible, the Shim-Shamettes, one of the first burlesque revival shows happening in the country. It had a 10 piece jazz band, incredible costumes and was very much in line with what we do with The Atomic Bombshells. The classic old-school bourbon street style of burlesque. I fell in love with it immediately.”

Posted in: Interviews

The Hobbit – A Musical (Studio East)

October 30, 2013

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Smaug and Bilbo (Robert Kinsfather) square off. “The Hobbit – A Musical”  at Studio East.
Studio East brilliantly brings the enchanted lands of Middle Earth to the stage with their 2013-2014 season kickoff production of “The Hobbit - A Musical”. Based on the 1972 adaption by Ruth Perry (music by Allan Jay Friedman and lyrics by David Roger) of the beloved classic by J.R.R. Tolkien, it recounts the story of the most unlikely of heroes, an unassuming Hobbit by the name of Bilbo Baggins. Directed by Lani Brockman and choreographed by Jenny Mitchell with musical direction by David Duvall, “The Hobbit - A Musical” runs from October 18 - November 3 over at Studio East Mainstage Theater in Kirkland. The show is double casted (I watched Cast B), so you may want to see the show more than once to experience both casts.

The Hobbit – A Musical” begins innocently enough with Bilbo pleasantly listening to his high-spirited nephew Frodo outside of his hobbit hole. Bilbo Baggins, played with surprising empathy and warmth by the gifted Robert Kinsfather, lovingly indulges his young nephew played by the absolutely adorable Grace Hiley, as he reads from a book containing tales of magic rings, monsters and adventures which lay beyond their quiet home in the Shire. I was impressed by Kinsfather’s ability to so convincingly portray the gentle but honorable and fiercely loyal spirit which is Bilbo Baggins. His performance continues to get stronger, as the production goes on.

Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street (Studio East)

March 24, 2013

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Cast of Sweeney Todd @ Studio East
Last Saturday evening, my daughter and I took in a show over at Studio East of Kirkland. It was the opening weekend of their two weekend production of Sondheim’s dark musical “Sweeney Todd – The Demon Barber of Fleet Street”. Clearly, this is not your average musical. Who else but Sondheim could envision a marriage between song and culinary cannibalism? Lovers of “The Sound of Music” be forewarned, “Sweeney Todd” it is not recommended for children under 13 years of age due to some mature content. There will be no ‘Edelweiss’ in this production unless it is being used to spicy up Mrs. Lovett’s special ingredient meat pies.

Awaiting the beginning of the performance, I found myself anxious and full of trepidation. Not only does “Sweeney Todd” deal with a multitude of disturbing and adult concepts, but it portrays the world of London as an inhabitation of characters driven by their most base human desires. It is a dark world, where injustice and moral corruption reigns. I wondered if a cast of young adults and children, some as young as ten years of age, could truly bring that world to life? Could they convey and manifest upon the stage, the desperate conflict of good and evil within each one of us and yet still inspire and entertain the audience?

The answer for the most part is a resounding yes. Studio East does a solid job of bringing that dark world of "Sweeney Todd", played by the capable Christian Obert, to life but also in offering us some hope. Obert shows that he is equally at home playing a morose, tormented lead character like Sweeney Todd as he is playing humorous supporting characters like Rapunzel’s Prince (Into the Woods) or Mr. Trevor Graydon (Thoroughly Modern Millie). Todd, to his inevitable detriment, is so driven by hatred for those which have wronged him that he can see nothing else. Love and happiness are unrecognizable strangers to Todd, having been replaced with a single-minded focus for revenge on those who have hurt him. Obert does an admirable job in conveying this obsession; being blinded to all else around him.

Into the Woods (Studio East)

March 1, 2013

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The Witch (Sean Ben-Zvi) appeals to Rapunzel (Gwyneth Casey). Studio East 2013.
Studio East fearlessly kicked off February with its triumphal production of Steven Sondheim’s challenging musical “Into the Woods”. Two casts take on the complex task of performing the limited run. “Into the Woods” tells the story of a childless Baker and his wife on a quest to remove a curse preventing them from having children. In their effort to lift the curse, they come across an assortment of fairy tale characters ranging from Cinderella, Little Red Riding Hood, Jack (and the beanstalk), a pair of Princes and others. Act 1 deals with each of the characters seeking their ‘happily ever after”, while Act II reveals the rarely seen consequences which follow their “happily ever after”.

The play begins with spotlights on three scenes: Cinderella wishing that she could go to the Festival with her step-sisters; Jack and his mother lamenting the condition of their cow Milky-White, wishing that their cow would give them milk and a Baker and his wife melancholy over their inability to have a child. What is most interesting is not so much what each wishes for, but what each is willing to do in pursuit of achieving their wishes and the final state of each after their wishes has come true.

Into the Woods” is a challenging production to execute successfully from the rapid scene changes and detailed sets, the assortment of characters, costumes and Sondheim’s sophisticated musical score and marvelously rich lyrics which are often required to be recited with varied meter, pitch and beat. Not an easy task for an adult professional production, but Studio East attempts and succeeds with young adults and children.

Land of the Sweets – The Burlesque Nutcracker (the Triple Door)

December 19, 2012

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"Land of the Sweets" at The Triple Door.
It is official. The holiday season in Seattle has begun and that can mean only one thing, the return of Lily Verlaine and Jasper McCann’s annual installment of "Land of the Sweets – the Burlesque Nutcracker" at the renowned venue, The Triple Door. “Land of the Sweets” puts a unique twist on the traditional Nutcracker Suite, incorporating various styles of professionally choreographed dance routines, aerial acrobatics, vaudevillian comedy and of course, burlesque. Verlaine and McCann are joined by local stars Waxie Moon, Kitten LaRue, Miss Indigo Blue, Babette La Fave, Inga Ingénue and others on the 2013 show which runs for 21 performances from December 11 – 27.

Verlaine and McCann continue to refine the show which took Seattle by storm 6 years ago, keeping it fresh and new with innovative routines and costumes in this year’s performance not included in prior year shows. McCann continues his masterful role as ringmaster to this exotic collection of performers and successfully kicks off the show by working the audience and getting them into the festive mood of the show.

Land of the Sweets” is an intelligent, well-paced, assortment of entertaining impish vignettes catering to audience enjoyment. Chock full of talented performers, kudos to Verlaine and McCann on casting as the performers executed together like a well-oiled machine, seemingly amused and enjoying the experience of working together. Especially memorable was the overall cast playfulness, facial expressiveness and tongue-in-cheek humor exhibited in many of the scenes, but embodied in the performance of the naïvely playful Snowflakes, played by Inga Ingénue, Polly Wood and Holly Pop.

Fiddler on the Roof (Village Theatre)

December 12, 2012

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Village Theatre tackles the challenging and beloved family favorite musical “Fiddler on the Roof” and succeeds in generating an embarrassment of entertainment riches for audiences. I admit I was skeptical upon arrival at the theater. The idea that a live show could convey the enduring charm and delight of Norman Jewison’s 1971 movie seemed highly unlikely but “miracle of miracles” I was more than pleasantly surprised at what I witnessed.

Fiddler on the Roof” tells the story of Russian-Jewish patriarch Teyve, a dairyman in Czarist Russia, struggling to maintain his balance while raising five daughters during difficult times. An incredibly likeable character, beloved for his unpretentious and authentic personal relationship with God, Teyve tells us that God’s law provides the balance required to keep him and other Jews from toppling over. Without it, their lives would be 'as shaky as a fiddler on the roof'. Ever-changing times and increasingly strong-willed children, put Teyve's faith as well as his ability to bend without breaking to the ultimate test.

From top to bottom the production shines, like a guiding light from Teyve’s beloved Torah. The cast and crew, set designs and scene transitions, choreography, songs, etc…all were off the chart amazing and masterfully executed. Many of the songs were so wonderfully recreated on stage that they gave me chills. There is so much to like about the show, that I am at a loss at where to begin, so let’s start at the top. Eric Polani Jensen as family patriarch Teyve had an almost insurmountable challenge in recreating the role defined by Chaim Topol. I have seen other performances of “Fiddler on the Roof” and struggled to erase the memory of Topol’s definitive performance in that role, but somehow Jensen pulls it off with ease. Jensen not only looks very similar to Topol’s Teyve, but channels the same lovable charisma of Topol and the results are astonishing. I was disappointed when Topol injured his back and was unable to perform “Fiddler” in Seattle recently, but Jensen’s performance satisfied my unfilled desire.