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April 28, 2006
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Volume 34
Issue 17
 
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Bits & Bytes
Symphony opens Made In America Festival, Thumper's hosts Rat Pack readies Verdi's Macbeth
by Milton W. Hamlin - SGN A&E Writer

To no one' surprise, it's another great week for Seattle entertainment fans-and for Bits&Bytes. Read on:

INTIMAN OPENS SEASON WITH ROUDNING THIRD

Intiman Theatre opened its 2006 season with a thoroughly likeable production of Richard Dresser's Rounding Third, a pleasant but slight play that left many in last week's opening night crowd perplexed.

Rounding Third, a tale of two very different fathers who serve as Little League coaches, might as well be retitled Oscar And Felix Coach Little League or 'The Odd Couple' Plays Baseball. The derivative playwright even has the wimpy coach uses Felix's line about crying-"It's OK to cry&let it all hang out." Later, Dresser seems to channel Dolly Levi and her conversations with God, keystone moments in The Matchmaker and its musical reincarnation as Hello, Dolly!

The direction from BJ Jones, a major director in the Chicago area with numerous regional theater credits, is solid throughout, but-and it is a big but-few of Intiman's loyal subscribers attend Intiman for "pleasant" plays or "likeable" performances or "solid" direction. The choice of play was the topic of intermission groups every where in the lobby and the pleasant outdoor courtyard of the Playhouse.

Rounding Third continues through May 14. Intiman's upcoming productions-which are likely to delight season subscribers-include Shakespeare's Richard III, running June 9-15, and Shaw's Heartbreak House, July 28-August 26.

Richard III will be directed by Bartlett Sher, Intiman's artistic director who just scored a personal triumph with raves for his direction of Clifford Odets' Awake And Sing on Broadway, giving the Seattle director two shows currently on The Great White Way. In addition to Awake And Sing, which opened just two weeks ago, the Monday before Intiman's Wednesday opening of Rounding Third, Sher's A Light In The Piazza continues at Lincoln Center.

After the Monday night Broadway opening of Awake, Sher could have returned to Seattle for the Rounding Wednesday opening, but the talented director was "busy" in New York casting the national tour of Light. Many Board members and loyal subscribers were sorry that Sher was not in the opening night audience-he was missed.

THUMPER'S HOSTS RAT PACK CABARET

Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis, Jr, Dean Martin and most of the famous Hollywood Rat Pack of yesteryear get a snappy salute from David Jon Wilson in his new Come Fly With Me-A Rat Pack Revue that just opened at Thumper's as part of the popular restaurant's Cabaret On The Hill series.

David Jon Wilson, a Minnesota man who lived in the Seattle for most of the past five years-he moved to New York a year ago to get his big break-returns to the Emerald City for his role as the vain movie star in Village Theatre's Girl Of My Dreams. (That new musical with an USO/World War II setting, written by two openly Gay men, moves to Everett this weekend following a long run at VT in Issaquah.)

While back in the Northwest for Girl Of My Dreams, Wilson is polishing his Rat Pack Revue with hopes of finding a New York producer when he return to The Big Apple in late May.

While the show has many rough edges, it's a fun salute to the music of yesteryear. Songs range from those clearly associated with Sinatra and Martin to cabaret standards from the Great American Songbook. Look for specific details in a future Bits&Bytes.

Come Fly With Me runs Tuesdays only through May 16-Wilson appears in Girl Of My Dreams other nights. Reservations and full details at 328-3800. There is a $10 cover. Check it out.

Thumper's is also hosting the encore run of Trey Parker's Cannibal-The Musical! In its new "Gay cabaret adaptation," Cannibal runs Fridays and Saturdays through May 13. In its original run, the musical sold out every performance. For the return engagement, good seating is available but reservations are strongly recommended-328-3800.

VILLAGE WORKSHOPS NEW STUNT GIRL-A 'FEMINIST' MUSICAL

"A Fresh, Funny New Musical On The Life Of Nellie Bly!" scream the posters and advertising cards for Stunt Girl, the new musical based on the life, career, "and adventures" of the early female journalist who is considered an early feminist hero.

The workshop production at Village Theatre in Issaquah this weekend is sure to draw a diverse crowd-fans of musicals, fans of off-beat material and pro-feminist crowds who will unquestioningly support the show because of its content. GLBT theater fans cross all of these "types" and are sure to be a measurable element in the show's success.

Part of the theater's Village Originals series-"Experience The Best Of Tomorrow's Broadway Today!"-Stunt Girl plays tonight and Saturday night at 8 p.m. with the popular Sunday matinee at 2 p.m. Performances are at the Village's original site, First Stage Theatre, an old Issaquah film "palace" just down the street from VT's handsome new Mainstage. Reservations and details at (425) 392-2202, a toll-free call from most of Seattle.

SEATTLE SYMPHONY HOSTS MADE IN AMERICA FESTIVAL

Modern classical music takes the focus next week as the Seattle Symphony hosts its second Made In America Festival. This year's encore of last season's first festival runs May 6-20 and includes a number of highlights, including the May 20 Day Of Music grand finale with a full Saturday of musical events-many of them free. That's free, as in free-often considered Bits&Bytes' favorite word.

Another major highlight is the May 18 concert which includes an encore performance of Samuel Jones' Concerto For Tuba And Orchestra, the SSO commissioned work that was a critical and audience sensation in its premiere last fall. It is one of the few-very few-original works of modern music that Bits&Bytes wanted to hear again the very next day. Tickets for the Thursday evening concert start at just $10-but order early. The encore performance of Jones' tuba work will be a hot ticket and inexpensive seats will sell out fast.

The Festival has a focus on modern, living composers this year. A special effort has been made to program works by women, a group of artists often overlooked in the classical music community.

Call the SSO box office-a wonderfully cooperative team-and ask for a free Made In America Festival brochure. Details at 215-4747 or toll free at (866) 833-4747 for out-of-area music fans.

BITS&BYTES GOES TO THE MOVIES

A quick overview of new films from this scribe's perspective:

HARD CANDY REACHES NEW LOWS

Hard Candy, opens today at the Egyptian. It is, in one word-vile.

Trying too hard to be controversial, Hard Candy is billed as "an edge-of-your-seat psychotic thriller." It isn't.

The latest film from Seattle's Paul Allen's Vulcan Productions, Hard Candy is a shameless rip-off of various films. Kathy Bates won an Oscar for breaking James Caan's ankles in Misery, a violent act that softened the amputation of the character's feet in Steven King's original book. In Hard Candy young Ellen Page will not win any awards for castrating Patrick Wilson on-screen, albeit in a reflection in a bloody overhead mirror.

The premise is simple: A very young schoolgirl responds on an on-line pick up ad from an older male creep, a "fashion photographer." He may be a pedophile or he may just be a creep but the innocent young girl agrees to visit his house and get to know him better and, perhaps, to start her modeling career.. To no one's surprise, it is a set-up and she is seeking bloody revenge for his past acts.

It gets more preposterous-and worse-by the minute. It ends with a rip-off from Don't Look Now, the little-girl-in-a-red-cloak thriller set in Venice. It opens today at the Egyptian and should be gone by next week.

KINKY BOOTS STUMBLES-ALAS

Kinky Boots, a wants-to-be-charming tale of blue color workers in a British boot factory, does so many things right that it is a shame that the film's overall impact is negligible. Cute but forgettable.

Filmed to follow in the tradition of The Full Monty, Calendar Girls, Waking Ned Devine, Kinky Boots offers a few laughs and a solid performance in the drag-queen-just-wants-to-be-understood variety. Caught up with it its opening weekend-and its last-at the Egyptian where a handful of GLBT and "adventurous" film fans. The film was lost in the cavernous Egyptian and would have played better in a more intimate Landmark Theatre-it moves to the intimate upstairs at the Harvard Exit today. Low, low attendance opening weekend indicates that the film will be gone soon, but Kinky Boots will find its fans on its DVD release.

Best Moment: When the London-based drag queen arrives at the shoe factory that is in danger of going out of business, her taxi passes a sign on the factory wall" "Save Our Soles."

AKEELAH & THE BEE SCORES AS BEST OF BEST

Spelling bees are turning out to be this year's penguins. Or so it would seem from Hollywood documentaries, Broadway musicals and the new-and delightful-Akeelah And The Bee, opening "everywhere" this weekend.

Akeelah is the simple story of young African American girl from South Los Angeles who enters her school's spelling bee competition. And, against all odds&well you get the idea. The film is virtually flawless in its telling. It looks like a word-of-mouth winner in the tradition of The Whale Rider. Look for a full review elsewhere in SGN. But be sure to see it&it is a total delight.

SEATTLE OPERA OPENS VERDI'S MACBETH

Seattle Opera ends it 2005-05 season with the May 6-20 eight performance run of Verdi's Macbeth, the beloved operatic adaptation of Shakespeare world famous tragedy.

The new production, with direction by Bernard Uzan and sets and costumes by Robert Israel, is sure to be controversial-it's another of the "dreaded" (by many-embraced by others) "concept" productions, a radical departure from SO's 1979 traditional staging of the classical work which usually uses "Shakespeare" styled costumes and set designs. (Of course, in 2006 stage productions of works of The Bard rarely use "traditional" stagings anymore.)

The ad campaign for SO's Macbeth hints at the concept-"An 11th Century King, A 17th Century Play, A 19th Century Opera, A New Production From The Unique Perspective Of Bernard Uzan and Robert Israel." Be prepared&.

Macbeth is a terrific opera and well worth a look by serious opera fans or casual opera visitors. Some of Verdi's adaptation process is textbook stage-to-opera technique. Shakespeare, of course, had three witches foretell the future for the ambitious title warrior. Verdi, with the vast resources of 1847 opera companies at his command, simply turned the "three weird sisters" into a mass woman's chorus.

(A San Francisco Opera production not-too-many years ago linked the witch's coven to Lady Macbeth through the subtle costuming decision to garb the witches in traditional black with iridescent rooster feathers at the hem and at the end of their flowing sleeves. The power-mad Lady Macbeth wore the exact same costume in a fiery orange version, suggesting that Lady M. was a product of the weird sisters-a solid psychological possibility.)

As usual, Seattle Opera offers two casts of leading singers, the "Gold Cast" of internationally known stars and the "Silver Cast" of upcoming singers. While SO no longer uses the Gold and Silver terms, the traditional terms continue with long-time SO patrons. Check with the box office for performance details and ticket reservations-389-7676 or (800) 426-1619 for out-of-area opera fans. Be sure to ask for a free season brochure for the 2006-2007 season.

EDGE OF WORLD OPENS PLAZA SUITE

Edge of the World Theatre, just across the North Seattle boundary into Edmonds, just opened Neil Simon's funny, funny Plaza Suite for month-long run through May 27. While Simon's current Broadway revivals of The Odd Couple and Barefoot In The Park have received less than enthusiastic critical reception, his major comedy works continue to be staples of community theaters across the U.S.

Plaza Suite, a trio of one-act plays all set in the same Plaza Hotel room, was a smash on Broadway and later a sensationally successful Hollywood film. The "gimmick" of the Broadway staging-two terrific actors playing all three sets of widely diverse characters-was changed in the film version which had three different female leads playing opposite one male lead.

The plays are all out-and-out comedies but with a lingering sadness at times. The show is always successful, always popular, always well received. It's Simon at his best and should be a good match for Edge Of The World, one of many "little theaters that could" and did become long running successes.

Plaza Suite continues performances Thursday through Sunday evenings through May 27. The theater's very popular Saturday matinees at 4 p.m.-a great performance time for many loyal theater fans-start next Saturday, May 5. Details and reservations are available at 524-PLAY. Check it out.

MIRROR STAGE HOSTS FEIFFER'S BAD FRIEND

Mirror Stage Company offers a monthly Feed Your Mind play reading series of new or rarely staged plays. The program, using Equity and non-Equity actors, is offered for two performances once a month at Richard Hugo House on Capitol Hill and at Pigott Auditorium at Seattle University.

Last weekend, "the faithful" gathered at Pigott on Sunday afternoon for a rare reading of Jules Feiffer's A Bad Friend. "We had about 17-not bad for a beautifully sunny day in Seattle.," a company administrator told Bits&Bytes.

The Hugo House Monday night performance drew about the same. The series is co-sponsored by the Richard Hugo House Open Program Fund and draws a diverse group of audience types-the fringe and established theater group, political activists drawn to the specific texts, stage fans seeking out rare revivals or prospective new works. The group of Equity and non-Equity actors gave a strongly motivated reading of Feiffer's strange, politically dated A Bad Friend, an unknown work to this scribe.

With it's pro-Stalin themes and its "kitchen sink" look at a "progressive" Jewish New York family in the 1950s, A Bad Friend seems hopelessly dated for most audiences. However, with its references to Clifford Odets and his Waiting For Lefty (recently a hit in Seattle with a fringe theater production last year) and Awake And Sing (just revived in New York with highly praised direction from Seattle's Bartlett Sher, artistic director of Intiman Theatre here in the Emerald City), the play took on an unexpected appeal for serious Seattle theater fans.

Check out upcoming Mirror Stage Feed Your Mind readings-a quick call to 686-3729 will get you on their mailing list. And, ya, go ahead and tell 'em that Bits&Bytes and SGN told you to call.

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