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?