Sept 30, 2005
Volume 33
Issue 39

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Bits & Bytes
Rare stagings of Island, Fiorello!, visiting King & I, new Last 5 Years, Thumper's cabarets highlight week
By Milton W. Hamlin - SGN A&E Writer

Emerald City fans of Broadway musical theater should celebrate this weekend's wide variety of stage musicals readily available in Seattle area theaters.

Musical classics (like the enchanting The King And I at the 5th Avenue Theatre), new musicals (the off-Broadway chamber musical The Last Five Years, off-Broadway's smash Menopause-The Musical), rarely staged musicals (Fiorello! at Showtunes! in Kirkland, Once On This Island at Village Theatre in Issaquah), new musical revues and cabarets (All Girl Band and Jimmy Hoard at Thumper's)-there is literally the proverbial "something for everyone" on Seattle's diverse musical stages this weekend. And "Bits&Bytes" plans to see all of them! What a great week for Emerald City entertainment fans.


If you heard a series of roars in the downtown area last night, it was probably the cries of laughter from the opening night crowd at off-Broadway's Menopause-The Musical which opened an open-ended Seattle run at ACT Theatre. After two weeks of delighting preview audiences, Menopause greeted Seattle's press corps last night-too late for this week's SGN deadline. But, based on the New York production which "Bits&Bytes" raved about in his annual New York article several seasons back, ACT has another long run hit of its hands with Menopause-The Musical.

Taking the "forbidden" feminist subject matter approach that made The Vagina Monologues a long running international hit, Menopause adds tongue-in-cheek, satirical new lyrics to 90-minutes to musical hits of yesteryear. Irving Berlin's classic "(We're having a) Heat Wave" shows up in Menopause as "(We're having a) Hot Flash!" Saturday Night Fever's disco anthem, "Stayin' Alive!" turns into "Stayin' Awake, Stayin' Awake." And so it goes.

When "Bits & Bytes" saw the long-running off-Broadway show in New York, there were about 350 women in the audience-and exactly four men.

"You are a brave man," one giddy woman said, hugging this scribe. "And your wife is a lucky woman." "Wife" was a theater cohort from Chico, CA.-the famous "Feather Boa Lady" that friends hear about weekly-but the cheerful woman's intentions were good. And the show was hysterical&highest recommendation.

Watch "Bits&Bytes" in SGN next week for a full review of the Seattle production. Jayne Muirhead, fondly remembered from the Gay-themed Falsettos (her "I'm Breaking Down" is still a musical highlight of the past 40 years in Seattle theater history) is one of the four actresses in the show-and that alone should sell a lot of tickets.


Rodgers & Hammerstein's classic The King And I, continuing at the 5th Avenue Theatre though Oct. 9, represents what some musical theater fans want in every musical-solid, likeable characters, a "good story," lavish production numbers, great songs, a feeling that life is better for having seen the show.

The new touring edition of The King And I delivers all of the above-and then some-in a colorful production that is clearly delighting The 5th Avenue Musical Theatre's loyal subscribers. (Look for a detailed review in this issue of SGN.)

One interesting aspect of this solid revival is the director-loyal readers will recognize the excitement "Bits&Bytes" felt upon hearing this "bit," this "byte" of theatrical information. Baayork Lee, the director, has spent more than 50 years associated with The King And I. At the age of five, she created the role of the King's daughter, Princess Ying Yaowlak-the tiny child who pleads with Mrs. Anna late in Act II, "Do not go away, sir."

Baayork Lee went on to be an original cast member of more than a dozen Broadway shows-her most famous "adult" role was Connie in A Chorus Line, the Asian of indeterminate age whose career (and song) started with "King & I, King & I." Lee served as assistant choreographer to Chorus Line director Michael Bennett (who later died of AIDS-related complications). Since then, she has directed more than 35 national and international productions of A Chorus Line.

The King And I continues with evening and weekend matinee performances through Oct. 9. Budget-conscious theater fans should remember that tickets purchased in person at the 5th Avenue Theatre's box office have no added service charges-which can amount to a substantial savings, especially for a show with the wide audience appeal of The King And I.


Civic Light Opera opened its 2005-06 season with a toe-tapping production of George M!

The Broadway salute to George M. Cohan ended last weekend, but CLO is already busy at work readying its upcoming production of Big! The Musical, based on the fondly remembered Tom Hanks film.

Big! runs Nov. 18-Dec. 4, and should be a perfect family show to start the Thanksgiving, Christmas and winter holiday season. Nunsence II-The Second Coming plays Jan. 20-Feb. 5. After three little-known musicals, CLO ends its season with one of the biggest hits in Broadway history, Cole Porter's Anything Goes, playing May 5-21.

For The Record: CLO's George M! was a pleasant, often delightful visit to the man (and the era) who created "Give My Regards To Broadway," "Over There," "You're A Grand Old Flag," "Yankee Doodle Dandy" and a score of other hits. Josh Wingerter, in the title role, worked hard and brought a lot of vitality to a role created by Joel Gray.

The hard working cast members tapped their hearts out to recreate the elaborate Broadway production numbers. It was fun to have this rarely staged minor Broadway show in Seattle. It may not have been one of CLO's strongest shows in the group's 28-year history, but it was a fun Sunday afternoon.

("Bits&Bytes" favorite trivia moment-the original Broadway production featured the-then-unknown Glenn Close in an early New York role. Close later won a Tony singing-and acting up a storm-in Andrew Lloyd Webber's Sunset Boulevard.)

Details on all CLO shows at 363-2809. CLO now makes its home at the Magnuson Park Community Center, the old Sand Point Naval Air Station.


Once On This Island, a rarely revived Broadway show from 1990, receives it second Seattle staging in four months with the new production at Village Theatre in Issaquah. Arts West, in West Seattle, mounted a well-received staging last spring.

There's much to like about Once On This Island-but it's clear why the 90-minute show is rarely revived. The show celebrates cultural diversity with its charming Caribbean-flavored fable-like tale of love and sacrifice. Aside from its tragic ending (quickly balanced with a happy epilogue and boisterous curtain call), Island could easily be an ambitious children's theater production.

The intimate ensemble cast does solid work under direction by David Bennett, an openly Gay stage director who "Bits&Bytes" interviewed for his Most Happy Fella production at the 5th Avenue Musical Theatre several seasons back. Lisa Estridge does solid work as the show's main character, Ti Moune, and Timothy McCuen Piggee is a standout in his role as Aqwe (think "Aqua"), God of the Ocean. Island is best known as an early work from composers Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty who later created Ragtime and other major Broadway shows.

The spirited Village Theatre staging continues through Oct. 23 in Issaquah and then moves to Everett for an Oct. 28-Nov. 13 continuation at the Everett Performing Arts Center. Ticket information on the Issaquah performances at (425) 392-2202, a local call from most of Seattle.


The intimate, off-Broadway two character musical, The Last Five Years, by composer Jason Robert Brown, ends its month-long run at ReAct Theatre with four final performances this weekend. (Check out last week's SGN for a full review.)

The show created controversy when it opened in Illinois in 2001. The composer-one of New York's up-and-coming most talented creators-based the show on the autobiographical tale of his marriage and breakup to his first wife. When the musical first opened, his ex-wife filed a legal suit to prohibit Brown from "exploiting" their marriage.

The show-the story of a five year marriage between a Jewish novelist and a Catholic actress-was quickly "revised" and went on to off-Broadway success in New York. Brown's other works, Broadway's Parade and off-Broadway's Songs For A New World, have each been solid critical successes.

Re-Act offers performances on Friday night, two shows on Saturday night, and a Sunday matinee. Procrastinators, like "Bits&Bytes," have the show on their "must see" list for the weekend. See ya at the Sunday matinee. Tickets and details at 364-3283.


All Girl Band, the new cabaret show at Thumper's, is a winning sophomore staging from Seattle's cleverly titled Bodacious Ladyhood. "Bits&Bytes" had fond memories of the group's first cabaret show, Some Eclectic Evening, last year on Thumper's Cabaret On The Hill series. This scribe was surprised-but delighted-to find his rave SGN quotes on the group's press release for All Girl Band. Way to go, Ladyhood!

The group's second cabaret show repeats the audacious mix of novelty numbers and solid three-part harmony from their freshman outing. With two great ensemble outfits-matching, color-coded blouses for the first set, black and copper glitz and glamour for Act II-the trio looked great and sounded great.

At their best with up-beat numbers, the trio often sings a cappella but also uses the talented Deanna Schaffer on piano. Ladyhood is officially Carolyn Hastings, Loretta Deranleau Howard and Jenny Buehler, but, like many "girl groups" (from The Andrews Sisters to The Supremes) they create a collective sound that no one member can replicate as a soloist.

Favorites: Barry Manilow's "Bandstand Boogie," an a cappella "Don't Put It In Your Mouth" (a favorite with the Gay men in the audience), a stylish gender-bending "Fugue For Tinhorns" (from Broadway's Guys & Dolls) and the Andrews Sisters' rarely performed "Strip Polka" (which featured an honorary "Queen" as Queenie, The Queen Of Burlesque. Last week, the man selected to be "Queen" got a good-hearted razing from his table of Gay friends).

All Girl Band has two more performances-tonight and tomorrow night. Tickets for all Thumper's cabaret events are available at 328-3800. Put it on your weekend calendar.


Friends who read this reviewer's praise of Jimmy Hoard's cabaret show at Thumper's in last week's SGN called in with compliments-"It really was a great show."

(Editor's Note: "Stop the presses! 'Bits&Bytes' has friends? Someone reads his column?") "Bits&Bytes" pleads guilty on both charges.

Hoard ends his annual outing at Thumper's with a final performance on Sunday. Like this reviewer, the "friends" praised his man-to-man outing with Rodgers & Hart's immortal (and, sometime, immoral) "Bewitched, Bothered & Bewildered." Reservations-always a good idea-at 328-3800.


Showtunes!-Seattle's musical theater group devoted to staging rare and "lost" Broadway musicals-picks an out-and-out winner with this weekend's concert stagings of the Tony and Pulitzer Prize-winning Fiorello! The political satire from the late 1950s tells the biographical story of Fiorello LaGuardia, the beloved mayor of New York City, affectionately known as The Little Flower.

The show was a huge hit on Broadway (where it launched the career of the then-unknown Tom Bosley, later to become a television icon) and on tour. And then, like the mayor himself, it faded from memory.

Showtunes! offers the wonderful Bock and Harnick musical-a favorite of "Bits&Bytes" since its original opening-for two performances only. It plays the Kirkland Performance Center at 8 p.m. tomorrow and at 2 p.m. . Sunday. Tickets and details at (425) 893-9900. Great potential-great show.


Capital Playhouse in Olympia offers an intriguing mix of classical stage musicals and rare titles. The Tony Award winning Best Musical City Of Angels, one of the most complicated of modern musicals, tells two stories at one time. The down-on-his-luck Los Angeles screenwriter and his suave, sophisticated alter ego, the skillful private eye of his creative work.

City Of Angles is also the only "color coded" musical in Broadway history. The "real" life 1940's scenes are in full color, and the "reel" life of the screenplay are in stylish black-and-white, emulating a Maltese Falcon-like detective film. The tuneful Cy Coleman was huge hit on Broadway-a Tony Award winner for Best Musical (and other major awards). It did well on tour (although a visiting touring edition in Seattle found the Paramount-not yet remodeled-unable to accommodate all the duplicate color and black-and-white sets), and then faded into theater legend.

"Bits&Bytes" has been impressed with all Capital productions he has attended in Olympia-the Sunday matinee makes a pleasant weekend outing. City Of Angels is highly recommended. It runs Oct. 13-29 in the intimate Capital Playhouse where ingenuity rules. Budget-minded musical fans should note the Oct. 12 pay-what-you-can preview. Ticket details, driving directions are available at (360) 943-2744.
George M Cohan
Jimmy Hoard
Once On This Island

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