Review: Rock of Ages rock-concert-comedy-musical hits all the right notes (now through 2/24 at 5th Avenue Theatre)

Review by Keridwyn Deller:
If you like music from 80s bands such as Styx, Whitesnake, Poison, Foreigner, Joan Jett, REO Speedwagon, Pat Benatar, and more, get your tickets to what will likely be one of your favorite musical productions: Rock of Ages at The 5th Avenue Theatre.

The cast of this rock-concert-comedy-musical is stunning and brings the show to life like no other production of this show I’ve seen. Sherrie is played by Diana Huey who makes hitting those notes seem easy (you may recognize her from her performance as The Little Mermaid – she’s fantastic) – Huey makes the character very likable (which isn’t always the case in how this role has been performed in other productions).

Her love interest is played by Galen Disston (from Seattle band Pickwick – now I get what all the buzz about this musician is about! Wow!  Music fans of Starship/Jefferson Starship will recognize musician Mickey Thomas in the role of Dennis. Great casting all around. The whole ensemble truly rocks.

So does the lighting and set (the set has some fantastic built-in surprises, wait for it!). And the costumes and wigs deserve their own applause: so often this type of show will feature costumes/wigs that are cartoonish – not the case here. Look for some fun details in the costumes which will delight true 80s fans (thanks to my theatre date Joy for pointing some of them out to me!).

The star of the show is Dane Stokinger who just NAILS the role of the narrator Lonny. He OWNS it. You can feel the audience get a little bit of giddy anticipation each time he came back on stage, which, lucky for us, is often. There is a balance, flow, and connection in the cast that makes the show work so well – you get the feeling that everyone truly has fun working together to create this piece of pure entertainment. Special shout outs to Brandon O’Neill for being the rock star you love to hate, Nik Hagen for bringing the charm, and Trina Mills for being so much fun to watch in every number she’s in.

My only question is: why didn’t a kiss (only a hug?) didn’t happen between two characters like it has in other productions?!

Treat yourself. Use code DOWNTOWN for performances on 2/13 and 2/14 and get a huge discount on tickets ($20 each for great seats!)

Show runs now through February 24, 2019. Tickets and info here.

Rock of Ages at The 5th Avenue hits all the right notes and will have you smiling for days.

Can I go back again before it closes? Really, I want to. This particular production has claimed a spot in my Top-10 shows I’ve seen live (and that’s saying a lot).

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Photos by Tracy Martin

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5 reasons to see “Bonbon” at Can Can in Pike Place Market – now through April 21 (NSFW show review)

Review by Keridwyn Deller

If you haven’t been to Can Can in Pike Place Market in a while, it’s time to go back. 
Their current show “Bonbon” delights audiences with a cast of five talented performers. It’s sultry and sexy with plenty of laughs mixed in for good measure. My review is for the adult-oriented NSFW version. (I haven’t seen the family-friendly version yet.)
Here are a few reasons to catch “Bonbon” at Can Can:
1) The laughs: The host Jonny Boy is delightful and truly talented at working the crowd. His smile lights up the room – he is a truly captivating performer.
2) The atmosphere: This place is gorgeous and a gem inside Pike Place Market. You truly disappear from the real world during the show – get there early and enjoy a cocktail at the bar!
3) The dancing: These are athletic performers! They are gorgeous to watch and bring their dancing out to the catwalk that runs through the center of the intimate audience area. Shout out to Shadou Mintrone for her emotive performances. I also loved her in Can Can’s “Bananas” and “Femme Fatale.” She and Madison Oliver play off each other well. This production features fabulous choreography from Fae Phalen Pink.
4) The singing: Shout out to Jordan Betchel for his rendition of “Mr. Cellophane” (WOW – he’s that beautiful and has that voice?!) and Jasmine Sim for “Bring on the Men.”
5) The vibe: I love that Can Can productions have such variety in their acts. One number will be breathtakingly sensual, the next silly and playful, followed by a visual-art piece (complete with vibrant lighting projections), and so on. You leave with a feeling of satisfaction and excitement.
I’m always surprised how many local Seattleites haven’t been to the Can Can yet. Now’s the time to start going! Sidenote:  Bananas and Femme Fatale were both incredible productions as well. I don’t want to miss any future Can Can production.
Bonbon plays The Can Can now through April 21, 2019. There are 17+ shows and 21+ shows. Tickets and info here.
Note: The family-friendly brunch Bonbon show, which I hear has almost no overlap with this production, runs now through March 24.
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Photos by Nate Watters

Review: Laughter and hijinks abound in Taproot Theatre’s Arsenic and Old Lace

Review by Joy Shumaker:
Arsenic and Old Lace at Taproot Theatre (in Seattle’s Phinney Ridge neighborhood) lives up to expectations as the fantastic comedy it always has been. This timeless play and remarkable performance had audience members young and old tittering throughout the show.
The Brewsters are a truly endearing bunch! They make the community a loving priority and murder a loving gift. I am a fan of this latest rendition. Director Marianne Savell did an exquisite job executing this comedy for maximum hilarity. The Brewster sisters played by Pam Nolte and Kim Morris flawlessly deliver love loyalty and kindness as everyone’s favorite aunts. Lieutenant Rooney played by Gretchen Douma was spot on. Bring the family or come for your own laughter therapy. It’s an evening well spent.

 

Arsenic and Old Lace plays Taproot Theatre now through March 2. Tickets here.

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Photos by Erik Stuhaug

Review: M. Butterfly – The Spy Whose Desires Turned Him Inside Out (At ArtsWest now through February 17)

Review by guest blogger Joy Shumaker:

ArtsWest Playhouse and Gallery has brought us many fantastic productions. M. Butterfly is definitely another one to add to the list.
It’s not every day that we get to see the internal dialogue of a complete mindset shifting. Especially because that can often take a lifetime. David Quicksall plays the main character Rene Gallimard and captures the essence of a man uncomfortable with his own feelings. Taking the audience down his recollection of how he went from a lovely harmless perch in the world to delving into his fantasies, embracing them haphazardly, and eventually losing everything to love.  Tom Dang plays supporting role Song Liling and give a lovely performance. They playfully highlight the gender roles, stereotypes, and show us how we like the blinders we keep on. 
I love the contemplation throughout this piece. The unusual tone feels more authentic to the entanglements that emerge. For an evening of unique examinations, M. Butterfly will not disappoint. Note: this production features nudity and graphic language. M. Butterfly plays ArtsWest in West Seattle, now through February 17. Tickets here.
Award-winning actor, writer, and director, Kathy Hsieh writes “5 Reasons to see M. Butterfly” here.

“With M. Butterfly David Henry Hwang joins the first string of American playwrights. This is an audaciously imaginative play, big in conception and theme, and a satisfying instance of a talented writer hitting full stride.” —Variety

“It will move you, it will thrill you, it may even surprise you. It is a play not to be missed, and it is a play once caught that will never be forgotten.” —NY Post

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Photo: David Quicksall and Tom Dang. Photo by John McLellan

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Surreal and poignant with a touch of hope: ‘Last of the Boys’ at Seattle Rep reminds us our Vets need our continued love and support (now through Feb 10)

Review of  “Last of the Boys” at Seattle Rep by guest blogger Amanda Mitchell:

A curtain of camouflage netting overlaid with a projected American flag rises slowly to reveal one of the most amazingly hyperreal stage sets I’ve ever seen: a weathered and worn retro trailer joins a landscape of sparse foliage and rolling desolate mountains. The modest homestead also includes a few out-buildings/sheds, a collection of mismatched patio furniture and fire pit, a uniform locker and a gigantic flag pole, all upon a multi-leveled foundation of gravel and desert rock – which creates ample opportunities for interesting and dynamic movement and interactions! The two most memorable pieces of G.W. (Skip) Mercier’s brilliant scenic design, however, are a fifty-year-old Frigidaire full of beer and a full-size trash dumpster full of empty bottles, both utilized ritually by old buddies and Vietnam vets Ben (Reginald Andre Jackson) and Jeeter (humorously played by Kevin Anderson).
The two men are reunited after Ben’s father’s funeral and things start to get a little complicated when Jeeter introduces his new love, Salyer (Emily Chisholm). She has her own ties to the war but cloaks them in secrecy until she dramatically bares all. When her hardened and cynical mom Lorraine (appropriately portrayed by Kate Wisniewski) comes in search of her “delinquent daughter” some unexpected softening comes through conversation and a sea-change occurs when all four have a chance to share their personal stories and confront their ghosts from the past.
Ben Zamora’s lighting design was a bright star in this production, transforming the otherwise static (yet stunningly realistic) set into multiple dimensions of time and reality – beautiful sunrises and sunsets, moonlit shadows, glowing campfires, and ghostly yet ethereal dream states!
Set at the end of the century, Steven Dietz’s ‘Last of the Boys’ reflects on the poignant reality that nearly 35 years later our nation is still very much dealing with the grave aftermath of perhaps our most controversial conflict to date. Hug your loved ones, share your stories, catch Last Of The Boys at Seattle Repertory Theatre now through February 10, 2019.
Seattle Rep: The Last of the Boys. Photo by Alabastro Photography.
Photo by Alan Alabastro

Powerful and Timely: Tony-Award Winning Musical Dear Evan Hansen moves audiences at The Paramount until Feb 2nd

Review by Tony Bohn:

Dear Evan Hansen is the much-talked-about contemporary musical currently running at The Paramount until February 2nd. With six 2017 Tony award wins including Best Musical, a 2018 Grammy Award for Best Musical Theater Album, the soundtrack coming in at number 8 on the Billboard 200 (as well as a remix of one of the songs coming in at number 1 on the Billboard Dance Club chart), not to mention a slew of award-winning collaborators – book by Steven Levenson, music and lyrics by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul (La La Land and The Greatest Showman) and direction by Michael Greif (Rent and Next to Normal) – I was very excited to check out the hype surrounding this production, and it did not disappoint.

A modern coming of age story set with a backdrop of social media projections, the story follows the life of a high school teenager named Evan Hansen as he struggles to fit in and find his place in a world that is not so easy to navigate. A strong ensemble cast, brilliant book, and powerful score highlight Evan’s journey as he grapples with the ever-increasing dilemma he finds himself in as one horrible lie leads to another until it climaxes in a very public and personal way. Dear Evan Hansen does an outstanding job of balancing comedy with drama to move the story along, and all actors give magnificent performances. The show deals with many themes and a variety of issues including mental health, suicide, family dynamics, self-esteem, social anxiety, social media and communication in the digital age, and the universal truth of finding your own voice. This is a multi-generational production in which everyone can relate to some aspects presented. At some point we all deal with the battle within ourselves to belong and fit in, finding the self confidence to manifest what we want in our lives, feeling like we are alone, invisible or unloved, and ultimately learning to love ourselves regardless of what others think, say or feel about us or what we have done in life.

This is a show that you will want to take a child, parent, friend or other family members (and probably some tissues) to, and it definitely provides an opening for a dialog about some of the issues mentioned. It is also a show that will probably have you doing some self-examination into your own life (I know it did for me!). For more information on dates, showtimes, and tickets, please go here.

1 - Ben Levi Ross as 'Evan Hansen' and the Company of the First North American Tour of Dear Evan Hansen. Photo by Matthew Murphy. 2018.jpg

PS If you are on a budget, the show is hosting day-of lotteries for $25 tickets. Details here. 

GIVEAWAY: J’ADORE! A Burlesque Valentine (Feb 8 -14 at The Triple Door)

The Atomic Bombshells (one of THE best burlesque troupes) are back with their Valentine’s show J’ADORE! A Burlesque Valentine.

Their giveaway ends tonight but there is still time to enter. You can enter via Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, or any combination of those sites! ENTER HERE. 

Learn more about the show J’ADORE! which plays The Triple Door Feb 8 – 14, 2019 here.

 

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