Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Tickets going fast for Taproot’s Big Fish

The catch of the week may be finding tickets for Taproot’s “Big Fish.” The show closes on Saturday. Tomorrow’s show is sold out and there’s limited availability for Thursday.

The musical is based on Daniel Wallace’s 1998 novel, “Big Fish: A Novel of Mythic Proportions,” and the 2003 film “Big Fish” adapted by John August with music and lyrics by Andrew Lippa. This tale of tall tales and father/son relationships hits a tender spot for most audiences, said Tyler Todd Kimmel, who plays Will Bloom in the show. And, unlike bigger theaters, the intimate seating of Taproot puts the actors right with the audience when the waterworks start.

“You’re three feet away from somebody weeping with you. It’s not 12 feet away over an orchestra pit in the dark,” said Kimmel.

During the course of the musical, Will must come to terms with his father, Edward, a man fond of embroidering the past. “I had seen the film when it came out. I thought it was fun. Tim Burton is a brilliant director,” said Kimmel. “But I didn’t actually like the way that Will was portrayed in the film. It left me feeling a bit dark. I chose not revisit it. When we read through the script, I saw it painting the characters in a different light.” After reading the book, which tells the story from Will’s perspective, Kimmel formed a light-hearted approach to his character.

Kimmel teaches fulltime, acting in musicals during the summer. “I grew up in Burien and started music lessons when I was five, singing at church and then school musicals,” he said. Last year, a friend called him about Taproot’s “Godspell” and he’s enjoyed having the opportunity to return to the theater this year.

“The majority of people I teach don’t go on to do music or theater professionally,” he said. “But they come to understand that it is just another area that we study to learn more about life. Choir is a team sport, minus the game aspect. It teaches how to balance with us how to get along with people. Same with theater, it teaches you how to listen. For kids, it opens their mind.”

Friday, July 15, 2016

Mary VanArsdel returns to Seattle with a murderous gentleman

Mary VanArsdel
Following Mary VanArsdel’s rousing rendition of “You’re a D’Ysquith” on opening night at the 5th Avenue Theater, a definite friends and family cheer goes up from the audience. Currently in the national tour of “Gentleman’s Guide to Love & Murder,” her performances at the 5th will be her first time on a Seattle stage since 1987.

“But I visit Seattle regularly,” she said in a phone interview earlier this month. “I have a huge network of friends here.”

VanArsdel grew up in Seattle, attending the Bush School, and she returned here after college to star in the original cast of “Angry Housewives,” Seattle’s longest running musical hit. In it, VanArsdel played a punk rock cornflakes-throwing mama whose rendition “Eat Your F#@*ing Cornflakes!” became an instant classic. Locals also remember her wide-eyed Nancy Reagan in Gary Trudeau’s “Rap Master Ronnie” at the Group Theater.

More recently, she has been touring the company in large Broadway musicals like “Gentleman’s Guide.”

“I was in ‘Mary Poppins’ for two years. My tour didn’t play Seattle so I’m really excited to be here now,” she said.

As the slightly mysterious Miss Shingle, whose motives are never fully explained, VanArsdel lets the hero Monty know that he’s only eight relatives away from inheriting a title and a fortune. “I give the back story and serve as the catalyst,” she said about her opening number.

One of VanArsdel’s favorite parts of the musical is how the director Darko Tresnjak manages to create eight very different deaths during the course of the evening. “Our director is an aficionado of classic movies, as am I, and one early murder takes its inspiration from ‘Vertigo.’ That one impressed me the most because I knew the source material,” she said.

This is not VanArsdel’s only brush with celluloid homicide. Her very first movie role required her to be to be offed by John Malkovich in “Line of Fire.”

“It was shot on the old MGM lot and I got to work with Clint Eastwood’s longtime fight director,” she said. “When I arrived on the set, I didn’t know how the murder would happen. I found that my stage training was really helpful with the stunt work.” While in Hollywood, VanArsdel also played Corbin Bernsen’s secretary on the final season of “LA Law.” She also guested on “Boardwalk Empire,” “Miracles,” “Gilmore Girls,” and “Melrose Place,” among others.

But in 2008, she moved to New York. “With television there’s so much time spending time waiting for camera setups. And you’re generally performing scenes out of sequence. In theater, you perform a show from beginning to middle to end,” said VanArsdel. “For me, theater is so much more gratifying. You get to hear audience’s reaction.”
Kristen Beth Williams as Sibella Hallward, Kevin Massey as Monty Navarro
and Adrienne Eller as Phoebe D'Ysquith Photo credit: Joan Marcus.

And the reaction she hears most often in “Gentleman’s Guide” is laughter. “It’s very, very funny show. The lyrics are incredible and matched with really wonderful music. I was such a fan of a show before I was cast. I saw it four times on Broadway and heard something new every time,” VanArsdel said.

While she’s been successful in regional theater and is enjoying her current tour with “Gentleman’s Guide,” VanArsdel still wants to hit new heights in her career. “My primary goal these days is to be cast in a new show on Broadway. To be the first person to do a role is always the actors’ dream,” she said.


“A Gentleman’s Guide to Love & Murder” continues through July 31 at the 5th Avenue Theater. For more on tickets and times, check the 5th’s website.

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Engaging the community through dance

Sixth Day Dance's July 10 performance of “Engage Dance, an (ab)Normality Production” will take place at the Meydenbauer Center in Bellevue.  Local artists include director and choreographer Ron Smith, Syncopation Dance Project and choreographer MacKenzie Blue Tapia, and The Good Foot.

Founded in 2001 by Lyndee Breece, April Cunningham and Jen Rowse, Sixth Day Dance uses dance to impact others in a positive way. Currently, the company focuses on producing and performing dance concerts, providing community outreach to at-risk youth and disadvantaged individuals, and providing excellence in dance education through the Sixth Day Dance Apprentice Program.

Tickets are $10 online and $15 at the door. For more: www.sixthdaydance.org

Monday, July 4, 2016

Jewell's fairy tales offer surprising endings

(L to R) Rachel Delmar, Katie Driscoll,
Sharon Barto. Photo courtesy of 14/48
Along with Wooden O and Theater Schmeater, The 14/48 Projects is headed back to Seattle parks this summer. In “The Siblings Grimm,” Jakob and Wilhelmina Grimm travel from the past to test their gruesome fairytales. As Whilhelmina realizes the power of re-writing, she takes some well-known stories in unexpected directions.

“I absolutely cannot wait to share this play with Seattle families,” said playwright Jim Jewell. Directed by Gregory Award winner Shawn Belyea (assisted by David Goldstein), “The Siblings Grimm” features Sharon Barto, Andy Buffelen, Ben Burris, Rachel Delmar, Katie Driscoll, Jordi Montes, and Sarah Winsor.

(L to R) Sharon Barto, Sarah Winsor,
Katie Driscoll. Photo courtesy 14/48
2016 Performances

Seattle Outdoor Theater Festival – Volunteer Park
July 9 and 10 at 2:00 pm

Double feature with Theater Schmeater’s Raggedy Ann & Andy – Volunteer Park
July 16 and 17 at 3:30 pm

North SeaTac Park – SeaTac, WA
July 20 at 6:30 pm

H.J. Carroll Park – Chimacum, WA
July 24 at 2:00 pm

Open Space for Arts & Community – Vashon, WA
July 31 at 2:00 pm

Friday, June 24, 2016

5th exports new musicals around the country

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

KTF dances for 20 years in prison

Monday, April 11, 2016

Joplin’s life continues to inspire show’s creator