Browsing All posts tagged under »Sonja Usher«

Shrek the Musical (Studio East)

July 28, 2014


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.

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

March 24, 2013


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.

Thoroughly Modern Millie (Studio East)

July 31, 2012


After attending Thoroughly Modern Millie performed by Studio East at the Kirkland Performing Arts Center, I am reminded that one of the things that I love most about theater is when a performance can not only entertain you but also inspire you and make you reflect upon it and life. The danger of being a critic or reviewing works of art, is that over time we can become cynical or hyper-critical. We lose the spirit and heart of the show and begin to see only the technical implementation. This would be akin to evaluating poetry solely on rhyme and form over the author's ability to inspire us to see and feel their emotion. I read some reviews and I wonder if the reviewer was driven to find something to criticize, just so that they could feel like they were objective and doing their job. The problem is that all art is subjective, it is filtered through the observer. Therefore, our impressions speak more about us at times, than the actual subject of our review.

Studio East Training for the Performing Arts was founded in 1992 with the vision of creating a place where children and teens can learn about the theatrical arts. Their mission is simply, "Studio East creates opportunities for young people to discover and explore the performing arts." They believe that through that pursuit, children will learn the discipline, dedication and teamwork to be successful not only on the stage, but off the stage. They are correct. The beauty is that in learning this for themselves, they expose audiences to this idea as well. We catch glimpses of it and although we may not always be able to consciously recognize or articulate it, we are moved and for a time we are changed by it. This was my first time attending a performance by Studio East, so I took my seat without much expectation. I must say that I was delightfully surprised.