Willa Cather’s ‘My Antonia’ is a beautifully heart-warming gem for the holiday season (at Book-It Repertory Theatre now through Dec 30)

Review by Jeanne Kinley Deller:

The wholesome production of “My Antonia,” based on Willa Cather’s most autobiographical 1918 novel, springs to life with gusto in a creatively crafted stage setting.  Book-It Repertory Theatre’ss multi-layered set not only pulls the audience into Ms. Cather’s native Nebraskan wide-open prairie but also exemplifies her intimate, small-town surroundings.

Tim Gouran is impeccable in his portrayal of Jim Burden, a young boy wending his way through idyllic prairies, wheatfields, and bygone memories into adulthood. Jim’s story, so delightfully enacted, encompasses his early friendships and his lifelong fascination with Antonia.

Inclusive of an engagingly supportive cast, “My Antonia standouts include Kiki Abba, effervescent in her multiple roles; Jasmine Jean Sim, as the sparkling Lena; and, of course, Nabilah S. Ahmed, as the strong and steadfast Antonia.

This is the perfect season to take a stroll around the gleaming Seattle Center, stop by the bustling Armory for a bite to eat, and take in “My Antonia” at the intimate Seattle Center Book-It Repertory Theatre. Tickets for “My Antonia” are available now through December 30th.

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“No romantic novel ever written in America, by man or woman, is one half so beautiful as My Ántonia.” —H. L. Mencken

Photos by John Ulman 

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Delight in “A Holiday Romance” Improv Show at Jet City Improv this December

The Holiday Romance movie genre is often quirky, cheesy, and predictable. It’s a great foundation for an improv show – taking all the things you love about holiday romances, adding more laughs, and leaving out the predictability.

Jet City’s current long-form improv production of “A Holiday Romance” is excellent, with a stellar cast and director. As one of my pals commented after the show, it makes you want to come back and see it again! The cast rotates roles every night as well (mixing up who will be the two main leads) which adds a freshness to the production. They expect tickets to sell out as we get later in the month. Shows are Thursdays and Fridays through December 21 and special Saturday matinee performances on December 8 and 15, 2018. Discounts available for military, seniors (55+), students, and groups.  Tickets and more info here. 

On a related note, check out the awesome ways that Jet City Improv supports Youth Outreach year round, here. What an awesome organization!

In their own words:

“A Holiday Romance is a schmaltzy, feel-good, over-the-top Rom Com that aims to remind everyone how sometimes you have to stop to smell the hot cocoa and evergreen as you fall in love during the Holiday Season.”

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Photo by Duncan MacDonald

Timeless, popular “Annie” delivers holiday cheer at The 5th Avenue Theatre (now through Dec 30)

Review by Jeanne Kinley Deller:

Score your holiday tickets now for “Annie at Seattle’s festive 5th Avenue Theatre! This timeless show is on stage in all its splendor now through December 30.

Irresistible and irrepressible Annie – along with her tough and tumble orphaned sidekicks, her delightful dog Sandy, and remaining high-spirited cohorts –  delivers rich holiday cheer. The chemistry between Annie and the other orphans, as they strive to escape Miss Hannigan’s nasty deeds, is awesome. The orphans’ musical number “Fully Dressed” is magical in synchronization and pure fun.

Breathtaking backdrops of New York City are truly beautiful and equally staggering. As Annie (played by the talented Visesia Fakatoufifita the night I saw the production) finds herself in the midst of 1930’s Depression Era Hooverville, the audience is prone to reflect on similar scenarios on the streets of Seattle – all too realistic, yet bringing Annie ever closer to contemporary issues.

The welcoming, flawlessly orchestrated production of “Annie” at The 5th Avenue Theatre is pure joy. The fact that Annie” remains a timeless powerhouse in audience popularity is no surprise. Accolades to Billie Wildrick’s artistry and sparkle in directing, Kelli Foster Warder’s top-notch choreography, Caryl Fantel ’s awesome music direction, and the dynamic Creative Team. Thank you, 5th Avenue Theatre, for bringing Annie” back to Seattle!

With rave reviews in mind, you’ll want to reserve your “Annie” tickets before they’re completely sold out. Tickets are available at downtown Seattle’s 5th Avenue Theatre ticket office and online. Now through December 30th, 2018.

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Photos 1, 2 & 4 by Tracy Martin. Photo 3 by Mark Kitaoka 

Exhilarating, fast-paced “In the Heights” hip-hops its way into the hearts of Seattle Rep audiences (now through December 30)

Review by Jeanne Kinley Deller:

With music and lyrics by Lin-Manuel Miranda, “In the Heights” is riveting Seattle Rep’s audiences with the same powerful punch that “Hamilton” delivered when it played Seattle earlier this year. “Heights” captivating fast pace is a major draw to the success of this production.

Artfully crafted staging allows New York’s Washington Heights’ barrio to spring to life with its engaging characters, colorful street fare, and impressive rooftop orchestra. The musical number “Carnaval Del Barrio” has the audience swaying in their seats to the spirited rhythms of Caribbean-style street dancing. “In the Heights” cast of mesmerizing rap and hip-hop dancers are, undoubtedly, introducing many audience members to a whole new genre of music and theatre. (I’d encourage anyone unfamiliar with “In the Heights” to snag the soundtrack and listen carefully prior to theatre attendance.)

“In the Heights” is extraordinarily timely in its ability to highlight basic needs of all immigrants, regardless of place of origin. As with every generation of newcomers to  American shores, these Latinx artists provide a rare glimpse into their struggles for acceptance, love, dignity, community, and humanity.

In the Heights” offers up tremendous heart and soul, guaranteeing you truly don’t want to miss this dynamic performance. Tickets for many performances (through December 30) are already selling out so get yours now. 

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Village Theatre’s “Matilda the Musical” personifies Roald Dahl’s high-spirited, funny, magical, and uplifting storytelling

Review by Jeanne Kinley Deller:

Matilda the Musical is high-spirited and, in true Roald Dahl style, very funny, magical, and uplifting. Whether you see Matilda at Village Theatre in Issaquah in November or December, or in Everett in January, the experience will move and delight you.

Matilda’s cast of fourteen children, and supporting adults, delivers an action-packed show that charms the audience with its physically, mentally, and emotionally demanding antics.

Nava Ruthfield, as the extraordinary Matilda, is remarkable in her ability to carry the demanding lead role without missing a beat. Chris Ensweiler, as Matilda’s abhorrent father, proves to be the perfect antagonist.

The orchestration is superb in each of the anticipated Matilda numbers. While “Naughty” and “Revolting Children” are standouts, the joy-filled “When I Grow up” is an all-around masterpiece in creativity.

 

Matthew Smucker, Matilda’s Scenic Designer, nails it with delightfully engaging sets. Large cursive alphabet and heavily-laden bookshelves dominate the stage to the amusement of children and adults.

A perfect holiday gift for children of all ages, you may purchase your tickets now for the terrifically zany Matilda. Currently playing at Issaquah’s Village Theatre now through December 30, 2018, Matilda will also play at Everett Performing Arts Center from January 4 through February 3, 2019.

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Photos by Mark Kitaoka

West of Lenin’s Touching Production of Lonely Planet, Brings Laughs, Tears and an Important Reminder

Review by guest blogger Tony Bohn:

Lonely Planet is the latest production from West of Lenin in Fremont.  Written and directed by Steven Dietz, the show is set in a small map shop during the height of the AIDS crisis and follows the shifting relationship of two close friends as they manage their way through the challenges and fear that the crisis brings.  Jody (played by Michael Winters) is the reclusive shop owner whose fear of the crisis has made him too scared to leave the shop.   Carl (portrayed by Reginald André Jackson) is Jody’s flamboyant free-spirited friend who visits the shop daily to check on Jody and report back on his day and what’s going on in the world.  The acting is brilliant, and both the actors and well-written script are able to find the delicate balance between comedy and drama throughout the production.

Some of the most captivating elements of this production are the use of the set pieces and lighting to symbolize and highlight key plot points as well as the effects of the AIDS crisis on the lives of the two men.   The use of the chairs (soooooo many chairs!) and the maps in the shop (including their cartographic history) is particularly well done.

In a time where antiretroviral medications for the treatment of HIV disease and prevention of transmission through PrEP have stopped  HIV disease from becoming the death sentence it used to be, many young folks no longer remember what it was like back then.  Lonely Planet is an important reminder of the struggles the LGBTQ community went through.  It shows us what it was like to have half your friends dying of a new disease nobody knew anything about; a disease that came with a ton of societal stigma.  It also reminds us of the importance of getting tested and treated, regardless of how scared we are, and protecting ourselves and others from HIV transmission.

Lonely Planet runs until Sun, Nov 18 and tickets can be purchased here.


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Photos via West of Lenin

Seattle International Comedy Competition is BACK all November

One of my favorite entertainment events of the year, The Seattle International Comedy Competition, is BACK! In Seattle and many towns in Washington state, comics from all over will compete in this fantastic local competition.  I have attended this competition for countless years and am always delighted by the talent on stage. There really is nothing like seeing live comedy and sharing laughs with fellow audience members – I invite you to get your tickets now.

Seattle venues include Comedy Underground (Pioneer Square) and Unexpected Productions (Pike Place Market). Outside Seattle, there are performances in Auburn, Kelso, Everett, Langley, North Bend, Bainbridge Island, Edmonds, Olympia, Longview, Bellingham, Vashon Island, Kirkland, and Bremerton! Full calendar here.

More about the competition, in their own words:

The Seattle International Comedy Competition is the REAL “Last Comic Standing.”

  • 26 Days
  • 22 Shows
  • 18 Venues
  • 32 comedians from the U.S., Canada, UK, and Japan
  • Over $15,000 in cash prizes
  • Talent executives from CBS, NBC, and more: movie studios, managers, agents and producers
  • It’s America’s biggest touring comedy festival

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