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February 17, 2006
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Volume 34
Issue 07
 
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Bits & Bytes
An Inspector Calls chills at Taproot, Eartha Kitt sizzles at Jazz Alley, On Golden Pond charms at Village, Music Inside Out opens at Varsity
by Milton W. Hamlin - SGN A&E Writer

Once again, Seattle's arts and entertainment calendar is overflowing with multiple choices. Nostalgia mixes with contemporary as the ageless Eartha Kitt continues her week-long visit at Jazz Alley, turning the sleek, sophisticated jazz club into a sleek, sophisticated New York cabaret or supper club of yesteryear.

In the theater department, the Village Theater's On Golden Pond turns out to be a delightful production of a charming contemporary classic. Taproot Theater celebrates its 30th anniversary season with five hits from the past three decades-An Inspector Calls proves to be a worthy opening of the year-long celebration. The Broadway-bound The Wedding Singer ends its Emerald City tryout with final performances through Sunday.

On the cabaret front, Please Pardon My Mush continues this week at Crepe de Paris before taking a short break. In the interval, "Que Sera Sera"-A Tribute To Doris Day runs two weekends, bringing Yolanda Tolentino from Los Angeles to Seattle in a celebration of cultural diversity. Red and Me, a special "musical potluck," plays Monday night only at the Market Theatre.

At the local cinema, an incredibly involving documentary, Music From The Inside Out, arrives today at the Varsity Theatre in the U District for (literally) one week only. And Bits&Bytes, catching up on new films and recent releases, dropped in on Imagine You and Me, the new Lesbian-themed relationship comedy-and loved it. What a week, what a city. Read on:



MUSIC FROM INSIDE OUT FASCINATES AT VARSITY

A fascinating new documentary uses members of the world famous Philadelphia Orchestra to explore what exactly music fans find in performances of major works from centuries of musical compositions. Director Daniel Anker spent five years on three continents working on the project, an unique collaboration between the orchestra and its musicians and the award-winning film maker. The results are mesmerizing-at least for music fans, especially classical music lovers.

The film is divided into three parts: "Finding A Voice," "Between The Notes" and "What Is Music?" All three bring a fresh approach to the subject matter. While "talking about music is like dancing about architecture," as one noted writer noted, Anker's documentary is fascinating from start to finish.

The film starts with a static "talking heads" structure but quickly comes alive with personal recollections: the Korean violinist who realized that he was not quite good enough for a solo career but excelled in the orchestra environment, the cellist who is a motorcycle fanatic and mixes tales of "leaning into the curve" at a high speed and "leaning into the music," the player who took up running to strengthen his musical stamina and turned into a marathon winner.

The musicians-most introduced by first name only-are a multicultural mix. Udi, Roberto, Renard, Nitzan, Emilio, Elena, Margarita, Hirono and the "usual suspects"-Richard, Paul, Blair, Eric, Angela, etc.

For Seattle music lovers-classical purists to bluegrass to salsa fans-Music From The Inside Out is a "must see" this week. The documentary is a highlight of the new Varsity Repertory Calendar where most "one week only" bookings are just that. Recorded show times and other information are available at 781-5755.



AN INSPECTOR CALLS OPENS TAPROOT SEASON

J.B. Priestly wrote An Inspector Calls in 1946 but set the play in the London of 1912. The seemingly complacent Birling family, celebrating the engagement of their lovely daughter to a worthy young man, is literally torn apart as Inspector Goole arrives to investigate the suicide of a young woman who seems to have no connection to the upper middle class family. But-in the best traditions of Scotland Yard, Sherlock Holmes, Agatha Christie and even television's Columbo- this inspector knows more than he lets on.

Taproot Theatre, celebrating its 30th anniversary with new mountings of five hits from its three decade history, returns to An Inspector Calls. It is a fitting-and involving-choice to open the special season.

Scott Nolte, Taproot's founder and long time artistic director, repeats his directing duties. The play, a modern classic often thought to be a 1912 creation, was the first Taproot production this scribe ever attended-and Bits&Bytes has been a fan and loyal supporter of the theater ever since 1991.

While this production lacks the religious, allegorical overtones of Taproot's earlier production, the talented cast and production have produced a winner in every department. Don Brady is delightful as Inspector Goole (and it doesn't take much thinking to "get" the symbolic element implied by his name). The rest of the large cast is first rate, and it was clear that the opening night audience was delighted by the play and the production.

An Inspector Calls continues through March 4 at Taproot's home in the Greenwood area. Ticket information is available at 781-9707. Budget-minded theater fans should ask about student/senior "rush" rates and other discounts.



ON GOLDEN POND CHARMS AT VILLAGE

Ernest Thompson's prize-winning, audience-pleasing, ever-popular On Golden Pond continues in a charming production at Village Theatre in Issaquah. The contemporary classic continues through Feb. 26 in VT's Mainstage in Issaquah and then shifts for a March 3-19 stay at the Everett Performing Arts Center.

While the New York production of On Golden Pond was a certified hit, it was the Hollywood film version with Katharine Hepburn and Henry Fonda that made the work most famous. Director Jeff Steitzer takes a broad approach to the play but no one really seems to mind.

Clayton and Susan Corzatte, a "beloved" Seattle-based husband and wife acting team, have wanted to play Norman and Ethel Thayer for years, and the Village staging gives them the chance. Both are fine in their roles and obviously have a grand time. Jeanne Paulsen is less successful as their estranged daughter, Chelsea. She is physically miscast and at a recent Saturday night performance seemed oddly detached from the rest of the cast.

Jim Gall is utterly charming as the possible new man in Chelsea's life and makes a throwaway part into a fully developed character. Michael Moore, just 14, is properly spirited-and totally charming, like his father-as Billy Ray, the sweetly foul-mouthed kid who spends the summer with the Thayers. Eric Ray Anderson has great fun as Charlie, the mailman, but he is encouraged to play into the stereotype of the character and we don't really believe one word he says.

This scribe-who had never seen the play or the film-enjoyed the outing to Issaquah and would highly recommend the production to anyone looking for a light evening of polished theater. The Corzattes obviously relish their roles and the near-capacity crowd clearly loved their work.

A bonus for GLBT theater fans is the discussion of the two Lesbian residents of Golden Pond. Ethel talks about how sweet the two 90 year old women were, "up here every summer, wearing their neckties, holding hands in the gazebo." It's a sweet moment of acceptance. Check it out. Ticket information at (425) 392-2202, a local call from most of Seattle.



PARDON MY MUSH SALUTES GERSHWINAT CABARET DE PARIS

Please Pardon My Mush, a new cabaret at Crepe de Paris in downtown Seattle, has a lot going for it. Billed as a celebration of "the Gershwin love songs," the spirited cabaret revue turns out to an odd assortment of music and musical styles-a lot of Gershwin, some original tunes, a little Cole Porter, some Duke Ellington, a little Harold Arlen, some late night torch songs and too much, "what do you wanna hear?" and "what do you guys wanna play?"

It's dangerous to "review" such an unstructured cabaret outing, but Bits&Bytes loved the sultry voice of Maggie Laird who doubled at the keyboard. Her trio-bass and percussion behind her piano work-added a sophisticated sound to her vocal stylings.

At its best, Please Pardon My Mush was an absolute delight. At its unstructured moments, it was often rewarding but confusing. With an $18 cover charge (at the high end of Seattle cabaret cover charges), an audience attending a show of "Gershwin love songs" has the right to get what it paid for.

The best of the evening, naturally, was the Gershwin tribute. The rueful "But Not For Me" opened the evening. "How Long Has This Been Going On?" followed with "Someone To Watch Over Me" coming next. "My Sweet Embraceable You," "They Can't Take That Away From Me," "Nice Work If You Can Get It," "A Foggy Day (In London Town)," "Our Love Is Here To Stay," "I've Got A Crush On You" were all winners.

Laird also scored with Cole Porter's "Night And Day," sung in both French and English. Her low-key banter with the intimate opening night crowd and her musicians was well intended but added an unneeded, unstructured feel to the evening. An unnecessary intermission broke the show in an awkward half. Undoubtedly, Laird will rethink and restructure the show as the run continues.

Please Pardon My Mush gets its clever title from an obscure lyric from "I've Got A Crush On You." It plays tonight and tomorrow and then takes a break before it returns for an encore March 10-25. Laird's show is well worth a look. Details at 623-4111.

'YOLY' TOLENTINO SALUTES DORIS DAYAT CREPE DE PARIS

In a striking moment of cultural diversity, Yolanda Tolentino, a Broadway actress and cabaret singer, brings her award-winning salute to Doris Day to the Cabaret At The Crepe series at Crepe de Paris.

"Que Sera Sera"-A Tribute To Doris Day runs only two weeks at the Crepe, Feb. 23-24-25 and March 2-3. (It is alternating with the Please Pardon My Mush Gershwin salute which is taking a break-see review above.)

Tolentino, affectionately known as "Yoly," won raves as Lady ("Something Wonderful") Thiang in the Tony Award-winning revival of The King And I several seasons past. She is also the winner of the Best Female Vocalist competition in the San Francisco Bay Area Cabaret Competition. She has sung in major cabarets in Los Angeles and San Francisco and appeared in opera (the title role in Madama Butterfly). She sings pop, jazz, gospel and R&B.

Her two weeks at Crepe de Paris should be a musical highlight of the spring. Reservations and complete information at 623-4111.



RED AND ME CABARET: A MUSICAL POTLUCK

Some of Seattle's top musical vocalists are joining together Monday, Feb. 20, for a special fundraising cabaret, Red And Me. Songs from Emerald City composers and earlier Seattle shows-like Woman With Balls-highlight the evening. Joanne Klein, Bobbi Kotula, Billie Wildrick, Gretchen Rumbaugh "and more" join together at the Market Theatre in the Pike Place Market complex.

Showtime is 7:30 p.m. with a pay-what-you-can "love offering" suggested for admission. "Sherrills' Famous Potluck" starts at 6:30-bring a dish to share or cough up $5. All proceeds from the evening go toward a future production of a new musical. Bits&Bytes says "check it out."



AS BEES IN HONEY& CHARMS AT ARTSWEST

As Bees In Honey Drown, a stylish new satirical comedy by Douglas Carter Beane, turned into a box office bonanza for ArtsWest, the spirited theater company in West Seattle that has found great success mixing "straight" and "Gay" themed works. The production closed at the end of its highly successful run, but the director, cast and crew deserve a "for the record" review from SGN and Bits&Bytes.

The production, with spiffy direction by Christopher Zinovitch, was one of the highlights of many highlights for ArtsWest.

As Bees In Honey Drown is a sophisticated Gay-themed comedy that was an off-Broadway smash several seasons back. Playwright Douglas Carter Beane is best known for his screenplay for the Gay-themed drag comedy, To Wong Foo, Thanks For Everything, Julie Newmar.

His newest work, the Gay-themed The Little Dog Laughed is one of this year's biggest off-Broadway hits in New York, and the producers of the smash are hoping (against hope) that one of Broadway's intimate theaters will open up and allow the sold out production to move to Broadway this spring in time for consideration for the Tony Awards.

For The Record: Heather Hawkins was incredibly funny as the opportunist Alexa, the talent agent with a quip for everything. "No one pulls the cashmere over the eyes of a writer," she coos to our innocent young Gay author. Andrew McIntyre was a stud-muffin of talent as the wide-eyed innocent who has too much line of credit on his MasterCard. He is Gay but attracted to Alexa. His most telling line is: "I sleep with men, but I don't love men." The rest of the ensemble company-all playing multiple roles and wearing multiple funny costumes-were all terrific.

If there were any justice in Theatre Land, As Bees In Honey Drown would have been extended time after time and run for months at the charming West Seattle theater. Alas, the show closed as scheduled. ArtsWest next play has a strong GLBT element-check with the box office-938-0339- for complete details.

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