Saturday, September 25, 2010

Show #50 "Sherlock Holmes and the Doom of Devilsmoor" at Lakewood Playhouse

Opening night of a new season at the theater....what fun! No matter how much live theatre I experience, either on stage, backstage or in the audience, I always feel that excitement of opening night.

This evening was no exception. One of my favorite theaters in the world, the Lakewood Playhouse (after all, it was at this fine theater where I met my husband Randy), rolled out the red carpet for their new season.

I started the evening with a personal greeting by Artistic Director Marcus Walker, who heartily shook hands with the patrons as they entered the lobby. I was personally escorted to my seat by Duncan Foley, the President of Board. The playwright, CP Stancich was on hand and made merry conversation with Randy and me. And after the final curtain, the Lakewood Playhouse's board hosted a fine reception complete with my favorite non-alcoholic bubbly.

But, there were also the familiar opening night mishaps that occurred as well.

You know the ones I mean. There was the french door on the set that wouldn't close without the poor actors fussing and constantly adjusting. Then there was the wardrobe malfunction that sent Randy (and the wonderful costumer seated in the second row) into hints of stifled laughter. And then there was the actor who entered the stage and promptly stepped on an actress's skirt hem.

These were relatively minor things, but to be honest, it added to my enjoyment of the evening! I kind of like imperfection. I smile when I see an actor stumble his way through an unexpected development and then see his way out of it with grace and humor. Yes, it may temporarily break the spell of the story, but it does something else. It makes us all a little more human.

But, you may counter, don't we want to see professionalism and polish when we pay to see a theatrical production? Well, yes we do.

If a production is overly filled with mishaps, then I would have criticized the show and declared that the cast needed another week of rehearsal. But, this was only a couple of small gaffes, and being opening night, very forgivable. I've experienced many an opening night as an actor, performing on a stage whose paint was still wet, whose doors had just been hung an hour before, and costumes stitched during intermission.

If I were to come back to see this show on closing night and saw the same goofs, that would be another story.

But, this was opening night at the Lakewood Playhouse, and a reason to celebrate! It was a great evening, and even the small errors were something to celebrate. Here's to another great season! Cheers!

Graphics courtesy of Lakewood Playhouse

Friday, September 24, 2010

Show #49 "A Doctor In Spite of Himself" at Intiman Theatre

Did you see the lights flashing? Were you hearing the sirens blaring, and the theatre police yelling, "Goofball Alert! Goofball Alert! If you have no tolerance for silly, artfully goofy and masterfully funny theatre, please step away NOW."

"There's nothing to see here, Ma'am. Just keep moving on...." the Kill Joy Cop admonished.

But, the more he tried to steer the gawking masses away from the riotous comedic gem, the more we wanted to watch, mouth agape and loud guffaws beginning in our bellies.

What am I talking about? Why didn't we hear about this "train wreck" on the evening news? my opinion, we SHOULD have seen this as a top headline. After all, in this bleak economy, with unflattering political battles being fought on the airwaves, and the health care crisis, global warming and Dancing With the Stars weighing heavily on our minds, we all need a break.

The 17th century French playwright known as Moliere had the answer. Write stuff that makes people laugh. Period.

I like that. So, with the Intiman Theatre presenting one of Moliere's best works in the style (love this!) of the commedia dell'arte, AND with Randy and me scoring front row seats, how could we go wrong?

We scored big. A touchdown. A grand slam. A triple crown. A...well, you get the idea.

The Intiman did themselves proud with "A Doctor in Spite of Himself." We had the privilege to see masterful comedy performed by limber, energetic, perfectly timed and shameless (in a good way) actors and musicians who gave their audience the best hour and a half of their theatrical lives. No, really.

It inspired me. It energized me. It almost made me want to sign up for one of those classes on "movement for actors" or something like that. Mostly, it made me laugh.

This season, Randy and I gave up our season tickets to the Intiman so we could enjoy season subscription to four (4!) other wonderful theatres around town. We gotta spread the "wealth" around, after all. I don't regret that decision, because we knew we would still attend at least one or two of the Intiman shows anyway.

We chose to attend "Doctor" because we like Moliere. I am glad we did.

PS. Take notice of the marvelous non-traditional casting in this production. Yet another reason to support this fine show. Bravo, Intiman!

Photo courtesy of Intiman Theatre and photographer Chris Bennion

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Show # 48 "The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee" at Renton Civic Theatre

It seems as though everyone is doing "The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee" this season. I hear the rights for this musical were just recently made available for non-Equity theatres, so many groups have jumped on board to present "The Bee."

I can see why. This is a terrific show to put on.

First of all, it's a one-set show, using only a set of risers, a table and chairs for the adult characters to sit at, a set of microphones and a banner proclaiming the Spelling Bee competition. Easy.

The clothes are variations of modern-day dress, so it doesn't appear to break the bank in the costume department. Simple.

The cast is not too large, with 6 "children" and 3 adult characters. Piece of cake.

And, best of all, the script is funny, the characters are engaging and amusing and the music is mostly fun (albeit forgettable) and helpful in giving us each character's back storyline. Perfect.

The audience roared with laughter, and the actors reveled in the approval and enjoyment they were giving the crowd...and themselves. A win-win situation.

This made for a great evening out, watching my friend George perform as William Barfee (with his "Magic Foot") and catching up a bit with a couple of old theatre friends, one who runs the theatre and the other who took the reins as stage manager for the show.

Now I can see what all the "buzz" was about with this show, why every theatre in town (or so it seems) is producing it this season. I have a feeling it won't be the last time I see "The Bee." This is one of those shows that will live for a long time.

I can almost guarantee you, it will come soon to a theatre near you.

So, brush up on your spelling (spell check does NOT count), because you never know when it will be your turn to be a star.

Photo courtesy of Renton Civic Theatre and photographer Tanya Zambrowsky

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Show #47 "Sex In Seattle 18: An Everyday Kind of Love" with SIS Productions

I've had a long history with soap operas. Shortly after graduating high school back in the 1970's, I found myself hooked on "All My Children." I anxiously awaited each day to see the next installment in the lives of fictional (and mostly stereotypical) people whom I didn't even know.

Several years later, my dirty habit expanded to "One Life to Live" and "General Hospital." As a true addict, I started to schedule my lunch hour at work around getting that chance to peek into what was happening to my favorite soap characters. Couldn't wait for the plot to thicken....and in those instances, all I had to do was wait a mere 24 hours for that next episode.

So, it boggles the mind to see the roaring success of the theatrical franchise known as "Sex in Seattle" where the adoring audience is forced to wait anywhere from 6 months to a year for their next episode. A fluke, you say? Not really. This franchise has been hooking (and reeling in) their audience for 10 years.

I have long since given up the television soap habit, but have not walked away from my SIS habit. I remain a loyal fan. It helps that the story lines center around modern, sassy Asian-American women. It doesn't hurt that I personally know several of the producers, writers, directors and actors involved in this dynamic theatre series. And the fact that I myself have appeared in a couple of episodes has a little something to do with my continued loyalty.

But, primarily, I remain a constant SIS groupie because these shows are well done, well-acted, have high production values and are a real scream! No tragic Madame Butterfly crap.....SIS is a hoot.

As with all long-running soap operas, the cast of actors evolve over time. Each episode is a new adventure for us long time fans. We can't wait to see how the "newbie" actors will do taking over an established role. Whereas I missed seeing some of my favorite actors on stage, I was delighted to see some new(er) faces doing commendable jobs. Sean O'Bannon made a terrific Nathan, Moses Yim brought fresh energy and charm to his Colin and Caleb Slavens was perfectly endearing as Adam.

SIS Productions has announced they will present Episode 19 in April 2011. Good news, fans. You only have to wait 7 months for your next SIS fix. The plot will thicken more quickly. The fictional folks you have grown to love (and hate) will return sooner.

Stay tuned.

Photo courtesy of SIS Productions

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Show #46 "Sleuth" at Tacoma Little Theatre

This is the opening show of the new season for Tacoma Little Theatre. Randy and I missed their opening weekend (August 27-29) as we were elsewhere that weekend, cruising through the deep blue waters of the Mediterranean.

If I sound like I'm bragging about visiting such exotic sights during our vacation, I guess I am (a bit). But I really missed live theatre, believe it or not, and it feels good to be back in action once again, witnessing the wonders of the theatre.

So, we wasted no time in coming to our neighborhood playhouse, Tacoma Little Theatre, to enjoy an evening of the actor's craft.

Part of the overall experience of world travel is the symptoms you exhibit afterwards. I am speaking of that dreaded ailment: jet lag. On top of that, I developed a whopping case of vertigo due to a neck strain I received on the airplane trip home. (You all know how "comfortable" it is to sleep in an airplane seat......not!)

So, between jet lag sleepiness and vertigo's whooziness, I was a mess. Randy was in a bit better shape than I, but not by much. In other words, we founds ourselves snoozing during the show.

I was thoroughly ashamed of myself! Even during shows where any reasonable person would be nodding off, I have managed to stay awake and as engaged as possible. I mean, I kept my eyes wide open during Whitworth University's production of "Antigone" a couple of years ago, and have lived to tell about it.

But, I am afraid to admit that I missed some of "Sleuth." I take it on faith that it was a pretty good show. At least that's what I hear through the theatre grapevine. But, while I was sitting there in my seat, I wasn't really there.

At least I have an excuse. We "world travelers" live a whirlwind life of jet planes, cruise ships, international cuisine and endless shopping. It's a tough life, and quite exhausting. But, someone has to do it.......

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Show #45 "Les Miserables: School Edition" with the Hi-Liners

And, once again, I tread onto the not-so-tried-and-true path of youth theatre. Watching shows performed by young actors between the ages of 9 and 19 can be a risky proposition at times. What will I be subjected to, I ask myself.

Will it be yet another evening of enthusiastic but struggling theatre novices offering me dialogue delivered with poor enunciation, little if any projection of their crackling voices and off-key and unsure singing?

Can you tell I've spent many an evening witnessing (with my adoring support) such productions?

This time, I had little choice. As the theatrical reviewer for the Highline Times/Des Moines News, my assignment (as it has been for the past many years) was to review the opening of the mainstage production by the youth theatre organization, The Hi-Liners. This year, they are doing "Les Miserables: School Edition."

Let me say this up front: the Hi-Liners are a class organization. Each year, over 40 young performers spend their summer vacations rehearsing a large cast musical, always done with high production values and professional level instruction. In other words, they do good work.

So, I was expecting a good show.

What I wasn't expecting was the astounding level of quality I saw in last evening's final dress rehearsal. Usually when I review a youth show for the newspaper, I need to be supportive and positive. This time, I didn't have to try. I wasn't just positive in my write-up, I was absolutely gushing.

Granted, there were some very young performers who were still learning the basics of their craft, and it showed at times. But, these youngsters were mostly in the background, playing supporting ensemble parts. In other words, these neophytes' lack of experience didn't distract at all.

It was the older teens, playing the principal roles who blew me away. After a few minutes into the show, I almost forgot how young these actors really were. That's how good they were.

Yes, I was gushing in my review. But, that's okay. I was happy. I was elated that the future of local theatre looks bright. With such talented young performers in our community, and dedicated adults who are nurturing their gifts, Seattle/Tacoma theatre is truly blessed.