Practically Perfect — Village Theatre’s ‘Mary Poppins’ is a visual, technical tour de force

November 18, 2014

Village Theatre knows spectacle.

By Mark Kitaoka/Village Theatre The cast of ‘Mary Poppins’ use letters to help spell out the mouthful that is the song ‘Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious.’

By Mark Kitaoka/Village Theatre
The cast of ‘Mary Poppins’ use letters to help spell out the mouthful that is the song ‘Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious.’

Once again, the Issaquah company has unveiled a visually stunning production in its latest musical, “Mary Poppins.” Every aspect proved to be a feast for the eyes and ears, as Village Theatre spared no expense to bring the magic of the Disney production to the stage.

Installation of a flight system to help a nanny fly? Check. Countless, colorful costume changes? Check. Magical props that prove to have a life of their own? Check. Impressive choreography helping bring memorable Disney classic songs to life? Check.

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‘In the Heights’ elevates Village Theatre’s new season

September 23, 2014

Village Theatre begins its season at the top.

By Mark Kitaoka/Village Theatre Perry Young as Usnavi, leads the ensemble cast through the opening number in Village Theatre’s season opener ‘In the Heights.’ Many of the production’s varied musical stylings and dance routines are previewed during the impressive song.

By Mark Kitaoka/Village Theatre
Perry Young as Usnavi, leads the ensemble cast through the opening number in Village Theatre’s season opener ‘In the Heights.’ Many of the production’s varied musical stylings and dance routines are previewed during the impressive song.

“In the Heights,” a rousing, energetic feature about a largely Dominican-American neighborhood in New York City, opened the 2014-2015 season with a raucous performance Sept. 18.

Though the story itself relies heavily on old “gotta-get-outta-here” tropes and steers well clear of anything approaching the gritty reality of living in an urban environment, the spirit of the music, the talent of the cast and exuberance of the dance brightly shines.

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Village Theatre digs deep into its bag of tricks for its latest musical

May 20, 2014

The cast enacts the showstopper from a musical number in the Village Theatre production of ‘Funny Girl’ showing at the Fraancis J. Gaudette Theatre in Issaquah.

The cast enacts the showstopper from a musical number in the Village Theatre production of ‘Funny Girl’ showing at the Fraancis J. Gaudette Theatre in Issaquah. By Tracy Martin/Village Theatre

 

No cloud rains on Village Theatre’s latest parade.

In its last production of the 2014-2015 season, the regional theater brings “Funny Girl” to the stage in all its roaring glory. Recounting the life of vaudeville and Broadway star Fanny Brice, the 1964 musical (music by Jule Styne, lyrics by Bob Merrill and book by Isobel Lennart) takes the audience on a whirlwind, rags-to-riches journey of Brice’s life.

The classic story, with Brice famously portrayed by Barbra Streisand on stage and screen, is well-known and I should note immediately that I find it lackluster. Struggling, gutsy girl meets boy. Gutsy girl struggles less, and then weds boy. Boy turns rotten. Girl stays gutsy.

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‘Funny Girl’ returns to Village Theatre 20 years later

May 13, 2014

The May 15 return of “Funny Girl” to Village Theatre brings milestones behind the scenes.

Issaquah’s regional professional theater has kept much of the same talent since 1993, the last time it put on the musical featuring the life and career of a Broadway star set in the early 20th century.

But those people at the helm of the lavishly involved show bring decades more experience to this year’s production. Both the costume designer and the master scenic artist worked on the show 20 years ago, and for everything that has stayed the same, they have seen many things change.

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‘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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