November 4, 2005
Volume 33
Issue 44

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Monday, Jul 06, 2020


Bits & Bytes
Little Women charms at Paramount, MOR plans emotional Holocaust concert, Jazz Alley hosts Reinhardt Festival
By Milton W. Hamlin - SGN A&E Writer

Emerald City musical theater fans have a terrific range of choices this weekend as a thoroughly charming Little Women ends its one-week run at the Paramount Theatre with five additional performances, and Stephen Sondheim's musical masterpiece, Sweeney Todd-The Demon Barber Of Fleet Street moves into its second week at the 5th Avenue Theatre. Civic Light Opera is preparing its upcoming production of Big, the Broadway musical based on the beloved Hollywood film, and the 5th is readying its holiday staging of Rodgers and Hammerstein's immortal The Sound Of Music. And, don't forget, Mamma Mia returns to the Paramount in December.

Add in the Past, Present And Future mixed rep at Pacific Northwest Ballet, the UW's opera staging of Tartuffe this weekend and next, Monday's emotionally charged concert from Music Of Remembrance, final performances of this week's Masterworks Concerts at the Seattle Symphony and Jazz Alley's Django Reinhardt Festival and Seattle entertainment fans-and Bits&Bytes-are in for a great week.


Louisa May Alcott's Little Women has been a childhood favorite since its publication in 1868, right after the American Civil War. Various stage and film adaptations have given young actresses their career launch-Katharine Hepburn's performance in the 1930's classic broadened her fan base and was one of many reinventions the talented actress had during her incredible six decade career.

The musical version of Little Women arrived in Seattle Tuesday night and found an opening night audience awash in emotional nostalgia. A chance encounter with a 70-something women found her raving about the musical at intermission.

"I got the book for Christmas when I was 10 years old," she smiled. "I found it and Little Men on my bookshelf last weekend and sat down and reread both. I can't tell you how much I am loving this show&." Of course, she brought her daughter, her granddaughter and her great granddaughter. "Do girls still read the books?" she pondered. "I do, gram," the youngest member of her group replied. The audience was filled with similar conversation-it's been a long time since Bits&Bytes saw so many happy faces of various generations pulled together at one stage production.

Little Women-The Musical was originally commissioned and produced by California's Theatre Works/U.S.A where it was an enormous hit. A Broadway transfer last year was not the box office smash the producers hoped for-cynical New York critics and audiences found the show too tame for "sophisticated Broadway." The $100 top ticket price also discouraged tourists and family audiences.

The tour is a smash at subscription theaters, like the Broadway In Seattle At The Paramount series, and the show will undoubtedly clean up at regional musical theater centers and on college campuses where the casting-most of the leads are women-will make the show a natural.

While Little Women is no major musical classic, in the Rodgers & Hammerstein tradition, there is much to like about the show and its melodic score. Performances are top notch, but it is the story of the four March sisters and their mother that propel and evening and draw in the crowds. Toplined Maureen McGovern has little to do as Marmee, the mother trying to keep her family together while her husband is away as a chaplain in the Civil War-but she does it with style and endless charm.

Kate Fisher, a touring and Broadway veteran, is a constant delight as the irrepressible Jo. The rest of the intimate cast is equally as strong. There is much doubling by the male actors, but each character comes across clear and sharp. You won't leave the theater humming many of the appealing songs-but you will leave the Paramount with a big smile on your face.

Little Women continues with five more performances through Sunday night. The Saturday and Sunday matinees are naturals for family audiences. Tickets are available at the Paramount box office with no extra service fees or at 292-ARTS with added charges. Tickets start at just $20-and the back balcony is a great place for children to start their theater experience.


At the other end of the musical theater spectrum, Stephen Sondheim's masterwork, Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber Of Fleet Street, continues at the 5th Avenue Musical Theatre with performances through Nov. 13. Like the 5th Avenue's mounting of Sondheim's Follies several seasons back, the Seattle Sweeney Todd is a controversial staging.

The 5th Avenue's subscription audience is notoriously conservative and walk outs and written complaints criticized Follies for years-even though the production was one of the finest stagings in the theater's history. The same pattern was already emerging on opening night for Sweeney Todd last week. Sondheim's musical satire-in the bloody style of the Grand Guignol-is a demanding work that always delight serious fans of musical theater. Ushers reported numerous walk outs during previews, and Bits&Bytes found the same happening on opening night. Serious sound problems in Act One marred the opening but were corrected by Act Two and had disappeared several nights later, a loyal B&B fan reported.

Sweeney Todd is an amazing production for musical theater fans. It's a "must see" for many Seattle stage nuts-and you know who you are. (Check out a detailed review elsewhere in this issue of SGN.) Sweeney Todd continues through Nov. 13. Tickets purchased at the 5th Avenue box office have no added service charges-which can be a substantial savings.


The name Django Reinhardt conjures up memories of European jazz clubs of the 1930s and '40s. Jazz Alley continues its weekend Django Reinhardt Festival with two performances each night through Sunday. The legendary jazz guitarist, who often teamed with violinist Stephane Grappelli, were members of The Quintet Of The 'Hot Club' Of France, a troupe that created the style of music known then as Le Jazz Hot!-think of the nightclub in the genderbending Victor/Victoria.

The Festival just finished a sold out gig at Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., and should pack the house at Jazz Alley. Alas, advance sales are modest, but all that could change after tonight's opening shows.

The gypsy jazz guitarist and jazz violinist sounds of Django Reinhardt inspired Seattle's popular Pearl Django, a tongue-in-cheek combination of Pearl Jam and Django Reinhardt. Bits&Bytes loves that local group and can't wait for the Festival this weekend. Find this scribe at the first show on Sunday-the 6:30 p.m. show is a favorite of Emerald City jazz fans who can squeeze in a Sunday show and still be home in time to get up early and get to work on Monday.

Ticket information on all Jazz Alley events is available at 441-9729. Budget-minded musical fans should also check for discounts at Ticket/Ticket outlets.


Seattle's Music Of Remembrance, a musical group devoted to music honoring the Holocaust and the composers of music of the era, presents its fall concert on Monday evening at the Nordstrom Recital Hall at Benaroya Hall, home of the Seattle Symphony. The Nov. 7 concert features Vinson Cole, an internationally acknowledged opera star who makes his home in Seattle. Cole, a great friend of Seattle GLBT community, will sing excerpts from Erich Korngold's rarely revived 1920's masterwork, The Dead City (Die Tote Stadt). The popular tenor will also sing the cantor's aria from Halevy's La Juive (The Jewess) which he performed recently for a Seattle Symphony benefit.

The major work of the evening is the world premiere of a new arrangement of I Never Saw Another Butterfly, a song cycle of children's Holocaust memories by composer Lori Laitman. This world premiere-one of many in MOR's history-is for clarinet and soprano. Maureen McKay, a young soprano from Seattle Opera's Young Artist Program, is the vocal soloist. Ticket information for the 7:30 p.m. concert is available at 365-7770. MOR concerts are always an emotional highlight of the year for classical musical fans. MOR frequently includes music by or about Gay victims of the Holocaust, one of the few musical groups that include Seattle's GLBT community in their programming.


Pacific Northwest Ballet looks to its past glories, contemplates its present status and gives Seattle dance fans a peak at its future with its upcoming November mixed repertory bill. The four work program-Past, Present And Future-opened last night and continues through Nov. 13.

The Future selection-a clear reflection of PNB's new artistic director, Peter Boal-is a 12-minute solo from German choreographer Marco Goecke. The ballet is performed to music that mixes classical themes with 80's rock. It will certainly be a new look and a new sound for PNB and PNB's loyal subscription base.

Two classic works from PNB's repertoire honor the Past of the program. Recently retired co-artistic directors, Francia Russell and Kent Stowell, return to restage two major works.

Stowell will direct the revival of PNB's 1985 salute to Handel which celebrated the 300th anniversary of the composer's birth. Hail, The Conquering Hero-one of PNB and Stowell's best original works-is a neo-classical work that uses the full company augmented with vocal performances from the Seattle Choral Company and a guest soloist. It is always a major highlight of any PNB season. Stowell's quick return to restage Hero should be a touching moment for fans of the legendary choreographer/artistic director.

Francia Russell, Stowell's co-artistic director, danced for Balanchine early in her career, and she has long been recognized by the Balanchine Trust as one of the few directors allowed to recreate/restage Balanchine works. Concerto Barocco, Balanchine's 1941 masterwork, was one of the early works that Russell brought to PNB. It's 1978 Seattle premiere was an immediate hit, and the work has always been a critical and audience-pleasing addition to PNB's rich heritage. It was last performed here in 1992.

Nacho Duato's Jardi Tancat is another encore staging that should please PNB's diverse audience. Based on the Spanish choreographer's version of Catalonian folk tales (in dance and in song), Jardi Tancat has always been an audience pleaser. Jardi Tancat (which means "Closed Garden" in Catalan) features the poignant story of humble people who work barren land and praying for rain that never comes. The work is danced to recordings of Spanish/Catalan folk songs that were collected and recorded by Maria del Mar Bonet.

PNB's Past, Present And Future continues weekend evenings and select matinees through Nov. 13. Ticket information at 441-2424.

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