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Chasing Nicolette a musical worth catching
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Chasing Nicolette a musical worth catching

by Miryam Gordon - SGN A&E Writer

Chasing Nicolette
The Village Theatre
Issaquah
through October 25
Everett
October 30-
November 22


Fresh from positive reviews and reception from their world premiere musical presentation of Stunt Girl last March at the Village Theatre, Friedman and Kellogg are presenting Chasing Nicolette. If one has to compare the two, Chasing Nicolette is "better," but that is probably because it had already had two full productions elsewhere before they started re-working it at Village. One might call it "more fully realized."

Chasing Nicolette is completely unique. The first unique quality is that it is written entirely in verse, which no other musical has attempted, though it does seem that leading from verse into songs with verse would be a more natural way to write musicals! This is a jewel of a musical. There are only 10 characters, with each character getting his or her moment in the sun with funny, engaging, smart songs.

An audience member kept saying, "I think I've heard this before!" The clear reason is that Friedman's music is written to be very familiar. We almost feel like we can walk out singing some of the songs. A number of songs sound like they could be taken away from the context of the musical and just sung in concert, "Now and Forever" and "Stranger and Stranger" being two very accessible love songs. While that might be a negative criticism to some, to others this makes the musical very easy on the ears. Many love singing songs over and over that we know.

The show is funny! The story tackles what might be a serious subject: the love between a black woman and a white man - and a Muslim and a Christian, to boot. Not to mention a servant and a noble! Instead, the musical doesn't take it seriously, which allows for the audience not to be concerned too much, either. The young couple just has to convince family that it's OK. Race, class and religion - all just hurdles to jump to be with your love.

There is the French side of the family, with a dastardly Count Beauclaire (sinister Allan Michael Barlow), who thinks that ruling with "discipline" is the best way. His right-hand servant Montescu (hapless Matt Wolfe) does his sometimes dirty business, but doesn't want to hurt anyone. Count Valence (imposing Eric Polani Jensen) is waging war against Beauclaire, and it is suggested that Valence's gorgeous daughter (radiant Jessica Skerritt) marry Beauclaire's son, Aucassin (ethical Matthew John Kacergis). But Aucassin (think OH-kas-san) has already fallen in love with Nicolette (sweet Tanesha Ross). Aucassin refuses to change his mind.

Nicolette had been kidnapped and placed in servitude as a very tiny girl. Her father, the King of the Moors (august Timothy McCuen Piggee), has spent 15 years looking for her, sending out his ward, Nemur (long-suffering Brian Demar Jones), all over the world to look for her. Nemur is to marry her once she is found. Of course, since this is a funny story, she is found and brought back, but refuses to marry Nemur.

Comic relief comes in the form of funny nun Kate Jaeger - though the nun does some unlikable things - and servant to Aucassin, Valere (hysterical Nick DeSantis). Indeed, while one might conclude that the main characters are the young lovers, it turns out that the lynchpin of the play is Valere. He is the one that ultimately has to change from a do-nothing, see-nothing, silly servant to a brave savior of the day - surely the mark of a protagonist. DeSantis is a funny guy, generally, but here, his ability to make one laugh is virtually nonstop. He steals every scene. It was very satisfying that he should take the final bow at curtain call.

While everyone else is uniformly good (they need to be, in such a small cast), another just-above standout is Jessica Skerritt, who has improved with every new role. Her voice soars above others in ensemble singing and she sounds better than ever, which is saying a lot. Other fantastic supports include the small orchestra conducted by Joseph Tancioco (music director R.J. Tancioco's brother), and the beautifully adaptable circular set by Scott Fyfe.

Director Steve Tomkins has deep experience staging musicals and creating funny "bits" that keep you laughing, and he continues his traditions here. Lighting by Tom Sturge evokes different moods and times of day. Costumes by Melanie Burgess emphasize the difference in styles between the Moors and French.

If you are a musical-lover, then you really must try to see this show. All are hoping this can go to Broadway, and with a contemporary theme like this, and the funny plot, score and lyrics, it has a helluva chance! For more information, go to www.villagetheatre.org or call 425-392-2202.

Comments on reviews go to sgncritic@gmail.com.

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