Tag Archives: musicals

The Book of Mormon: some tough love for the tour

The original Broadway cast of "The Book of Mormon."

The original Broadway cast of “The Book of Mormon.”

Let’s just get this out of the way. If you are offended by cursing, genital mutilation, sodomy jokes, or are religiously sensitive, you should not see this show. (Although the Mormon Church took out three full-page color ads in the program with clever tags like “You’ve seen the play, now read the book!” Ten points to them.) Also, if you don’t know what “South Park” is, you probably should just find a nice Spencer Tracy movie to watch on AMC.

And now on with the show.

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‘RENT’ rocks at The 5th Avenue Theatre

The 5th Avenue Theatre closes up its season with the Tony and Pulitzer Prize winner “RENT,” playing through August 19th. The late Jonathan Larson’s marvelous score filled every wavelength of space in the beautiful downtown theatre: “Seasons of Love,” “Without You,” “Today 4 U,” “Light My Candle,” among many others. Director Bill Berry’s cast is full of blood and vinegar.

Martin Christoffel’s set is an urban jungle underneath an underpass, graffitied with lyrics and lines from the show. The layered scaffolding is crawling with the colorful and talented ensemble, who are equal parts props, set, and mob choir. A couple ensemble stand-outs: Eric Ankrim (who is also an associate director for the show) has a gripping solo in “Will I?” and Sarah Rose Davis’s frequent voicemails as Mark’s mother are hilarious. You actually look forward to her return (those glasses!). “La Vie Boheme” is electric.

However, if you have to boil it down to one reason to buy a ticket, here it is. They call her, they call her Mimi. Actress Naomi Morgan is a knock out. She’s angry, she’s tenacious, and she’s tiny and lithe. The fire in her eyes hits the back wall. She attacks songs rather than just sings them, and wins. When she speaks and moves, you get the feeling that if she were to ever let out what was inside, there wouldn’t be signs big enough or lights bright enough. Her romantic yo-yoing with Aaron C. Finley as “Roger” (who is also wonderful, especially during his gripping “One Song Glory”) threatens to overshadow the other relationships at play. It’s strange to feel relief when both pull out their AZT, yet their chemistry is so visceral, you can’t help but guiltily rejoice.

'RENT' plays at The 5th through August 19
‘RENT’ plays at The 5th through August 19
Photo credit: Mark Kitaoka

You pretty much instantly fall in love with Jerick Hoffer as “Angel.” He is the shining light of the stage, filled with irrepressible optimism and fun. He returns to the Balagan Theatre early next year in “Hedwig and the Angry Inch” as the starring role, which will undoubtedly be a blast.

Frankly, this reporter would take Ryah Nixon (“Maureen”) as she is any day of the week.

The director makes the case that “RENT” is just as relevant today as it was in the early and mid 90’s when the Tony and Pulitzer winning blockbuster first came to light. But does it actually matter? Do audiences still flock to “Hair” because of its relevancy?

“RENT” encapsulates a time when AIDS was still a frighteningly unknown disease, when people wouldn’t even shake hands with someone infected. In today’s world, while there is still stigma, contracting AIDS isn’t the death sentence it once was and it certainly is no longer commonly called the “gay disease.” But to worry about its relevance is like saying modern audiences can’t get something out of “The Help” if they didn’t have a “colored only” entrance. Relevancy is irrelevant. There is poignancy to watching a group of artist friends trying to live in the moment and realizing that these are teenagers, and many of them will most likely die a very ugly death. “No Day But Today” isn’t a trendy Hot Topic t-shirt to these kids. If The 5th Avenue’s production doesn’t move you because AIDS is soooo last decade, well, maybe you should stick to tumblr for entertainment.

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“RENT” plays July 21 – August 19, 2012 at The 5th Avenue Theatre (1308 5th Ave, Seattle, WA 98101). Tickets (starting at $29.00) may be purchased at www.5thavenue.org, by phone at 206-625-1900, or at the Box Office at 1308 5th Avenue in downtown Seattle.

 

For more reviews and theatre news, check out: http://www.examiner.com/a-contemporary-theatre-in-seattle/jasmine-joshua

Go hear the people sing at ‘Les Miserables’ in Seattle

Undisputed as the most popular musical of all time, “Les Misérables” celebrates its 25th anniversary with Cameron Mackintosh’s re-imagined production at The 5th Avenue Theatre. The tour shattered box office records during its run at The 5th last August, with over 50,000 patrons clamoring to join the revolution, and it’s clear why. Its enduring humanity makes for an unforgettable experience. Throw in some colorful ladies of the night, a band of idealistic youths, a doomed love triangle, and an epic score that will knock your socks off, and you’ve got yourself a hit.

At the center of “Les Misérables” are two men steered by their unshakable faith — one by his belief in mercy, the other by his belief in justice. After spending 19 years in a hard labor prison for theft, Jean Valjean breaks his parole to begin a new life free from the stigma of his crime. Although he has changed into a decent man, he is hounded by Inspector Javert, an absolutist whose purpose only makes sense if the Law is Good. Set against the bloody backdrop of the French Revolution, “Les Misérables” includes all of Victor Hugo’s favorite themes: faith, redemption, love, and what makes a man good or evil.

The two leads do not disappoint. Peter Lockyer’s sensitive “Valjean” and Andrew Varela’s righteous “Javert” are perfectly matched and both outfitted with spectacular voices. In fact, be careful if you sit in center orchestra because when either of them face the audience while singing, you might have to adjust your ‘do. Lockyer’s stirring performance of “Bring Him Home” balances the requisite gentleness with a powerful desperation that hits the back wall.

The rest of the cast holds up its end of the bargain with gusto. The Thénardiers, played by the disgustingly delicious duo Timothy Gulan and Shawna M. Hamic, are perfect representations of society’s bottom feeders, from halfway revolutionaries in it for the grave robbing to nouveau riche opportunists. The cherubic Marcus D’Angelo steals every scene he’s in as “Gavroche,” the pint-size rebel with more street smarts than all of Fagin’s gang. Max Quinlan’s “Marius” delivers a sweet, earnest performance, expertly avoiding sappy romance. Briana Carlson-Goodman as “Éponine” breaks your heart.

The production itself is incredibly versatile, able to simulate a grand march through the streets of Paris with a hungry gang of revolutionaries, while also zeroing in à la cinematic close-up on the tortured face of Fantine as she belts “I Dreamed a Dream.” Paule Constable’s lighting design is absolutely brilliant in this way. Matt Kinley’s set design, inspired by Hugo’s paintings, is an ever-changing puzzle, a feast for the eyes.

The projections are a double-edged sword. While most of the effects are fascinating, especially during Marius and Valjean’s sewer escape and the aforementioned march through the streets, they can also be distracting. This is especially true during Javert’s “Soliloquy,” which is a pity.

“Les Miz” is ironically known for it excess, but Mackintosh’s production does not stop for stragglers. The orchestra begins its iconic glittering and you’re off — there is no wallowing, no time to wipe your eyes, and God help you if you sneeze more than once in a row. For the most part, the sense of urgency is invigorating, but even though the acting is quite good, a few small, beautiful moments get lost in the flurry.

Still, the glory of the show’s staying power is undeniable — every generation has its ideals and betrayals, its scallawags and its martyrs. For every Cosette, there is an unrequited Éponine. For every selfless Valjean, there is a Thénardier. Sometimes what you think is good and true, isn’t; and sometimes a thief on the run is more than what he seems. At the end of the day, it’s about doing the right thing.

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“Les Misérables” plays at The 5th Avenue Theatre through July 8th. To purchase tickets (starting at $45), visit www.5thavenue.org, call the box office at (206) 625-1900, or stop by the box office at 1308 5th Avenue in downtown Seattle.

Fun trivia! Producer Cameron Mackintosh is also working on the “Les Misérables” film coming out this December. Can’t wait!

 

For more reviews and theatre news, check out: http://www.examiner.com/a-contemporary-theatre-in-seattle/jasmine-joshua

National tour of ‘American Idiot’ shakes down Seattle

Green Day‘s “American Idiot,”the Tony Award-winning punk musical that took the Great White Way by storm, is squatting at the Paramount Theatre through June 10th and you do not want to miss it.Welcome to paradise, where the American dream taunts a generation of post-9/11 apathetic nobodies with a president they didn’t (or couldn’t) vote for, an endless war they don’t understand, and delusions of grandeur fueled by the everpresent media. If you’ve somehow managed not to hear any of the glorious music from Green Day‘s Grammy-winning album of the same name, here’s a fine way to get on that. By the end of the epic “Jesus of Suburbia” suite, the audience was a puddle on the floor.

The three guys (certainly not heroes and definitely not men) center stage are Johnny, Tunny, and Will, a collection of beer-swilling, pot-smoking pals with only vague dreams of glory. Johnny is our anti-hero, except he’s somehow less than an anti-hero. He manages to be the main character without elliciting any sympathy or antipathy. He traverses the “Big City” like the hapless loser that he is, falling for a gorgeous girl called Whatshername (played by Gabrielle McClinton) and turning to drugs for connection. “St. Jimmy,” Johnny’s drug-addled, Marilyn Manson-esque alter-ego, is played by Joshua Kobak, a sinister but fun ghoul who throws bags of drugs and glitter around the stage like candy.

Van Hughes (Johnny), Joshua Kobak (St. Jimmy) and the company of AMERICAN IDIOT
Van Hughes (Johnny), Joshua Kobak (St. Jimmy) and the company of AMERICAN IDIOT
Photo credit:
Photo credit: Doug Hamilton

Depressed and overwhelmed, Tunny ends up enlisting and shipping off to the Middle East. His recruitment is reminiscent of the haunting “I Want You (She’s So Heavy)” scene from Julie Taymor’s “Across the Universe.” Scott J. Campbell plays the part with dignity, his eyes and sweet voice radiate the pain and confusion of a promise reneged. His stunning aerial dance with Nicci Claspell, “The Extraordinary Girl,” is an exquisite take on the sexualization of war. No, there is no draft, but for an uneducated, lower-class kid like Tunny, is there really a choice?

Will, played by Jake Epstein of Degrassi and Spring Awakening fame, is scuppered early on by an unplanned pregnancy and left behind. Epstein’s inertia is startling. He stays on the couch for the entire show, in stark contrast to Johnny, who is seduced by drugs, and Tunny, who is seduced by war.

The Tony Award-winning set and lighting design, a magnificent spectacle in the original Berkeley Repetory Theatre production, travels extraordinarily well. The grungy set is covered in over twenty TV screens flashing clips of President George W. Bush, FOX newscasts, and war footage. Characters careen around on rickety scaffolding, the live band members skulk around the outskirts of the stage, raining down punk rock. Steven Hoggett’s visceral choreography is perfect — not so orchestrated that it strips the spirit of the mob dancing, but with razor sharp intention that magnifies the characters’ frustration.

Green Day has already shed many skins — the song “Good Riddance,” ironically one of the most-played songs at graduations and school dances, is a sardonic tribute to those who think the band’s evolution spat in the face of its punk roots. For those remaining fans who think that going Broadway is the ultimate and final betrayal… seriously, don’t worry about it. “American Idiot” on stage is every bit as angry and disgusting and real as the breakthrough album “Dookie.”

For Green Day fans: Even without Billy Joe, Mike, and Tre, this cast (many of whom performed with Green Day on Broadway) will knock your socks off. They are vulgar and young and full of blood and vinegar, just like the good ole days.

For theatre fans: This is not a jukebox musical with a flimsy plot and vapid characters. Yes, it’s “Hair” for a new generation, but it brings something else to the table. The staging of this show is like nothing you have ever seen. And there’s an incredibly dark and beautiful moment between Johnny and Whatshername during the song “Last Night on Earth” that will haunt you for days, in the best way that theatre can.

Don’t wanna be an American idiot? Buy your tickets NOW.

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Green Day’s “American Idiot” plays through June 10th at the Paramount Theatre. Tickets start at $25 and can be purchased online, by calling 877-STG-4TIX (784-4849), or in person at the Paramount Theatre Box Office (10am-6pm Monday through Friday).

For more reviews and theatre news, check out: http://www.examiner.com/a-contemporary-theatre-in-seattle/jasmine-joshua