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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
“Trails” debuted with its first reading during Village Theatre’s 2011 season’s Festival of New Musicals.
January 22, 2013
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.
November 13, 2012
“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.
September 18, 2012
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.
May 15, 2012
“The Producers” caricatures and offends in strokes as broad as the Brooklyn Bridge.
The musical is the ultimate equal-opportunity offender. “The Producers” aims and fires at Jews, gays, women, Nazis — yes, Nazis — and almost everyone else in a rollicking production onstage at Village Theatre.
Indeed, the questionable material, especially the can-they-do-that moments, is the most enjoyable part of “The Producers.”
The mega-musical runs until July 1 and closes the 2011-12 season at Village Theatre.
“The Producers” is a breathless tribute to Broadway and, often in the same breath, a knife-edged parody. The appeal is the cynicism and crassness in the absurdist romp. So what, then, if some songs seem almost forgettable? The numbers still act as a capable delivery device for a handful of funnyman Mel Brooks’ sharpest lines.
The musical is a smash imported to Issaquah 11 years after Nathan Lane and Matthew Broderick tore up Broadway in the original run. The lackluster 2005 film adaptation introduced audiences farther afield to the unabashedly old-school show.
March 20, 2012
Ours is a matchmaker-mad culture.
“The Bachelor” and “The Bachelorette” canoodle and cavort across the pop culture landscape. Cable TV is garter-deep in dating games and wedding stories.
The musical “It Shoulda Been You” — the raucous wedding-crasher comedy onstage at Village Theatre — is more akin to the MTV chestnut “Next” than “Bridezillas” and other guilty pleasures in the WE TV lineup.
“Next” — for the uninitiated, or audiences spared from circa 2005 reality TV — sent a contestant on a series of a blind dates, and he or she could end the outing abruptly by declaring, “Next!”
“It Shoulda Been You” is not so cruel, but after a jilted ex-boyfriend crashes the nuptials, hopes for a simple coast down the aisle dissipate faster than Champagne bubbles.
Though, truth be told, nothing is simple about the impending union between Rebecca Steinberg and Brian Howard, in large part due to the lovebirds’ overbearing mothers. Rebecca’s spinster-in-training sister Jenny is assigned to referee.
January 24, 2012
Neil Simon is a regular at Village Theatre.
The playwright — gilded in Tony Awards aplenty and a Pulitzer Prize for Drama — often offers rich material to Village Theatre producers. In the past decade, the downtown Issaquah theater presented “Barefoot in the Park” and “Lost in Yonkers” to audiences. The latest Simon offering on stage is “The Odd Couple” — perhaps the most recognizable piece in the playwright’s oeuvre.
“The Odd Couple” — re-imagined on stage and screen more often than Felix Ungar scrapes up crumbs — is a solid choice as the selection for the play in a Village Theatre season defined by musicals.
The play is a charming anachronism, 47 years after “The Odd Couple” debuted on Broadway. The boozing and smoking recall a looser era before political correctness. Still, the dialogue and the mismatched-roommate premise remain universal almost a half-century after Simon introduced audiences to uptight Felix and untidy Oscar Madison.