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Showing posts from 2016

Huey stars in front of hometown crowd

Cornish College of the Arts graduate Diana Huey stars in Disney's Little Mermaid at the 5th Avenue Theatre. In 2017, The 5th Avenue’s spectacular new production will go on to play engagements in Orlando, Cincinnati, Atlanta, and Louisville, among other cities. But for Huey, one of the real charms of this casting was the opportunity to return to Seattle. Photo: Mark Kiatoka for 5th Avenue Theater.

When Diana Huey received the call to audition for Disney’s Little Mermaid, she could think of so many reasons that she wanted to put on the fish tail and red wig.  "I love musical theater. ‘Part of Your World’ is one of the first songs that I memorized.  Some of my earliest memories are singing those songs in the back of my Mom’s car. And it meant that I could go home to Seattle for Christmas," she said in a recent interview.

But Huey wasn’t too fired up about the audition. "I went for the experience and didn’t expect much. I’m Asian. As I said to somebody as I …

Setting sail with Stevenson's pirates at Book-It

When Bryan Burch dived into the adaptation of “Treasure Island” for Book-It Repertory Theatre, he found a beloved novel already full of a “sense of theatricality – perhaps because it was written episodically,” he said. Robert Louis Stevenson’s novel had been assigned to him to read as a possible story for the company.

“Up until very recently I was production manager at Book-It,” he said. “When we were in the process of selecting plays, they assigned me to ‘Treasure Island.’ I’d first read it so long ago and so many of my memories were crowded out by 1950s Disney movie, the animated ‘Treasure Planet,’ and recent Eddie Izzard film. I was so charmed by the original that I wrote up my recommendation. The amount of action and larger cast was convenient for holiday show.” Although this is Burch's first mainstage production, he previously adapted novels for Seattle Public Library's Seattle Reads author-in-residence program with Book-It.

Burch expects the audience, like himself, to e…

Defending the Christmas spirits at Taproot

Bill Johns is back at Taproot Theatre Company for their Christmas production “The Trial of Ebenezer Scrooge.” It’s more Victorian madcap fun for Johns, but decidedly less of a blue role than his previous turn as the wild Luigi of “The Explorer’s Club.”

Along with being more clothed than Luigi, John’s character of Solomon Rothschild is much more of a straight man. “I’m defending the spirits of Christmas and the ghost of Jacob Marley against the accusations of Ebenezer Scrooge,” he said. “All of them have problems on the witness stand. And the Ghost of Christmas Present is anything but present, because of course it is Christmas Eve and he’s so busy.” It’s up to Solomon to put all the various witnesses at ease “and be comforting in contrast to Scrooge’s mean-spirited lawyering.”

During the course of the play, Scrooge appears to have backslid from his conversion to a more caring gentleman. Once again parsimonious, he’s handling his own prosecution of the ghosts for illegal trespass, ki…

Forgotten Land evokes the sea’s slow devouring

When asked about the major themes of Jiri Kylian’s work, his longtime colleague Roslyn Anderson answered without hesitation, “Life, death and, of course, love.”

In Seattle to stage Kylian’s “Forgotten Land” at Pacific Northwest Ballet, Anderson took part in PNB Lecture Series last week. Starting out in ballet in her native Australia, Anderson joined the Netherlands Dance Theater in 1972 “so I was there before Jiri,” she said. In 1975, the Czech choreographer became the artistic director of the company and, over the next three decades, created numerous works that became a standard part of the international dance repertoire.

Anderson began assisting Kylian in 1979, danced in the premiere of many works until she retired in 1986, and now travels the world staging his work. One gentleman attending the lecture talked about seeing the debut of Kylian's work in the United States in the early 1980s and how the choreographer immediately became a favorite. Anderson nodded in recognition. “Th…

Attend the tale of Toby at SMT

Seattle Musical Theatre tackled Stephen Sondheim’s horror musical this month. In this production of “Sweeney Todd,” a secondary character has become the audience’s guide to the dark streets of London and the darker secrets of the Demon Barber. In managing artistic director Chris Mayse's production, the vagabond Toby becomes a way to explore the effect that violence has on us all. Mayre answered some questions about this all-new production via email.

Jones: This production is a big contrast to your last show, "Working." However, it's dealing with similar themes. "Sweeney Todd" revolves around class struggle. How does it feel to be doing these two back-to-back?

Mayse: Class structure is certainly present in "Sweeney Todd.” This was a time when the Industrial Revolution was having an impact on those who were craftsmen by trade. This is why you saw once thriving neighborhoods, like where Fleet Street is located (the place where Todd and Lovett's shop…

Seattle provides a friendly place to experiment

Lauren Hlubny doesn’t believe in the famed “Seattle chill.” From her experience, the dance and theater scene is more than warm when it comes to welcoming new works. She had a great time at The Pocket Theater in 2014 where she created “This is Not a Table for Three.” She was invited to return this year.

It was a welcome chance to collaborate again with dancer Christin Call, actor Daniel Christensen, and cellist Joshua Dent. Although Hlubny is based on the East Coast, where she is the New York artistic director of Danse Theatre Surreality, she loved working with these artists.

This time, she challenged her performers to shed their inhibitions and their clothing. Neither Call or Dent had performed in the nude before. Christensen was willing “only if it was for a reason, and not for shock,” said Hlubny.

The resulting “sans” was subtitled “an exposed dance-theatre experiment.” Potential puns aside, the resulting work created feedback that Hlubny wanted during performances at the Pocket The…

Don Darryl Rivera returns to Cornish

Today, a special guest appeared in numerous theater classes at Cornish College of the Arts. Broadway performer Don Darryl Rivera, a’06 graduate of Cornish, is back in Seattle for the 5th Avenue Theatre’s season opener, Man of La Mancha. Following opening night, he visited campus for the day to talk about forging a career as an actor and about appearing on Broadway in Disney's Aladdin. Photo: T. Martin for 5th Avenue Theatre.

When Don Darryl Rivera arrived at Cornish College of the Arts today, he visited numerous Theater classes to talk about making a career out of his art. “Cornish prepared me,” he said in an interview earlier this month. Currently entering his fourth year in Disney’s Aladdin on Broadway, Rivera received a call from the 5th Avenue Theatre earlier this year asking if he’d be interested in playing Sancho in Man of La Mancha. The show opened last night and Rivera was on campus the next day to talk to students.

“Besides having some really awesome songs, there’s…

Tutus galore tonight but not the rest of the season

Pacific Northwest Ballet reserved the program cover for a classic tutu shot, principal dancer Carrie Imler exquisitely posed with a glittering tiara on top. For those who think ballet is all about the tutu, then they will want to catch “Symphony in C” (1947/48) in the last half of tonight's program at McCaw Hall. The third color in “Tricolore,” a collection of ballets first performed at the Paris Opera Ballet,  it emphasizes technique, toe shoes, and tutus. It’s also the only George Balachine piece of the evening. That too draws those who believe modern choreography begins with Balanchine.

Imler, who joined PNB as an apprentice in 1995, moved steadily through the ranks, achieving her position as principal in 2002. Watching her with Steven Loch, who entered the corps in 2012, is an interesting contrast of veteran and relative newbie. As always with Balanchine, the emphasis was on the lady, with her taking the most time front and center. The only drawback with the piece is that it d…

Book-It season opener touches on the lives of Japanese women

“A Tale for Time Being” connects a Japanese teenager and a Japanese-American novelist in Book-It’s adaptation of Ruth Ozeki’s novel about a mysterious diary that washes onto a Pacific Northwest beach. “I have several personal connections to the book, being Japanese, with the sense of the experience of a young person being in Japan and in the United States,” said Mariko Kita, who plays Ruth, the writer who finds the diary in a "Hello Kitty" lunchbox and puzzles through the story of Nao within. “I also have teenage daughters and it’s interesting how those experiences are shown.”

In Book-It fashion, the actors play both the dialogue and the prose of a book. “I love the Book-It style. I feel comfortable in it. I sort of wonder how you do it in another way. I don’t have any discomfort in flipping from an internal to external dialogue,” said Kita. “I think what is challenging for adaptations in general is staying true to the story. The way that these stories are intermingling i…

Studio 18 arrives with a gangster musical

Studio 18 is Seattle’s newest theater group. For their inaugural production this month, they are presenting Bonnie & Clyde, the Frank Wildhorn musical about the Depression’s most notorious pair of gangster lovebirds. Produced by Alia Collins-Friedrichs, with direction and choreography by Matthew Lang and music direction by Travis Frank, the musical ends its run this weekend at 12th Avenue Arts.

The company is interested in bringing lesser performed musicals to the local stage. Their mission is to create theatre that conscientiously questions the human condition, while making musical theatre accessible for a broader audience.

Founders Alia Collins-Friedrichs, producing artistic director, and Matt Lang, managing artistic director, provided a bit more background on their plans during an online interview. They collaborated on the “Studio 18” answers and then gave their individual takes on this first production.

Tell us a little about why you decided to start a company in Seattle, plea…

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. 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…

Theater Schmeater’s chamber musical draws new crowd

Getting audiences indoors takes effort in the summer months, which is why many theaters go dark in July and August or head to free outdoor festivals. At Theater Schmeater, they’re offering their second “chamber musical” to lure a new crowd to their space. To further combat Friday night traffic blues, they’re offering reduced ticket prices as an excuse to hang around downtown and head home a little later. Use ticket code “gridlock” at Brown Paper Tickets for their Friday only special deal.

The 2016 musical The Crossing documents a historic Amelia Earhart flight, but like all good Schmee productions, it’s not about the flight that you expect.

The brand-new, original musical documents Amelia’s successful crossing of the Atlantic, not her later fatal flight and disappearance in the Pacific. With music and lyrics by Paul Lewis, and a book by Paul Lewis and Carissa  Meisner Smit, the show is directed by Schmee’s artistic director Doug Staley.

“Her last flight has been told so many times be…

Mary VanArsdel returns to Seattle with a murderous gentleman

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 ‘…

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:

Jewell's fairy tales offer surprising endings

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.

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

5th exports new musicals around the country

The 5th Avenue Theatre managed to present a classic and create a new musical with its production of “Paint Your Wagon” that closes June 25. Since 2001, the 5th has sent nine works first presented on their stage to Broadway: “Disney’s Aladdin,” “First Date,” “A Christmas Story,” “Scandalous,” “Shrek,” “Catch Me If You Can,” “The Wedding Singer” and Tony Award-winners “Hairspray” and “Memphis.” Many of the works developed on their stage also have become staples of the larger regional theaters.

Executive producer and artistic director David Armstrong is not just a fan of creating new musicals. He’s equally fond of the “Golden Age” powerhouses created by Rogers and Hammerstein or Lerner and Loewe. New productions of these classics, often with non-traditional casting, are a regular part of the 5th’s season.

In Lerner and Loewe's “Paint Your Wagon,” a sweeping, stirring score about the California Gold Rush married a plot that proved problematic for today's producers…

KTF dances for 20 years in prison

The importance of a dance project can be measured in the many years dedicated to its creation or in the number of lives transformed. Now in its 20th year, the Pat Graney Company’s artist residency program for women in prison brings together both visual and performing artists to help incarcerated women and girls. This year’s Keeping the Faith project was held at Mission Creek Corrections Center for Women (MCCCW) in Belfair, Washington. In past years, KTF projects have been conducted at Echo Glen Children’s Center and King County Juvenile Detention in Washington, Excelsior Girls School in Colorado, FCI Lowell and FCI Broward in Florida, Houston City Jail in Texas, MCI Framingham in Massachusetts, Red Rock Juvenile Center and Estrella Jail in Arizona, River City Correctional Center in Ohio, Shakopee Women’s Prison in Minnesota, Washington State Corrections Center for Women, Bahia Women’s Prison in Brazil, Munich City Jail in Germany, Dochas Centre/MountJoy Prison in Ireland …

Joplin’s life continues to inspire show’s creator

As a writer, director and producer Randy Johnson has created shows about many famous figures. His current biographical show on Janis Joplin is playing at Seattle's 5th Avenue Theatre through Sunday. He recently discussed what attracted him to the legendary singer.

RJ: You've tackled some famous and infamous men in productions about Mike Tyson, Elvis Presley, and Conway Twitty...what drew you to Janis Joplin?
Johnson: All of these people have left and, in Mike Tyson’s case continue to make, an important and positive mark in the world. They have all inspired millions of people and all have become cultural icons. Janis is no different as she was and is a significant force in our cultural and social conscience. I met with Michael and Laura Joplin at the office of the manager of the Estate in October 2010. We had an extraordinary four-hour conversation about Janis, growing up with Janis, her influences and what proved to be an insight into the private world of Janis Jop…

MAP funds edgy drama with pop culture events

As a producing director at MAP Theatre, Peggy Gannon has to wear multiple hats. She's just opened “Belleville” by Amy Herzog at 12th Ave Arts. She's also hosting several special events for the group at Central Cinema, including MAP Games: MarioKart N64 Tourney on April 20 and MAP Trivia on May 3, 24, and June 1.

Herzog’s romantic thriller, which Gannon directed, revolves around a young American couple who transfer their lives to Paris and discover that they may not know as much about each other as they thought. Gannon recently discussed how the nomadic company holds to its mission to keep theater affordable in Seattle as well as their tendency to produce dark works with a comedic edge.

RJ: Let's start with that list of events that you're hosting. What are MAP Games and MAP Trivia and how much more fun than a barrel of monkeys are they?
PG: Not only are the MAP Trivia and MAP Games events incredibly fun, they are our monetary life-blood. As a small in…

Presidential politics prove murderous at ACT

Presidential politics can be murderous, as shown in Stephen Sondheim's "Assassins." Starting with James Wilkes Booth, America’s first assassin of a sitting president, this chamber musical digs up both the infamous and the forgotten, men and women so enraged by being left out of the American dream that they turned to murder to solve their problems. Rich Gray plays Charles Guiteau in this latest co-production of ACT-A Contemporary Theatre and the 5th Avenue Theatre.
When he got the casting call, Gray’s first act was finding out more about Guiteau, who shot and killed President James Garfield in 1881. “I didn’t know anything about Guiteau but the minute that I was cast, I became obsessed with him. Actually all the actors felt the same,” he said. “We all did tons of research on our characters to learn the background” of John Wilkes Booth (played by Louis Hobson), Samuel Byck (Matt Wolfe), Leon Czolgosz (Brandon O’Neill), Lynette “Squeaky” Fromme (Laura Griffi…

Rep's Leahey nurtures the talk after the curtain goes down

As the Seattle Repertory Theatre's literary director, part of Kristin Leahey's job is to forge a link between the works on stage and the lives of the audience. Rebecca Gilman's "Luna Gale" deals with the issues of modern foster care. Ethics and politics, issues in the social work system, and addiction are touched upon in this new work, originally commissioned for the Goodman Theatre. In the drama directed by the Rep's artistic director Braden Abraham, veteran film, television, and stage actor Pamela Reed plays a social worker grappling with the decisions that will forever change the course of a foster child's life.

“It’s beautifully written and an edge-of-your-seat thriller as well,” Leahey said. “’Luna Gale’ has won every major award that it has been up for. It’s a really profound play and I’m exceedingly proud of the events that we’ve scheduled around it.” On March 12, a “Speak Up!” followed a matinee program and, with the help of the Sea…