“Fun Home”: A totally original new musical about sexual identity and family (at The 5th Avenue Theatre now through July 30)

Guest review by Molly Fortin:

Yes, it’s got “fun” in the name, but when you learn that “Fun Home” is short for funeral home, the family business of protagonist Alison Bechdel, and that the musical explores her family tragedy, you might think it’s an ironic title. Admittedly, after reading Bechdel’s best-selling graphic memoir which the show is based on, I was expecting intelligent, complex, and moving. I wasn’t expecting “fun.”

That’s why the eruptions of laughter at The 5th Avenue Theatre on opening night came as such a welcome surprise. Lisa Kron’s book and lyrics, Jeanine Tesori’s music, and Sam Gold’s direction wring this family tragicomic for every emotion – with three humorous moments to offset every poignant one.

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I love a show that makes me laugh, and one that moves along quickly. With a 1 hour 40 minute running time and no intermission, Fun Home hums along as quickly as the pages of a good graphic novel.

I had wondered how the musical´s creators would solve the problem of integrating Alison´s stories at many different points throughout her life, and so I was delighted with the inventive staging. Three actors play Alison throughout the musical, often all on stage at once, but Abby Corrigan as the adolescent Medium Alison steals the show. She immediately wins over the audience with her painfully sincere, awkward interactions with university co-eds as she comes into her own as a lesbian. She’s so cute and funny as she prances around the dorm room in boyish tighty whities singing “I’m changing my major to Joan.”

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Lately, I’ve been loving WNYC’s Nancy, frank conversations about the LGBTQ experience (“because everyone’s a little bit gay…”). The podcast featured one woman who was suddenly transported back to her own childhood while listening to Fun Home’s “Ring of Keys,” Small Alison’s ballad about recognizing herself in a butch delivery woman.

It’s so refreshing to hear diverse stories and experiences and to see them come alive on the musical theater stage in new, inventive ways.

“Fun Home” plays The 5th Avenue Theatre in downtown Seattle now through July 30. Tickets here.

Sweeney Todd at ArtsWest is wonderfully ambitious and innovative (now through July 1)

Guest Review by Russell Hathaway:

Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street. I loved it! I have to admit, I love this show and would probably love a production of it if it was put on by an elementary school. But ArtsWest’s production was lovable, even if you’re not necessarily a devotee of the show.  
 
The story of an exiled man running from the loss of his past and finding a dark, unlikely partnership with a pie maker, and the revenge they seek on the classes who have left them broken in the shadows, is familiar to all who have seen Sweeney Todd on stage or film. But ArtsWest and directors Mathew Wright and Eric Ankrim present an innovative production where the age, race, gender, even dress of the characters are not necessarily what they appear to be.  It makes every character more than just what you see in front of you and makes you think about the story differently. Yes, this is a classic tragic story of revenge. But it’s also a timeless tale of power and powerlessness, mainstream and marginalized. And the cast tells—and sings—the story with gusto! 
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For a small, neighborhood theater, this production has a cast worthy of a Broadway touring company.  Ben Gonio (NBC’s Grimm, As Boundless as the Green Earth) is dark and brooding, but he brings power (in presence and voice) to Todd that’s moving, whether in his disgust for the world around him (“No Place Like London”) or his anguish over lost love (“Pretty Women”).  Jeff Church (5th Avenue Theatre, Village Theatre, ArtsWest) is perfectly cast as Judge Turpin, holding power over their village, sanctimonious, but more corrupt than those he judges.  John Han (Seattle Musical Theatre, ArtsWest) as Toby, is soft and gentle and naive, but honest and morally consistent.  All the actors work well together and bring depth to their characters and strong voices to the music.
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Mrs. Lovett, played by Corinna Lapid Munter (5th Avenue Theatre, Seattle Children’s Theatre)— Wow! The strength of her voice! The nervous giggling! The dark devotion to Sweeney and Toby—this is her show! It’s her longing for someone to care for and her need to be needed that makes her fast infatuation with Sweeney and her fostering of Toby understandable. She can steal the show, singing “Not While I’m Around” with such tenderness and warmth, while offering up her cannibal concoctions.  
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It’s a wonderful, ambitious production, innovative in it’s staging and top notch in its casting. I probably enjoyed this story more told by this small company than a technicolor, surround-sound motion picture. If all the talk about pies leaves you hungry, they have a nice selection at the concessions counter.  Enjoy!
Sweeney Todd plays ArtsWest now through July 1.
Photos by John McLellan

Giveaway: Seattle Center Monorail

Before Brandon and I got hitched, we had a blast taking our engagement photos with the lovely and talented photographer Jackie Donnelly.
Brandon and I are kids-at-heart, so when we started brainstorming ideas of where we should take our engagement photos, the Pacific Science Center came to mind. We have a lot of fun memories of visiting Pacsci when our nieces were younger and the space is full of creativity and color. When we mentioned this idea to our photographer Jackie, she suggested we hop on the Seattle Center Monorail to get there (we live in Capitol Hill) and snap some fun photos on our way. Perfect!
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When I lived on Queen Anne and worked downtown at The 5th Avenue Theatre, I would often take the monorail to work. The monorail offers beautiful views (ABOVE traffic, so it’s an efficient ride) and gives you such a fun “true Seattle” experience. I love to think how different this city was when it was first built in 1962 for the world’s fair. I get warm and gleeful feelings every time I ride the monorail, sometimes feeling nostalgic for a time I wasn’t even alive.
The monorail goes from downtown (Westlake Center) to the Seattle Center Armory. If you haven’t been to the Armory in a while, you’ll be pleasantly surprised by the restaurants they now offer. I’ve used the Monorail to get to food and wine events at Seattle Center, to see shows at Seattle Rep, and to visit the Pacific Science Center.
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Some fun facts about the Seattle Monorail:
The monorail departs each stop approximately every 10 minutes and the ride is about 2 minutes.
This year, the Monorail celebrates 55 years of service. It carries over 2 million passengers each year.
The Monorail is powered by electricity, which means no emissions.
The Monorail runs until 11 pm daily, occasionally later for special Seattle Center events.
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Want to enter to win a couple Seattle Monorail passes?
Simply comment on this blog post, then comment on my Facebook giveaway post.
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Giveaway ends 6/16/17 at 11:59pm Pacific Time.
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Photo credits:
Photos of us by Jackie Donnelly jackielynnimages.com
Photos of exterior of Seattle Center Monorail by Megan Ching, Seattle Monorail Services.

GIVEAWAY: Kitten N’ Lou’s “Camptacular” at The Triple Door 6/30-7/3

One of the best burlesque duos in the world, Kitten N’ Lou, are back with a gaggle of talented pals this summer! “Camptacular” returns to The Triple Door June 30 – July 3 and Kitten N’ Lou are hosting a giveaway right now!
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About the show:
Kitten N’ Lou Present:  CAMPTACULAR!
“A summer camp-y spectacle that’ll melt your face off”

Get ready for the return of the wettest hottest American-est summer show ever, this 4th of July weekend!
Kitten N’ Lou, the “World’s Show-busiest Couple” and internationally celebrated dyke darlings, bring you a “brilliantly deranged” spectacle (TimeOut NY) that takes you to the campiest of summer camps, featuring an all-star cast of Seattle dance, drag, and burlesque icons including Stranger genius Cherdonna, international gender-blending icon Waxie Moon, and very special guest star from the Windy City….”the honey badger of burlesque” herself, Jeez Loueez!

Kicking off this summer: In the grand tradition of classic and awesomely awful American summer camp movies like Meatballs, Troop Beverly Hills, and Dirty Dancing, CAMPTACULAR takes you on a surreal, hilarious, and nostalgic trip to the great outdoors, where campers roast their weenies by the fire, tell bizarre ghost stories, frolic in sleeping bags, fall in love in the moonlight, and sneak into the woods….all culminating in the most epic camp “talent show” Seattle has ever seen…these shows sold out and had audiences raving last summer, don’t miss your chance to go back to Camp Two Raccoons!

Starring a bombastic and diverse cast of internationally celebrated theater, drag, cabaret, burlesque, and contemporary dance tastemakers, CAMPTACULAR is the ultimate stand-up-and-salute extravaganza to escape reality and usher in the summer with a bang!

Starring:
*Kitten N’ Lou*
Cherdonna Shinatra * Waxie Moon * Jeez Loueez*
Faggedy Randy * J Von Stratton * Markeith Wiley
*Scott Shoemaker * Josh Hartvigson * Randy Ford

Praise for Kitten N’ Lou productions:
“Feminist icons!” (The Australian Times)
“Genius!” (Huffington Post)
“Outrageously camp… show-stopping couple!” (The UK Daily Mail 2013)
“Kitten N’ Lou revolutionize camp.” (CityArts Magazine 2014)
“Absurdist duo Kitten N’ Lou’s larger than life groove had the audience cheering” (Huffington Post, 2014)
“Insanely fun to watch” (Verbicide Magazine, 2014)
“Underneath the fabulousness, there’s real dancing going on…” (Seattle Weekly)

 

Treat yourself to “Dreamgirls” in Issaquah or Everett!

Review by Jeanne Kinley Deller:

Village Theatre’s presentation of “Dreamgirls” brings this Tony and Grammy Award-winning musical to life with a strong and dynamic cast throughout. If you’re unfamiliar with the rise of rhythm and blues, from the African American community into mainstream entertainment, you’re in for a bit of valuable history.

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The agility and musicality of this wildly, wonderful cast portray the music industry at its best and at its worst – those embarking upon careers with talent and heart and those determined to exploit them at the highest level.

A true standout in this production was Angela Birchett (Effie White) and, most notably, her incredibly powerful rendition of “(And I’m Telling You) I’m Not Going.” Nathaniel Tenenbaum’s brilliant antics as James “Thunder” Early kept the theatre ringing with laughter. Ensemble dance routines with various instruments proved mesmerizing, as did many of the elegant costumes and costume changes. 

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“Dreamgirls” plays Village Theatre in Issaquah through July 2 and will play July 7-30 in Everett.

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Photos by Mark Kitaoka.

Giveaway: Romy and Michele’s High School Reunion (a new musical) at 5th Avenue Theatre June 8 – July 2

The World Premiere of the new musical “Romy and Michele’s High School Reunion” (based on the 1997 cult hit film) takes the stage of The 5th Avenue Theatre June 8 – July 2.
From the photos and videos I’ve seen, this show looks perfectly cast. I’m excited to hear the 80s and 90s inspired score and see the costumes. This story of friendship between two quirky, ridiculous characters is bound to put a smile on your face! (Yes, there’s a musical number about post-its. Like I said, ridiculous!)
This is the 18th new musical that The 5th Avenue Theatre has produced! They have sent a ton of musicals on to Broadway–Seattle is a great place to try out new work! This musical’s book (the spoken script) was written by Robin Schiff who wrote the movie’s screenplay and the creative team is nearly all women. “Romy and Michele is a story about friendship, rather than a story of romance, or winning a man being the ultimate success or driving action of the characters.”
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Want to join me on June 8? Enter to win two tickets to see this wacky and fun show!
To enter, comment on my Facebook giveaway post! Tag a friend in the comments. You can tag up to four friends (one per comment) for four extra entries.
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Giveaway ends 5/16/17 at 11:59pm Pacific Time.
Photos: Cortney Wolfson as Romy and Stephanie Renee Wall as Michele in “Romy and Michele’s High School Reunion.” Photos by Mark Kitaoka

Giveaway: ICE CREAM at Can Can in Pike Place Market– an “effervescent, dance-crazed spectacle!”

Seattle’s Can Can is a “Moulin Rouge-inspired cabaret hailed for creative retro entertainment” in Pike Place Market.
Tickets for their upcoming show ICE CREAM (June 9 – October 1) are on sale now. AboutICE CREAM: The infamous, historic venue will transform into a doo-wop ice cream shop — a colorful backdrop for this effervescent, dance-crazed spectacle of glitz, glitter, and above all, glutes! Inspired by all-time-favorite summer cult-classics like “Grease,” “Cry Baby,” “Hairspray,” and “Beach Party,” ICE CREAM celebrates revelry with the finest in Market fresh food, craft cocktails, and Can Can’s own unique brand of entertainment.
This show is totally up my alley and sounds like a perfect distraction from reality. See the show at 7pm Wednesdays through Sundays, 9:30pm Fridays & Saturdays. Got kids and no babysitter? This production offers family-friendly brunch showings at 12:30pm and 2:30pm every Saturday and Sunday!  “It’s high kicks, culinary delicacies, and world-class cabaret during the weekend’s Magnificent Matinees when Can Can’s award-winning dance theatre company performs a fresh version of ICE CREAM intended for audiences of all ages — kids welcome!”
Want to enter to win 2 tickets to ICE CREAM?
1) RSVP “Interested” or “Going” on the Ice Cream Facebook event page, then post on the wall:
I want to win tickets toICE CREAM via seattlepockets.com! 
2) For additional entries, tag friends in the comments of my Facebook post about the giveaway! You can tag up to five friends for five entries (one friend per comment).
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Prize includes 2 tickets to ICE CREAM at The Can Can in Pike Place Market (date subject to availability). Giveaway ends 5/13/17 at 11:59pm Pacific Time. Winner will be contacted 5/15/17. Prize can not be exchanged or returned for cash.
Photos via Can Can.