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Cabaret starts Sunday, Patsy Cline, SAM, Ballerina debuts
Cabaret starts Sunday, Patsy Cline, SAM, Ballerina debuts by Milton W. Hamlin - SGN A&E Writer

Cabaret is alive and well in Seattle. Patsy Cline is alive and well and singing at ACT. The world of Russian ballet is alive and well at the Varsity Theatre. Life, Liberty and The Pursuit Of Happiness opens today at the Seattle Art Museum. That, dear reader, is the Emerald City art calendar in a nutshell. Bits&Bytes is so excited that all he can say is, "read on."

The Pacific Northwest Cabaret Association (PNCA) hosts a five-week series, "March Is Cabaret Month," with shows every Sunday at Julia's on Broadway in its cabaret/stage space. The series opens this Sunday and continues each Sunday evening in March. PCNA offers a special five-show package for just $50. Individual shows have a $15 cover charge for each show, so the savings are substantial for serious cabaret fans - a total of a $25 discount.

The cabaret festival is designed to promote PNCA performers and venues by cultivating and expanding Seattle and the Northwest's cabaret audiences. The series features a number of local performers - Arnaldo!, Joanne Klein, Daryl Spaduccini, Cheryl Serio among them - plus two out-of-town guests, Larry Lazzaro from Palm Springs and Linda Kosut from San Francisco. (Full disclosure: Kosut is one of this scribe's "bestest" cabaret buddies, and her appearance at the last Sunday in the series, March 29, is a highlight of the year for yours truly.)

The series features five different shows, five alums from the Yale University Cabaret Conference, four Seattle debuts, two New York Bistro Award winners and the aforementioned two out-of-town guests. What a month, what a series.

Complete ticket information and reservations are available at (206) 334-0513. Reservations are highly recommended. "Life is a cabaret, old chum," the musical Cabaret reminds us, "so come to the cabaret." See ya there.

CenterStage, an ambitious and popular community theater in Federal Way, takes a big chance with its audience pleasing Always...Patsy Cline and has moved the show to ACT Theatre in downtown Seattle for an encore run through March 8. The show was a huge hit for CenterStage, and the loyal opening night audience greeted the transfer to ACT with obvious enthusiasm. A young Gay couple near Bits&Bytes and his guest was bouncing up and down all through the show - especially the slightly older man. A chance encounter at intermission disclosed that he was "a lifelong Patsy Cline fan" and couldn't wait to expose his younger partner to her life and songs. To them - and to most of the near-capacity audience - the show was an out-and-out hit.

Always...Patsy Cline is based on a true incident in the life of the country/western star who died tragically young in an airplane crash just six years into her career. The two-character show finds Cline alone in Texas at a small country/western bar. Decca Records has booked the rising young star into a concert but has provided no support system. Cline checks into her hotel, takes a cab to the bar and meets Louise Seger, a local fan who requests Cline's songs every day on the local C/W radio station. She a bit of a pest to the radio station DJ, a star-struck fan when she encounters Cline, and obviously a force of nature who takes charge and gives Cline a spur-of-the-moment "local manager." Finding out that Cline does not have a driver or even a rental car, she offers to drive Cline back to her hotel. A chance suggestion that Cline join Seger for a late-night breakfast at Seger's home finds the two women gossiping all night, sharing marriage problems, personal matters, too many drinks, and a lot of cigarettes. After sleeping overnight in one of the children's rooms, Cline and Seger vow to remain friends forever. And they did. Over the next years, Cline wrote regularly to Seger and always ended her letters with, "Always...Patsy Cline."

This chance encounter, providing just a wisp of a plot, allowed Ted Swindley, author and the show's original director, to turn Always...Patsy Cline into a show that was one of the top ten plays produced across the country a decade ago. The appeal of the show is evident, and the CenterStage production certainly wins the audience at every performance.

Cayman Ilika gives a solid performance in the demanding role of Patsy Cline. Her vocal work is thoroughly entertaining, and her dramatic scenes work well. Kate Jaeger, as Louise, tends to overplay the sidekick role - she seems to be a force of nature playing a force of nature. The show's highlights, of course, are the musical scenes. These are the moments the audience wants, and the script, wisely, gives the crowd what it came to see and hear. "Back In Baby's Arms," "Anytime," "(I Go Out) Walkin' After Midnight," "I Fall To Pieces," "Sweet Dreams," "She's Got You" and "Crazy" delighted the crowd. Much of the show is done as the honky-tonk show where Seger meets Cline, but radio broadcasts and other performances are integrated into the kaleidoscopic whirl of the Patsy Cline greatest hits jukebox. A number of other period songs - both pop and country western - show up as well. "Stupid Cupid," "Blue Moon Of Kentucky," "You Belong to Me," "Faded Love," "How Great Thou Art" and even Cole Porter's "True Love" end up as Patsy Cline vocal outings.

Erin Kraft directed the production, and Timothy Moore provided musical direction. The live musicians on stage, here called The Bodacious Bobcats Band, are excellent. David Duvall, "Joe Bob," is pianist and the group's leader. Complete performance information and ticket reservations are available at ACT, (206) 292-7676. At its Federal Way home, CenterStage is opening Paul Giovanni's The Crucifer Of Blood: A Sherlock Holmes Mystery for a February 27-March 15 run.

BALLERINA, an award-winning documentary film by Bertrand Norman, opens today at the Varsity Theatre in the University District for a one-week only run, a regular booking feature on the Varsity's film calendar. The 77-minute documentary provides a fascinating look at five ballerinas from St. Petersburg's Mariinski Theatre, formerly The Kirov.

Russia has long been considered the land of the ballerina. With state-supported training schools and hundreds of years of history, young Russian women covet the chance to become accepted in prestigious dance schools and dream of becoming a prima ballerina. The film introduces each of the five ballerinas - ranging from a 17-year old who has just been invited to join the Mariinski to a veteran dancer who is returning after two years of recovery and retraining after a serious, dance-related injury. We meet all five individually, see them dance, see their coaches train them in classic details (many of these older women were once fabled ballerinas with the Kirov or other prestigious Russian companies), see them advance in their careers and - wonderfully - return to each in turn to see them a year or more later.

For dance fans, Ballerina is a "must-see." The film, narrated in English, includes excerpts from dozens of world famous ballets: Paquita, Swan Lake, La Bayadere, Scheherazade, Romeo And Juliet, and Rubies and Diamonds choreographed by George Balanchine. (Seattle dance fans will be delighted with the Rubies and Diamonds excerpts since Pacific Northwest Ballet just completed a two-week run of Balanchine's full-length Jewels which feature Rubies and Diamonds as two of three sequences. PNB is also offering Swan Lake later this spring.) Director Norman, a native of France, studied film at the Vancouver Film School in Vancouver, B.C.

Recorded showtime information of all Varsity films is available at (206) 781-5755.

Life, Liberty And The Pursuit of Happiness: American Art From The Yale University Gallery opened yesterday as the latest blockbuster exhibit for the Seattle Art Museum. The show, a collection of more than 230 items from the prestigious Yale University collection, continues through May 25 at the downtown SAM. The museum is going all out for the incredible collection of iconographic objects that have rarely left the Yale campus. It's the first time many of the items have ever been exhibited on the West Coast. (The American galleries at Yale are undergoing a major reconstruction and revision, and the objects are on tour during that period.)

Many in the Seattle press preview gravitated to the incredible American paintings, drawings, prints and photographs that trace the development of U.S. politics from Colonial Days to modern day America. John Trumbull's original series of eight Revolutionary War scenes - including the world-famous Declaration of Independence - have never left Yale as a group since the artist presented them to the University in 1832. Other American masters in the show include Winslow Homer's Old Mill from 1871, Albert Bierstadt's Yosemite Valley, Glacier Point Trail from 1873, and Thomas Eakin's John Biglin in a Single Scull, from 1874.

Others, including this scribe, sought out the amazing craft selections in the touring exhibit. Yale was given a major collection of early American silver, and from this world-renowned repository, Seattle gets to see the oldest surviving pair of American silver candlesticks, created by Jeremiah Dummer, the first American-born silversmith. Major silver works by Paul Revere and flamboyant late-19th-Century silver fantasies by Tiffany & Co. are other highlights. The Tiffany works include a pair of silver and enamel napkin rings designed as Art Nouveau butterflies and a coffee pot from the fabled Japanesque series from the 1860s where Tiffany craftsmen mixed sterling silver with brass, copper and bronze highlights to emulate then-classic Japanese designs and influences. Towering late-Colonial furniture, notably a Philadelphia high chest, also called a highboy or chest-on-chest, and a tiny sewing thimble "provide fascinating insights into the changing fabric of American life," as the Yale exhibition catalog notes.

SAM is offering numerous free days, special events, special deals to lure art fans during these troubled economic times. Since the U.S. $2 bill features Trumbull's signing of the Declaration of Independence on the reverse side, SAM purchased 10,000 $2 bills and added (legally) a sticker coupon offering an additional $2 discount for the exhibit and at SAM's TASTE restaurant for Tuesday diners. The 10,000 $2 bills will be distributed randomly throughout Seattle to stimulate interest in the exhibition.

A new military discount is a special feature of the exhibit. Members of the military, with proper identification, will receive free admission to the museum and the exhibit this opening weekend, through Sunday, March 1, and for the show's final weekend, Memorial Day weekend, May 23-25. (The Museum will be open - atypically - on Monday, May 25, for Memorial Day and the exhibit's final day.) In another budget-minded feature, the special exhibit features no additional admission charge. Standard admission gets all visitors into the full museum and the Yale exhibit. And, the museum's "suggested admission" is just that - suggested. One friend always offers 50 cents at the admission desk and then adds the full price in the museum's donation boxes.

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