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February 2, 2007
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Volume 35
Issue 05
 
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Bits & Bytes
CLO mounts charming Baker's Wife, Rep hosts Tanya Barfield on Saturday, Altar Boyz arrives at Moore Theatre
by Milton W. Hamlin - SGN A&E Writer

Just as the spring crocus and other hearty flowers start to poke their heads out of the muck and mire of the recent winter, Seattle's diverse theater community starts to come out of its seasonal darkness with promises of bright things to come. Bits&Bytes---and most Emerald City stage fans--are ready for some spring-like cheer. Read on:

RARE BAKER'S WIFE CHARMS AT CLO AS TROUPE CELEBRATES 29th ANNIVERSARY

Seattle's Civic Light Opera, celebrating its 29th anniversary, continues it current season with a rare staging of Stephen Schwartz' The Baker's Wife. The charming production continues weekend performances through Feb. 11.

Composer Stephen Schwartz made a rare Seattle appearance on the Spotlight Night series at the 5th Avenue Musical Theatre last fall as the 5th readied a stylish production of Schwartz' Pippin. At the lecture/discussion, Schwartz noted the ups and downs of his Broadway career. Early hits for the just-out-of-Yale composer came quickly-Godspell, Pippin, The Magic Show. Then came a long dry spell "where everything I wrote was a flop"-Baker's Wife included.

"And then came Disney" and Academy Awards for best song from various Disney animation features. "And then there was Wicked"-the understatement of the year.

Even though the show toured the U.S. for six months in 1976 (six months!) in "a revolving door" of actors, designers, directors, the ill-fated show never reach Broadway. Patti LuPone was the final "wife" in a series of casting changes-she introduced "Meadowlark," the show's most famous song (which quickly became a cabaret classic). An attempt to turn the show into "an overlooked hit" failed in a 1990 London production.

With this background, Civic Light Opera deserves nothing but praise for its staging of The Baker's Wife. When it is good, it is wonderful. But, truth be told, much of the CLO production is awkward-and much of the show itself is weak. Broad direction from Ann Arends simply ignores the already weak script-tighter direction could make some of the stereotypes less obvious, but the show itself may be the main problem.

Frank Kohel gives a solid performance as Aimable (his name says it all), the town's new baker with a very young wife. His broad acting style overplays his role but his singing voice is strong. He makes an appealing baker, a touching middle-aged man who knows his wife is too young to love him.

Jenny Dressen wisely underplays Genevieve, the title character. All of her songs are strong-especially "Meadowlark," the musical allegory of her fate.

Dawn Brazel, as Denise, the wife of the local café where much of the action takes place, gives one of the strongest performances in the production. Her musical narration of the story is always first rate. Her brief duet with her husband, John Kelleher's Claude, is a musical highlight of the production.

One supporting character continually missed cues, reversed words, stumbled over lines on opening night-a real distraction (which will hopefully be solved by the time you are reading this).

The Baker's Wife will please CLO's long time, loyal subscribers with its sweet story and message of hope and renewed love. It is a "must" for musical theater fans who have had almost no chance to see the rarely revived show (a Tacoma production several years ago found many Seattle-area "show queens" making the trek for just that reason).

Ticket information is available at 363-2809. Be sure to ask for driving directions-the Magnuson Park Community Recreation Center, at the former Sand Point Naval Station, is off-the-beaten path for many Emerald City theater patrons.

ALTAR BOYZ PREPARES TO FREE SEATTLE OF SIN IN MOORE VISIT NEXT WEEK

Altar Boyz, the unlikely off-Broadway hit, arrives at the Moore Theatre next week for a Feb. 6-11 run. The show features Matthew, Mark, Luke and Juan in its tongue-in-cheek tale of sin and redemption. It also adds one Jewish character ("from the Old Testament") for religious and cultural diversity. The snappy little musical won the 2005 Outer Critics' Circle Award for Best Off-Broadway Musical and has become a long-running New York ever since then.

Bits&Bytes reported on the New York production for SGN in the show's first year-this reviewer had a fun, fun time at the quirky little revue. The five-member cast has a great time on stage, and it is obvious infectious.

(Seattle's Cheyenne Jackson, an atypical openly Gay actor, was involved in the development of the little musical his first year in New York. He turned down a leading role in the full production and accepted the leading role in the short lived All Shook Up!)

One character has a "deep dark secret" which any GLBT patron will spot within seconds. His closeted love for one of the other "disciples" may not be Biblically sound, but it gives the show a GLBT boost. The audience participation sequences with a Sin-O-Meter-type machine is always a popular section.

Tickets purchased at the Paramount Theatre box office have no added service fees---which can be a real savings for budget-minded stage fans. (The touring show is hosted by the Paramount and the Moore Theaters Broadway In Seattle series.) Check it out.

THE QUEEN OF BINGO DELIGHTS IN EDMONDS
The Queen Of Bingo, the charming little comedy at the Edge Of The World Theatre in Edmonds, plays it final two weekends, now through Feb. 10. As reported here earlier, word of mouth has been strong for the silly little comedy.

Ticket information at 542-PLAY.

WRITER TANYA BARFIELD, WOMAN'S PLAYWRIGHT AWARD WINNER, VISITS REP

StageVoices, the series of visiting playwrights at the Seattle Repertory Theatre, is having a terrific season. Edward Albee, openly Gay Pulitzer Prize Award three time winner, breezed into town to plug the Rep's rare production of his The Lady From Dubuque. Tomorrow night, award-winning playwright Tanya Barfield visits the Rep for a StageVoices appearance. She speaks on Saturday, Feb. 3, at 5:30 p.m. in the Rotunda lobby area-note the unusual day and time of the event.

Barfield's Blue Door is now in previews at the Rep's intimate Leo K. Theatre where it officially opens next Wednesday, Feb. 7 and continues through March 4.

Barfield has won numerous awards-many for female playwrights-and visited Seattle and the Rep in 2004 as a participant in the Seattle Rep/Hedgebrook Women Playwrights Festival. The free event should draw strong support from the Emerald City's active women's groups, feminist groups, Lesbian stage fans and the general public. Get there early to reserve a good seat.

Complete information on all Rep events is available at the Rep box office-443-2222. Albee's The Lady From Dubuque ends next Saturday-the rare production deserves a look despite a muddled production of a very strange script. Maggie Smith stars in a London production of the rarity this spring-serious Seattle stage fans will make the Rep staging a "must see" just to be ready to read about the upcoming British mounting.

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