Browsing All posts tagged under »Musical«

Shrek the Musical (Studio East)

July 28, 2014

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Studio East's 17th Annual Summer Teen Musical, "Shrek the Musical".

Studio East kicks off summer with their 17th Annual Summer Teen Musical and all lights are green; ogre green and if opening night is any indication, Studio East’s “Shrek the Musical" is guaranteed entertainment for all ages. The talented cast had the audience eating from their hands and they were not serving up onions, but parfaits all the way, drawing repeated laughter throughout the performance. While Shrek may believe he is a "crackpot magnet", Studio East proves they are a talent magnet with its latest production “Shrek the Musical", playing through August 3 at the Kirkland Performing Arts Center.

For those not familiar with the play, “Shrek the Musical tells the story of an anti-social ogre named Shrek. Shrek’s normal routine is disrupted one day as his swamp home suddenly turns into a fairytale refugee camp, courtesy of a mandate from wicked Lord Farquaad. The mandate requires that all fairytale creatures be rounded up and confined to the swamp. To reclaim his home, Shrek, played by the gifted Christian Obert, must travel to Duloc and confront Lord Farquaad. Farquaad, played by the deliciously evil and brilliant Alex Ascanio agrees to hand over the deed to the land, if Shrek completes a task for him first. Ascanio, even walking on his knees, stands tall, nailing the role of villain to perfection, much to the conflicted joy of the audience.

Along the way, Shrek meets his initially unwanted companion, Donkey, played by the irrepressible Keenan Barr. In Duloc, Farquaad convinces Shrek to rescue a princess for him in exchange for the deed to his home. In the end, Shrek gets more than he bargained for and his life is never the same the again.

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.

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.

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.

Big River (Village Theatre)

October 1, 2012

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Village Theatre kicks off its 2012-2013 season with Roger Miller’s Tony award-winning musical, Big River. Big River is based on Mark Twain’s timeless classic tale and chronicles the adventures of Huckleberry Finn and his friend, a runaway slave Jim as they raft down the Mississippi River. Reminiscent of a summer's evening sky, Village Theatre’s production of Big River shines with numerous points of lights and guarantees to delight audience of all ages. The production proves a masterfully prepared, directed and performed show can both simultaneously entertain as well as stimulate theater goers to consider deeper issues like human rights and equality.

Big River will no doubt have broad appeal due to its engaging, adventurous storyline and popular lead characters, Huckleberry Finn played with much boyish charm by a talented Randy Sholz and runaway slave, Jim, portrayed by the charismatic Rodney Hicks. The show actually has many wonderfully quirky characters, which run the gamut from loveable and endearing to the outright peculiar and despicable. Each is uniquely brought to life by a brilliant cast, which is supported by beautifully detailed sets, an immersive production and of course, Roger Miller’s wonderful eclectic range of bluegrass, blues and country music.

Godspell (Studio East)

August 14, 2012

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On Friday, August 10th Studio East followed up its smash summer musical, “Thoroughly Modern Millie” with an opening night sellout of “Godspell” over at the Studio East Mainstage Theater in Kirkland. Boasting a cast of over twenty children and teens, Studio East joyfully takes on one of Stephen Schwartz and Broadways’ most successfully but challenging musicals and succeeds in conveying the heart of the show to an engaged and delighted audience. Clearly Studio East does not shy away from controversial, sensitive or demanding productions.

Before attending the performance, I was familiar with Victor Garber’s performance in “Godspell” the movie but was unsure of what to expect from a live production performed by a cast with an average age of twelve. Studio East surprised me right out of the gate, by the provocative decision to cast a young lady (Jordan Williams) in the role of Jesus. Did I mention that they were not afraid to be controversial? I wisely determined to withhold judgment and give the performance a chance, as by the time the curtain closed, I found myself curiously moved by the production. I will speak to this later in the review.

Forever Plaid (SecondStory Repertory)

July 16, 2012

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SecondStory Repertory closes out its thirteenth season with “Forever Plaid”, written by Stuart Ross and directed by Crystal Dawn Munkers. “Forever Plaid” is a distinctive and magical production, a mingling of music and drama with a healthy dose of a wistful flashback concert performance. It is a step back in time, an enjoyable revisiting for an evening the nostalgic and simple pleasure of the vocal harmony of the four part boy groups of the 50’s like the Four Aces, Four Coins, Four Freshmen, Four Lads, Four Preps, Hi-Lo's and Kirby Stone Four.

Forever Plaid” tells the story of just such a boy vocal band perched on the precipice of realizing the dream that they have been working towards ever since their fortuitous meeting in the high school audio visual club. Sparky, Smudge, Jinx and Frankie, individually flawed but together as The Plaids, bound by their mutual passion for music and entertaining, their potential was unlimited. The countless hours of rehearsing their music, choreographed moves and the continued strengthening of their enchanted four part harmony had finally paid off and they landed their first big gig at the Airport Hilton cocktail lounge, The Fusel Lounge.