Browsing All posts tagged under »Reviews«

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.

The Glass Menagerie (Seattle Repertory)

November 27, 2012

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Seattle Repertory’s performance of Tennessee William’s semi-autobiographical “The Glass Menagerie” directed by Braden Abraham is an intimate, thoughtful view into dysfunctional family Americana at its best. It tells the story of the Wingfield family struggling to deal with life in the wake of abandonment by its patriarch. Though absent in body, the father’s presence is never far from the family’s thoughts, as his portrait is hung prominently in their home, an ever-present reminder of their rejection. Told primarily through the eyes of the troubled and restless son, Tom Wingfield, played by the emotive Ben Huber who bears a striking likeness to Adam Levine of Maroon 5 fame, Menagerie compels us to bear witness to a family overwhelmed by the challenges of transitioning to modern society, instead opting to each live in a fantasy denial of reality.

We see the mother, Amanda Wingfield (Suzanne Bouchard) a tragic aging southern belle unwilling or unable to adjust to her economic decline, clinging desperately to antiquated southern belle ideals and values in a world foreign to them. She is the stranger in a strange land. Bouchard succeeds wildly in her heartrending portrayal of a deeply conflicted woman out of touch with the times, staunchly defending the way things used to be and generally being a busybody and nag to her children. She is paradoxically unable to accept her children for who they are and yet willing to sacrifice her own pride suffering through the humiliation of being forced to sell subscriptions over the phone out of love for them. At times she is stunningly cruel to them, like in telling Laura who is dressed up for her gentleman caller that this is the prettiest that she will ever be or by complaining that why can’t she and her brother be like normal people. Is it out of love that she seeks to manipulate her children for their own perceived benefit or out of some vain attempt to re-live her own life through them?

I Never Saw Another Butterfly (Studio East)

October 25, 2012

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Studio East does not shy away from the challenging, unconventional or the controversial. On October 5, Studio East opened a limited run of Celeste Raspanti’s play “I Never Saw Another Butterfly” which wrapped up on Oct 13. “Butterfly” tells the heartrending story of 15,000 Jewish children who passed through the Terezin concentration camp during World War II most on their way to Auschwitz. Their story is told through Raja, one of only a hundred children who survived Terezin, and pieced together from the poems and artwork which the children of Terezin left behind as their legacy. It is a haunting tale made more visceral as Studio East tells it using young people and children. There are two different casts performing during this production and I was attending a production performed by Cast A. <br.
There were many wonderful touches that increased the experience of the play. In the lobby, I was impressed and moved by the artistic displays the participants in the production constructed to help reflect their experience of Terezin. The music played in the theater prior to the production was spot on and helped to immerse you into the experience. Costumes were wonderfully detailed and the Star of David set design was beautiful and functional for the production; effectively used by the cast during the play (kudos to Master Carpenter Erik Eagleson). The bold and effective use of projections on the wall behind the actors, especially the shots of authentic artwork from the children of Terezin, helped to tie in the illusion on stage with its real world events.

Late September Dogs (Hard Rock Cafe)

October 4, 2012

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Last Friday night, I did something which I have not done in a long, long time. I drove into downtown Seattle and paid for overpriced parking just to see a live band play. Which band could drag me twenty miles into town and motivate me to fight the traffic and parking nightmare which is downtown Seattle? The band which inspired me was Late September Dogs (LSD) and they were headlining at the Hard Rock Cafe. I became aware of the band several months ago and have been listening to their music as part of my playlist ever since. Here was a chance to see for myself what kind of live show they put on.

From their website (http://www.lateseptemberdogs.com/), I discovered that the band was formally created 1996 in Torino, Italy. Eventually they answered the call of LA and moved to the States, only to flee to the more band friendly Seattle area. Check out their website for the colorful details. Band members have come and gone over the years, but Late September Dogs have continued rocking it out for over a decade held together by the dynamic brother and sister tandem of Lyzz and Dann Tyson, the heart and soul core of LSD.