Pirates of Penzance delivers an evening of love and laughter

For this review, Seattle Pockets welcomes Guest Blogger, Christopher Monsos.

The Pirates of Penzance have sailed far from the waters off Cornwall and are now plundering the coastline of Canada during the show’s run at The 5th Avenue Theatre through August 4th, 2013.

A twenty two year old pirate bound an overactive sense of duty is released from his indentured servitude and cast ashore. He quickly encounters beautiful maidens (not usually found on the high sea), romance, and tests that put this heightened sense of duty to the test.

With thirty minutes left on his piratical contract does he give this band of pirates tips on how to better plunder? Once released from piracy, can he fulfill his civic duty and turn his old crew in? What consequences arise when he is duty-bound to uphold follow through with his agreements… to the letter?

The 5th Avenue Theatre delivers a solid production of the comic opera, with an vocally powerful cast giving the Gilbert & Sullivan score and patter songs its full respect. Frederic (Hunter Ryan Herdlicka) delivers a performance as tight as his trousers, Mabel (Anne Eisendrath) hits incredibly high operatic notes with strength, and Ruth (Anne Allgood) delivers fantastic comedy – quickly becoming a favorite character. The Pirate King (Brandon O’Neill) found his swagger by the middle of Act 2. The cast is rounded out by a booming band of Pirates-slash-Canadian Mounties, a cunning Major-General (David Pichette), a shuffling Mountie sergeant (Jared Michael Brown), and the scene-stealing bevy of beautiful mavens that are Mabel’s sisters.

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Opening night included some gags that could land harder if they were just slightly pulled back (hip thrusting, a decapitated Canadian goose as examples) and Act 2’s  set seemed oddly flat for what is possible with a static two-scene show.

The Pirates of Penzance delivers a solid and entertaining evening of love and laughter. Pay enough attention to the plot points being sung – but make sure you take moments to visually explore the scenes to catch some of the detail and comedic performances from the ensemble.

*****
GIVEAWAY! If we get 5+ comments on this blog post, we’ll give away a pair of tickets to the show!

Review of Fela! (on tour in Seattle through June 2nd)

I had a chance to see Fela! at The Paramount in downtown Seattle this week. The music really gets me moving and the first act was incredible – athletic, engaging dancers, gorgeous choreography, beautiful costumes (I want that black and yellow ensemble – the way those skirts move – wow!) and a lead actor who carries the whole audience with him as he tells the story of his character, Fela Muti.  Adesola Osakalumi is amazingly captivating. His charm, charisma, moves and passion get the audience on their feet to dance with the cast early in the show and take us through the experience of Fela!

Addressing a very serious subject (political activism in a corrupt Nigerian society) is very challenging within the style of musical theatre. The beginning of the show is fun and energetic while the second act is marred with the reality of things that happen to Fela and his family. While I loved the first act, the second act left me wanting more. It’s incredibly challenging to stay true to history while keeping the energy that the audience experiences in the first act alive, but I believe the book could be stronger – celebrating how the energy and music and message of Fela lives on, even after his death to end the show. It seemed to try to do this, but fell short.  The storytelling of the show is also problematic – most of the show is just Fela talking to us about what happened to him between songs, rather than having the action take place on stage. I did love the use of subtitles in the art projected on the back of the screen, however, which helped the audience understand more of his message during the show. Michelle Williams I believe was a casting mistake – her vocal power is weak and her sound didn’t match the rest of the cast. She wasn’t able to make the leap from pop singer to actor and the sound of her voice was distracting. Luckily, the talent, sound and power of Osakalumi, the amazing dancers and the incredible band made up for this, however.

The music is incredible, the dancing is incredible. I think the second act has some real problems.   I was expecting to learn more about what Fela was protesting than I did. But all in all, I’m glad I got a chance to see this show. There will definitely be more afrobeat music in my future – something I didn’t really have on my radar before hearing about this musical. This show won Tonys for Best Choreography, Costume Design of a Musical and Sound Design of a Musical. Buy tickets here (closes June 2nd).

…but don’t just take my word for it!

Read reviews from:

Seattle Actor

Culture Mob

Broadway World

The Stranger

The Seattle Times

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Book of Mormon Lottery tickets for less than $30!

Update – tickets are just $25. Yeah I thought that price looked strange the first time I saw it too. The BAA FB page updated the price in a post after I shared this info.

Book of Mormon is offering a select number of “lottery” tickets during the run of the show at the Paramount Theatre Jan 8 – 20, 2013! This is a hot ticket item, so take advantage of this deal!

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FREE: 5th Avenue Theatre hosts RENT Spotlight night June 20

Get your free tickets to Spotlight Night at The 5th Avenue Theatre for the musical, RENT. Spotlight night is a behind the scenes look at the upcoming production, with special guests talking about the musical and live musical performances from the show.  Fun, free and informative! Get your free tickets, here. 

More info about RENT at The 5th Avenue, playing July 21 – August 19, 2012, here.

Cast of the production includes Daniel Berryman, Aaron C. Finley, Naomi Morgan (who is a doll and I cannot wait to see in the role of Mimi, which she is sure to ROCK), Jerick Hoffer, Ryah Nixon, Andi Alhadeff (a beautiful girl, inside and out, with a voice to match), Brandon O’Neill (so fun to watch), Eric Ankrim (who directed Balagan’s recent production of Spring Awakening), Sarah Rose Davis (comic-adorableness), Antonia Darlene, Kirsten deLohr Helland, Jimmie D. Herrod Jr., Diana Huey (so much talent and charm), Andrew Leonard, Trina Mills (awesome, sexy dancer), Casey Raiha, Heath Saunders, Patrick Shelton, Logan Benedict, Bryan Gula, Lindsay Hedberg, Henry Nettleton and Sarah Russell.

Seattle Rep announces 50th Season lineup

I’ve been attending Seattle Rep since I was a teenage years and there’s a reason they are a nationally and internationally known theatre – some of the best shows in Seattle take place on their stages in the Seattle Center neighborhood. My parents have been season ticket holders for well over a decade (how long, Mom?) and always try to make it to the performances that feature “Talk Backs” after the show, where some of the creative team and actors join the audience for a in-depth look into the production.  I’m excited to hear from them what shows in the next season they are looking forward to seeing the most.

The Seattle Times reports on their upcoming season, as Seattle Repertory Theatre celebrates it’s 50th year (Seattle Pocket notes peppered throughout):

Pullman Porter Blues” (Bagley Wright Theatre, Sept. 27-Oct. 28), a new blues musical by Seattle’s Cheryl West about African-American train porters.

With The Paramount Theatre, the Rep will host a tour run and Seattle debut of the Tony-winning “War Horse” (at The Paramount, Feb. 12-24, 2013). (See the Paramount’s full season, here.

“The Glass Menagerie,” by Tennesee Williams will be mounted by Rep associate artistic director Braden Abraham (Leo K. Theatre, Oct. 19-Dec. 1). (I went to college with Abraham and let me tell you: his creative work is something else. I can’t wait to see how he brings this gem of a play, The Glass Menagerie, to life.  There will be magic when Abraham meets Williams. Even if you’ve seen productions of this show before, don’t miss this one! You can thank me later. Tennesee Williams an American favorite and this play is one of his best.)

“Inspecting Carol” (Bagley Wright, Nov. 23-Dec. 23): This antic satire about a hapless theater troupe butchering “A Christmas Carol” was devised by ex-Rep head Daniel Sullivan and company actors in 1991. (I’ve seen this show before and can’t wait to hear who will be cast in this year’s production. Charming, a great choice for the holidays for everyone in need of a laugh. Which means, get your tickets early.)

“American Buffalo” (Bagley Wright, Jan. 11-Feb. 10, 2013): by David Mamet

New Play Festival (Poncho Forum, January 2013) (Kudos to “big” Seattle theatre (who also struggle – support them with donations and subscriptions!) for supporting new works!)

“Photograph 51” (Leo K., Feb. 1-March 3, 2013): Abraham directs Anna Ziegler’s bio-play about scientist Rosalind Franklin and her unsung role in the discovery of the double helix mechanism of DNA. (Well, this one sounds quirky and fun! I can’t wait to learn more in their preview pieces.  Love the combo of a real story in a show that also encourages women to become scientists in a field that is still male dominated.)

“Good People” (Bagley Wright, March 8-April 7, 2013) byDavid Lindsay-Abaire

“Boeing-Boeing” (Bagley Wright, April 19-May 19, 2013)  Says Manning, “It’s a crowd-pleaser, a comedy that works like a Swiss watch.” (Heard great things about the recent Broadway revival – can’t wait to see!)

See full Seattle Times article by Misha Berson, here. 

Some of my favorite productions that I’ve seen The Seattle Rep include The K of D, an urban legend, The 39 Steps, Fences, The Cook, Take Me Out, Topdog/UnderdogThe Search for Signs of Intelligent Life in the Universe, and Waiting For Godot.

What shows most appeal to your tastes in the coming season? Favorite past shows at The Rep?

5th Avenue Theatre to bring back some of the BEST Musicals for 12/13 Season

Two of my favorite musicals of all time, Jersey Boys & Memphis, are coming back to The 5th Avenue Theatre in Seattle!  Having worked at The 5th for 8+ years, I’ve seen a lot of shows, and these two are ones that are HUGE crowd pleasers that are not to be missed.

While The 5th isn’t presenting a brand new musical as they usually do (Memphis played The 5th Avenue before it became a major hit on Broadway), the 12/13 season is full of fun. They’re also bringing Elf, The Addams Family and The Music Man.

Other shows include Grey Gardens (in partnership with ACT Theatre) and Pirates of Penzance.  The latter is billed in The 5th’s email newsletter as “One of the most popular musicals of all time.” I’m personally not a Gilbert & Sullivan fan, but classic musical lovers will be drawn to this show, I expect.  And my fella is excited to check it out, if only because it’s one of the classics he’s never seen. “Isn’t that ‘Modern Major General’ song from that show?” He asked me tonight. Turns out, yes. “Hoarders meet the Hamptons” in  Grey Gardens – casting will be everything in this intimate production…excited to hear more news about it in the coming months.  Tempted to watch the Drew Barrymore version of the movie soon to check out the show.

Jersey Boys is electrifying and full of musical fun with the story and music of Frankie Vallie and The Four Seasons.  It’s a great show to take your date, best friend or mom to.  Generations of people love this show and one can only hope we’ll see Seattle actor Jason Kappus in the role of Bob Gaudio for this production.

The Music Man is a movie that evokes fond memories of childhood for me – who wouldn’t fall in love with this story and music.  The 5th Avenue’s orchestra is always fantastic and I can’t wait to hear them “trombone” away. I have a feeling this will be one of those productions where people walk away knowing that was the best production of The Music Man they will ever see.

Elf takes the stage for Nov 30 – Dec 31 – I haven’t heard much about this production but I’m glad to see the Seattle arts world will be gifted with a unique option for the holidays. As with most movies where the lead is so iconic to watchers (Gene Kelly in White Christmas, Tim Curry in Rocky Horror), the biggest challenge of this show is in the casting/directing and of course performance of the main character – Will Ferrell has some big pointy shoes to fill!

What can I say about Memphis? Not enough. The story alone is riveting and inspiring. Add in the incredible score and dancing that makes the audience jump out of their seats to dance in the aisles at curtain call, and you’ve got one of the best musicals ever made.  I’ve seen this production multiple times and applaud The 5th for bringing it back to the theatre so soon – audiences who missed it before Broadway will be in for a treat, while the rest of us will feel like we’ve reconnected with old friends when the beloved (and rockin‘) characters take the stage.

Above all, don’t miss Memphis and Jersey Boys. If you saw them before, you probably won’t be hesitating to buy your tickets for a second time.  These shows must be seen live for the full experience – the dancing, music and stories of each will be some of the best theatre you will see in Seattle all year.  I may just have to relearn a little bit of the Jersey Boys choreography again soon.

Have you seen any of these shows, at The 5th or elsewhere?  I’d love to hear your thoughts! What shows in particular are you most excited for?

Season tickets and more information, here.

Tonight, The 5th Avenue hosted a twitter chat during their season announcement party – check out hashtag #5th1213 to check it out! Kudos to Chris Marcacci at 5th Avenue Theatre for his hard work – they trended on Twitter in Seattle!

Incredible story from Seattle Children’s Theatre & Children’s Theatre Company

Just take a look at the performance notes from a production of Harold & the Purple Crayon by Seattle Children’s Theatre: (UPDATE: This particular performance took place at The Children’s Theatre Company in Minneapolis, MN today, where the Seattle Children’s Theatre production of Harold and the Purple Crayon is now being performed, through February 26th).

Image: Ron Darling

This story is just one example of why theater and arts are important in our lives.  There really is nothing that compares to the magic that happens between a live performance and it’s audience.  My nieces love their special outings with me to Seattle Children’s Theatre (we are subscribers) and it really helps bring their imaginations to life.  If this story has moved you, consider donating to SCT to help them continue their work in our community and across the country. Thanks to Ron Darling for sharing this story with us on Facebook.

Up next at SCT: A Single Shard, HELP, and The Very Hungry Caterpillar.  Some of the nieces and my favorite SCT productions include A Year with Frog & Toad, Pero, Give a Mouse a Cookie and Go Dog Go.  What have been some of your favorites?

*Special thanks to Robert Dunn who added clarification to the location of this performance in the comments, below. If you are in Minnesota and interested in attending Harold & The Purple Crayon, it runs through February 26th.  More info and tickets, here. I have a personal tie to Children’s Theatre Company in MN, as I performed in the run of Madeline’s Rescue in the late ’80s! What a fun time that was.  As a kid who was introduced to theatre as a child and was encouraged to follow my passion (thanks mom and dad!), I really know first hand how important the arts are in a child’s life.  If you have influence on a kid, be it parent, aunt, friend-aunt or big sister/big brother, bring them to a play, no matter where you are.  

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