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January 12, 2007
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Volume 35
Issue 02
 
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Bits & Bytes
Musical Spelling Bee charms at Paramount, Mirror Stage salutes Martin Luther King, Crepe de Paris hosts three new cabarets,
by Milton W. Hamlin - SGN A&E Writer

What a week! Snow storms that didn't happen. Wind storms that passed over Seattle. New entertainment offerings in almost every venue-it's a great week for Emerald City entertainment fans-and that means another great week for Bits&Bytes.

25TH SPELLING BEE CHARMS AT PARAMOUNT THROUGH SUNDAY
The national touring company of the Tony Award-winning musical The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee arrived in Seattle Tuesday night, A.K.A. "The Night The Snow Didn't Come." The H-I-T and H-I-P little musical charmed the uncertain audience at the Paramount where the show continues with five more performances through Sunday night. It is a D-E-L-I-G-H-T from start to finish.

The charming little-show-that-could takes place, as the title suggests, at the Putnam County Spelling Bee. Six pre-adolescents gather for the county finals---all "winners" from their respective schools. (Well, except for Leaf Coneybear who was second runner-up-but that's another story.)

Four audience "volunteers"-selected from a pre-curtain contest in the lobby-join the six.

Bits&Bytes reported on the still-running New York production last year for SGN. As with the New York staging in the intimate Circle In The Square Theatre, the show works best in its comic moments. The songs are all supportive of the characters or the plot situations, but few are anything to listen to again.

Chip Tolentino's "My Unfortunate Erection" is a puberty-is-here showstopper, and William Barfee's "Magic Foot" is a comic delight. The touring cast-all unknown, young talents-is solid in every role.

The Paramount-which many theater fans (and critics) feared would swallow the show whole-works fine for the one-week stay. Chicago and Boston have their own productions in smaller stages. Spelling Bee is fine at the Paramount in the Broadway Across America series, but the real charms of the show will work better when a local theater group produces it in a more intimate spot. The dialog-most of it at the spelling bee's microphone-is clear and direct at the Paramount. The ensemble songs, alas, seem muddled-but they were hard to hear on Broadway as well.

For GLBT theater fans, Bee has several items of note. One of the girls has two Gay dads-Logainne Schwartzandgrubenierre (think Schwartz and Grubenierre). The flashbacks to the men's domestic situation are very broad and stereotypical-more so than on Broadway, if memory serves correctly. The composer and director-William Finn and James Lapine-worked together on the three Gay-themed Falsettos musicals.

Spelling Bee continues with five more performances through Sunday night. The Saturday and Sunday matinees will have heavy attendance-plan ahead. The Sunday matinee is also the group's ASL-interpreted performance.

Tickets start at $22. Budget-minded theater fans should remember that there is no added service fees for tickets purchased at the Paramount box office-which has an incredibly cooperative staff.

MIRROR STAGE SALUTES MARTIN LUTHER KING WITH THREE READINGS
The Mirror Stage Company, one of Seattle's consistently interesting fringe theater groups, continues its 2006-07 Feed Your Mind season with a special program honoring the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King. The series offers staged reading of new or overlooked classic works that challenge and expand-well, Feed Your Mind says it all.

Three special performances of the new work-Martin Luther King Jr.'s Nobel Peace Prize Acceptance--adapted for the stage by Suzanne M. Cohen, will be performed Monday, Jan. 15, Sunday, Jan 21, and Monday Jan. 22.

The Jan. 15 performance is at 2 p.m. at the Seattle Center Food Court. The Jan. 21 reading is at 2 p.m. at Pigott Auditorium at Seattle University, and the Monday, Jan. 22 encore is at 7 p.m. at Schafer Auditorium at Lemiuex Library at Seattle U.

The work was commissioned by the Central District Forum of Arts and Ideas and the Seattle Center as part of the 2007 MLK Day celebration. Admission is free for all three readings (although Mirror Stage happily suggests a $5 donation).

CABARET DE PARIS HOSTS THREE CABARETS-MENTAL OPENS TONIGHT
Crepe de Paris, the popular French restaurant in Rainier Square in downtown Seattle, has an especially active winter season as part of its Cabaret At The Crepe series.

The Crepe's newest show, Mental&For Now, opens tonight for a Jan. 12-27 weekend run. D. J. Gommels, Tina Mollis, Charles Crowley and Regan DeVictoria-self-described as a "cast of cabaret crackpots"--team for the new revue, billed as "Songs and Psychoses In An Evening Of Hysterical Catharsis."

"Men and Women in Freudian Slips!" and "Sequined Straight-Jackets!" are promised as well as "Nothing About Lattes!" Sounds like a lot of foolish fun. Full details in Bits&Bytes next week. Reservations at 623-4111.

After Mental closes, Crepe de Paris offers a change of pace. Souvenirs d'Amour-Jazz In Paris brings a new mini-musical to the Cabaret At The Crepe. Set in the 1950s, the show is the story of two singers who duel for cabaret supremacy of the Parisian stage. Fathia Atallah plays the most popular chanteuse in Paris. An American newcomer to "the smoky caves" of Parisian nightclubs, an African American jazz singer played by Mercedes Nicole, challenges the ruling cabaret diva.

David Koch returns to Crepe de Paris' cabaret series to direct the new show.. Koch was director of the Cabaret At The Crepe for a decade and created many of the Crepe's record-breaking, long run shows. Be sure to make reservations early, especially for shows right before and after Valentine's Day.

The Crepe ushered out 2006 and welcomed 2007 with a two-week run with vocalist Patti Summers, one of Seattle's "living legends." Summers and her husband owned their own nightclub in the Pike Place Market for more than 20 years-it is now the site of Can Can, where Summers and Company recently played an encore visit.

For the holiday show at Crepe de Paris, Summers took an audience of loyal, loyal fans on a welcome trip down memory lane. ""I Love Being Here With You" Summers crooned early in the show. And it was obvious that she meant it.

Duke Ellington's "It Don't Mean A Thing (If It Ain't Got That Swing)," Cole Porter's "You're The Top" ("with 10 pages of lyrics," Summers laughed), "This Is The End Of A Beautiful Friendship (And Just The Beginning Of Love)" were highlights of Act One.

Act Two (with Summers "in a new dress, new hair, new bra!") opened with "My Baby Just Cares For Me." Several original Summers' songs were featured in the show's second half, usually with Summers at the piano. "Gee, Baby, Ain't I Good To You" and a rousing "You Better Love Me While You May" were other Act Two highlights.

At this point, Summers' persona is more of a legend than a full-voiced vocalist. Her comic comments obviously delighted the intimate audience in the show's second weekend-she tells wonderful tales of her forthcoming book, 20 Years Under 1st & Pike.

Later this month, she and her husband--"I sleep with the boss!"-are off to Los Angeles to record a new CD produced by a former arranger for The Fifth Dimension.

The New Year's Eve weekend shows were packed. "We partied and danced until 3 a.m..," Summers told several tables of obviously adoring fans. "It was a blast."

Summers is ready and eager to return to Crepe de Paris in the future. Watch this space for details.

Information on all cabaret shows at the Crepe de Paris is available at 623-4111. Stop by or give them a call and ask to be added to the cabaret mailing list. And, sure, tell 'em Bits&Bytes sent ya.

SEATTLE OPERA OPENS MOZART'S DON GIOVANNI
Mozart's Don Giovanni is one of the world's most famous Don Juans. In fact, he is Don Juan in Italian. The 1787 masterwork gets a completely new production for Seattle Opera's January staging, which opens tomorrow, Jan. 13, and runs through Jan. 27. Double casting in key roles gives Seattle opera lovers two reasons to see the work this month.

The new production uses historical costumes and sets but in a modern application. Think weskits in black leather with zippers galore. (Seattle Opera's last Don Giovanni-the "church basement" fiasco-is long gone, SO officials promise.)

Ticket information is available at 389-7676. Budget-minded opera fans should be sure and ask about student/senior rush, general "rush" tickets and other discounts.

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