‘The Tutor’ seems to have lost its lesson plan

March 25, 2014

Somewhere between the song about erectile dysfunction and the giant painted backdrop of the Matterhorn, I wondered where “The Tutor” lost its way.

The new show at Village Theatre, which opened March 20, begins interestingly enough. It tells the story of Edmund, the titular tutor, who teaches dumb rich kids to allow constant work on his never-finished novel. Things take their inevitable turn when he lands a gig tutoring Sweetie, a rebellious teenager who provides just the right spark to loosen Edmund’s creativity.

By Mark Kitaoka/Village Theatre Eric Ankrim, as Edmund, and Katie Griffith, as Sweetie, star in Village Theatre’s ‘The Tutor.’

By Mark Kitaoka/Village Theatre
Eric Ankrim, as Edmund, and Katie Griffith, as Sweetie, star in Village Theatre’s ‘The Tutor.’

Developed as part of the Village Originals Series of New Musicals, “The Tutor” fell flat after a promising start.

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Village Theatre’s ‘Foreigner’ feels like an old friend

January 28, 2014

Much of the success of Village Theatre’s latest production, “The Foreigner,” rides on the shoulders of actor Erik Gratton. Or, dare I say, his face?

When he first shuffles on set, Gratton must be channeling Droopy from the 1940s MGM cartoons. That he can maintain that hang-dog look while co-star Patrick Phillips prattles on, laying the background for the plot, lets the audience know they’re in for something special.

By Tracy Martin/Village Theatre Erik Gratton (left, as Charlie) listens in on a conversation between Jonathan Crimeni (Reverend David) and Angela DiMarco (Catherine) in a scene from the Village Theatre production of ‘The Foreigner.’

By Tracy Martin/Village Theatre
Erik Gratton (left, as Charlie) listens in on a conversation between Jonathan Crimeni (Reverend David) and Angela DiMarco (Catherine) in a scene from the Village Theatre production of ‘The Foreigner.’

In a play, written by Larry Shue, filled with over-the-top characters from the early ’80s South, Gratton’s interaction with them hinges upon his successful take of a man of a thousand faces.

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It looks a lot like a ‘White Christmas’ at Issaquah High

December 3, 2013

For the cast and crew putting the final touches on this month’s “White Christmas” musical at Issaquah High School, one of the most enjoyable parts is creating a performance that can be enjoyed by all age groups.

“The thing that makes it so engaging for so many people is everybody knows these songs,” said Holly Whiting, who’s directing her ninth musical at IHS. “These songs are old enough that every generation that’s going to be attending this program is going to be familiar with the music.

By Neil Pierson Issaquah High School drama students (from left) Caroline Hamblin, Kylie Fletcher and Ashley Young, rehearse a scene from ‘White Christmas.’

By Neil Pierson
Issaquah High School drama students (from left) Caroline Hamblin, Kylie Fletcher and Ashley Young, rehearse a scene from ‘White Christmas.’

“And I think we all have pretty good, happy memories attached to a lot of these songs.”

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Nothing ‘Misérable’ about Village Theatre’s latest spectacle

November 12, 2013

“Les Misérables” shines in Village Theatre, though the production’s eager whimsy whisks away some wonder.

The opening baritone notes of the French chain gang song “Look Down” sets an unshakable tone of dejection and resilience, the two largest themes of the prestigious production. Following protagonist Jean Valjean’s release from an unjust imprisonment, “Les Misérables” tells a story of love, sin, passion and redemption through decades of French industrialization and revolution.

By Tracy Martin/Village Theatre Kate Jaeger, as Madame Thénardier, and Nick DeSantis, as Monsieur, perform with the ensemble cast in the song ‘Master of the House’ in Village Theatre’s production of ‘Les Misérables.’

By Tracy Martin/Village Theatre
Kate Jaeger, as Madame Thénardier, and Nick DeSantis, as Monsieur, perform with the ensemble cast in the song ‘Master of the House’ in Village Theatre’s production of ‘Les Misérables.’

With such a large male cast, the show’s strength rests on the sheer skill of the singers. What makes it great is the level of emotion that the players, particularly Greg Stone, as Jean Valjean, and Eric Polani Jensen, as the pursuing policeman Javert, are able to give to the audience. They deliver the age’s restlessness and confusion in the face of social and personal change.

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‘Chicago’ guilty of first-degree theater

May 14, 2013

It is a shame so many have experienced “Chicago” the musical in the form of the award-winning 2002 movie. If there is one thing  Village Theatre’s new show proves, it is  the real heart of the piece demands to be set on a stage with many flashing lights and an enthralled audience. Through that awareness, the cast and crew of “Chicago” bring a wickedly lively spectacle to Front Street.

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Powerful ‘Trails’ is a journey worth taking

March 19, 2013

Life is a journey. The consequences of choices we make and events that occur determine the paths we travel. Rarely is the objective the journey’s finish, rather it’s growing from the experiences along the way.

Such is the metaphor examined in Village Theatre’s original musical, “Trails.”

By John Pai/Village Theatre Dane Stokinger (left), as Mike, and Joshua Carter, as Seth, as joined by the rest of the ‘Trails’ cast for the ensemble number ‘Blaze a Trail.’

By John Pai/Village Theatre
Dane Stokinger (left), as Mike, and Joshua Carter, as Seth, as joined by the rest of the ‘Trails’ cast for the ensemble number ‘Blaze a Trail.’

It’s a simple tale of two 30-something friends, Seth and Mike, fulfilling a childhood promise to hike the Appalachian Trail while they confront love, loss and growing up.

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Village Theatre original ‘Trails’ debuts

March 12, 2013

When Village Theatre announces a new season, tucked in among the productions is usually something original that will have audiences eager to be the first to experience.

Hoping to follow in the footsteps of other recent original musicals with their roots in Issaquah, such as “Next to Normal” and “Million Dollar Quartet,” comes “Trails,” opening March 14.

By Mike Hipple/Village Theatre Joshua Carter (left), in the role of Seth, and Dane Stokinger as Mike, appear in the Village Theatre production of ‘Trails.’

By Mike Hipple/Village Theatre
Joshua Carter (left), in the role of Seth, and Dane Stokinger as Mike, appear in the Village Theatre production of ‘Trails.’

“Trails” debuted with its first reading during Village Theatre’s 2011 season’s Festival of New Musicals.

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Village Theatre sets intriguing drama in ‘The Mousetrap’

January 22, 2013

Mysterious guest Christopher Wren, played by Quinn Armstrong, passes his dark coat, light scarf and felt hat to Monkswell Manor’s proprietor Mollie Ralston, played by Hana Lass. By John Pai/Village Theatre

Mysterious guest Christopher Wren, played by Quinn Armstrong, passes his dark coat, light scarf and felt hat to Monkswell Manor’s proprietor Mollie Ralston, played by Hana Lass. By John Pai/Village Theatre

To enjoy some of the finer things in life, there are rules. For example:

  • The first rule of Fight Club is you do not talk about Fight Club.
  • What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas.
  • And, do not reveal the plot of “The Mousetrap.”

Each has its own reason to remain spoiler free. Village Theatre hopes its patrons adhere to the latter so subsequent audiences can enjoy its latest production, Agatha Christie’s “The Mousetrap.”

What started as an 80th birthday tribute written for Queen Elizabeth in 1947, Agatha Christie thought her radio broadcast, “Three Blind Mice,” adapted for stage would have an uneventful eight-month run, tops.

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‘Fiddler on the Roof’ delivers perfect match of familiar, fresh

November 13, 2012

Jennifer Weingarten and Eric Polani Jensen star as daughter and father in Village Theatre’s ‘Fiddler on the Roof.’ By Jay Koh/Village Theatre

“Fiddler on the Roof” is rooted in a bleak era and setting — circa 1905 czarist Russia, a bastion of anti-Semitic sentiment — and the plot only turns grimmer as the acts progress.

The musical bears a reputation as a downer and, on the surface, “Fiddler on the Roof” seems like a strange choice for Village Theatre’s holiday offering.

But “Fiddler on the Roof” also shares essential truths about family and, as lead character Tevye is fond to point out, tradition — important tenets in a season often focused on everything but.

Scribes Joseph Stein and Jeffrey Bock ladled on Borscht Belt humor to introduce audiences to the population of Anatevka, a shtetl, or village. The numbers “Matchmaker” and “If I Were a Rich Man” deserve entries in the Great American Songbook.

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‘Big River’ confronts big ideas on small stage

September 18, 2012

Huck, played by Randy Scholz (left), and Jim, played by Rodney Hicks, float down the Mississippi River on a raft in a scene from the Village Theatre musical ‘Big River.’ By Jay Koh/Village Theatre

In Mark Twain’s novel, Huckleberry Finn resisted attempts to “sivilize” him, but nonetheless, the character cleans up nicely for the stage.

Huck’s adventure on the Mississippi River is re-engineered in “Big River” — a stage adaptation at Village Theatre. The musical opens the 2012-13 season at the downtown Issaquah playhouse.

Overall, despite occasional shortcomings, “Big River” is a spirited romp propelled downriver by a dynamic cast and a score rooted in radio-ready country and pop.

The towheaded Randy Scholz, 26, seems at least a decade younger onstage, and creates a credible Huck, a prankster coming of age at the same time as a burgeoning nation.

Jim is a titan of literature and the moral core of “Big River” — and Rodney Hicks is majestic in the role. Jim, determined to escape from slavery in Missouri, is embodied with dignity and grace by Hicks.

Both actors deserve ample credit for adding flesh to the characters, to compensate for the elements lost in translation from “Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” to “Big River.”

The supporting cast adds color and texture to the characters Twain sprinkled along the Mississippi.

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