Humor, grit and blue-collar blues add endearing touches to ‘The Full Monty’

September 21, 2010

The ‘Monty’ men, from left, Kevin High (as Dave Bukatinsky), Terence Kelley (‘Horse’), Troy Wageman (Ethan Girard), Michael Nicholas (Malcolm MacGregor) and Bob De Dea (Harold Nichols) begin their final scene from Village Theatre’s production of ‘The Full Monty.’ By Jay Koh/ Village Theatre

The clothes start to come off during the opening moments of “The Full Monty” at Village Theatre, prompting audience members to lean forward, exchange glances and wonder: Now?

No, not now. Maybe not ever.

“The Full Monty” has made a name — as a film and, later, as the stage musical here — for offering a fleeting glimpse of flesh. But, as the audience learns early on, “The Full Monty” is about a lot more than, well, the full monty.

The show about unemployed steelworkers struggling to gain a foothold in a ruined economy has swagger to spare and, more importantly, tenderness to temper the testosterone.

The ribald comedy serves as the raucous opener to the Village Theatre season. The choice may raise some eyebrows in Issaquah, but the musical has the humor, heart and grit to be accessible to casual theatergoers.

The average Joes at the center of the musical scheme to strip in order to regain the money and, ironically, the dignity lost amid unemployment.

The action has been shifted from the industrial England of the film to Buffalo, N.Y., circa 1992. The steel mill at the center of the blue-collar universe has gone bust, and the main characters tiptoe through a minefield of indignities: unemployment checks and minimum-wage jobs at the local mall.

The plot resonates in post-recession 2010 — even among white-collar theater audiences confronting shrunken retirement portfolios and frugal fatigue.

Read more

Village Theatre presents tap spectacular ‘42nd Street’

May 18, 2010

There might be no better way to close out a theater season than with “42nd Street,” especially when you do it incredibly well.

And well in this instance means with unbelievable choreography, amazing costumes and super-talented dancers, as well as great voices that really soar and blend stunningly during group numbers.

Village Theatre continues to amaze audiences with quality performances that rival any “big” theater. Maybe its nickname should be “the little theater that could.”

Mercer Island resident Don Clark said “42nd Street” is one of his favorite plays, so much so that he has even seen it on Broadway.

“I couldn’t tell any difference,” he said when asked how the local version compared. “They were that good.” Read more

Royally funny ‘Gypsy King’ keeps you laughing long after the show

March 23, 2010

Jose J. Gonzales, as Prince Dijon (center), and the ensemble, enact a scene in the Village Theatre world premiere production of ‘The Gypsy King,’ by Emmy Award-winner Randy Rogel. By Jay Koh / Village Theatre

If laughter is the best medicine, get to a performance of “The Gypsy King” at Village Theatre, because the doctor is in.

You won’t experience the occasional chuckle or snicker. You’ll howl with sidesplitting, belly-aching raucous laughter.

This musical starts with a rousing opening. (Who would laugh at a blind joke? You will.) It continues with sumptuous costumes in luscious colors. Then, there’s the amazing set design. (Seriously, is there anything they can’t pull off on this small stage?)

Then, there’s the delightful but pure evil Sergei laying out a plot so outrageous, well, you’ll have to see for yourself. Read more

Lose yourself in ‘Yonkers’ fine performances

January 26, 2010

Jennifer Lee Taylor (center) and Suzy Hunt enact the climactic confrontation between Aunt Bella and Grandma Kurnitz, as (from left) Mike Dooley, Nick Robinson, Collin Morris and Karen Skrinde, as Uncle Louie, Arty, Jay and Gert, look on in a scene from ‘Lost in Yonkers.’ By Jay Koh/Village Theatre

Silently, Arty and Jay Kurnitz wait in their grandmother’s living room. They question why they’ve come so far to see a woman they barely know and they plot their escape.

But leaving isn’t on the agenda.

What unfolds onstage in the next two and a half hours is nothing short of dramatic perfection and well-timed comedic relief, provided by a talented cast who embrace the irony of one of Neil Simon’s best-known plays — “Lost in Yonkers.”

Typically, reviewers find time to take light notes in the margins of their program during a play, but “Lost in Yonkers” proved so captivating that it didn’t happen this time.

Comfortable suspense — if there is such a thing — kept everyone in the audience waiting for the next character to unravel.

As the son’s broken father, Eddie, played by Bradford Farwell, tries to heal himself and the family bank account after his wife’s death, the boys are faced with the realities of adulthood.

The touching coming-of-age story is marked by realism, not simplicity or comfort. Rather, the two boys — Jay, played by Collin Morris, and Arty, played by Nick Robinson — learn no matter how simple they may seem, familial relationships are messy, complex and laden with history. Read more

Village Theatre presents a bold, fresh ‘Meet Me in St. Louis’

November 17, 2009

Clockwise from left, Ryah Nixon (Esther Smith), John David Scott (Lon Smith Jr.), Katie Griffith (Agnes Smith), Analiese Emerson Guettinger (Tootie Smith) and Bryan Tramontana (Rose Smith) share a scene together in Village Theatre’s production of ‘Meet Me in St. Louis.’ By Jay Koh/property of

Clockwise from left, Ryah Nixon (Esther Smith), John David Scott (Lon Smith Jr.), Katie Griffith (Agnes Smith), Analiese Emerson Guettinger (Tootie Smith) and Bryan Tramontana (Rose Smith) share a scene together in Village Theatre’s production of ‘Meet Me in St. Louis.’ By Jay Koh/property of

“Thump, thump, thump, went my heartstrings” as Village Theatre’s energetic holiday cast of “Meet Me In St. Louis” gave audiences the musical equivalent of perfection wrapped under the Christmas tree.

Drenched in dazzling lace and lush velvet dresses, women twirled about by men clad in seersucker and linen suits and a rich wood-paneled Victorian home, set close to the stage’s edge, sucked me inside the Smith family’s 1904 St. Louis home.

Scene three was barely over and I was hooked.

The show’s details are what recreate a feeling of a simpler life and time, but it’s the incredibly well-selected cast and ensemble of 26 that makes this show shine and stand apart from a beloved film, familiar to so many.

With a fresh face and bold vocals, 22-year-old Ryah Nixon returns to Village Theatre in the role of Esther Smith. Her last role at the theater was as Princess Amneris in “Aida” during the 2007-2008 season.

Reprising one of Judy Garland’s most well-known roles, Nixon’s high energy electrifies the stage and her portrayal of Smith, a young woman struck by love, is spot on and full of youth’s innocent exuberance. Read more

Hijinks, hilarity ensue in ‘Chasing Nicolette’

September 22, 2009

Kate Jaeger (Nun), Tanesha Ross (Nicolette), Nick DeSantis (Valere) and Matthew Kacergis (Aucassin) star in Village Theatre’s production of ‘Chasing Nicolette.’ By by Jay Koh/Property of Village Theatre

Kate Jaeger (Nun), Tanesha Ross (Nicolette), Nick DeSantis (Valere) and Matthew Kacergis (Aucassin) star in Village Theatre’s production of ‘Chasing Nicolette.’ By by Jay Koh/Property of Village Theatre

How do you spell fun? C-H-A-S-I-N-G N-I-C-O-L-E-T-T-E.

That’s Village Theatre’s production of “Chasing Nicolette,” playing now on the local mainstage until Oct. 25.

Or maybe it’s N-I-C-K D-E-S-A-N-T-I-S.

That’s Nick DeSantis, the actor who plays Valere and nearly steals the show with his hilarity, hijinks and outrageousness.

You honestly may never see anyone funnier on a stage.

But every cast member is great and you’ll find yourself enjoying the particular vocal and comedic talents of each and every one. The voice of Timothy McCuen Piggee (playing King) is especially deep and sultry.

The silliness begins in the first scene with the musical’s 10 characters singing about life in the year 1224. It continues throughout the production, never really letting up. Read more

10 things to love about ‘Show Boat’

May 19, 2009

 Richard Todd Adams (Gaylord Ravenal) and Megan Chenovick (Magnolia Hawks) sing  ‘I Have the Room Above Her.’ by Jay Koh/Village Theatre

Richard Todd Adams (Gaylord Ravenal) and Megan Chenovick (Magnolia Hawks) sing ‘I Have the Room Above Her.’ by Jay Koh/Village Theatre

If you’re in the habit of popping gum or a mint into your mouth at shows at Village Theatre, make sure you’re done with it before Cap’n Andy launches into finishing his play on “Showboat.” Otherwise, you might swallow it.

Larry Albert, who plays Andy, literally had people slapping their legs and howling with laughter as he acted several parts of the play, which gets interrupted by a gunshot from a member of the audience of the play within this delightful musical.

And because it’s hard to review a play without spoiling it for those who still wish to see it, (and those who know the story will likely reach different conclusions than those who don’t) this will instead give you a list, in no certain order, of other things to love about the musical, which runs until July 3:

-The sultry, smoky voice of Cayman Ilika, who plays Julie LaVerne. She can make you feel heartbreak deep in your soul.

-The equally smoky, but even deeper reaching voice of Ekello Harrid Jr., who plays Joe. You’ve never heard “Ol’ Man River” like this before. Read more

‘Stunt Girl’ is great fun — that’s the headline!

March 23, 2009

If you think you’ve seen the best musical Village Theatre has to offer, you better think again. Read more

‘The Importance of Being Earnest’ a sumptuous delight

January 26, 2009

In a scene featuring most of the cast of ‘The Importance of Being Earnest’ are (from left) Jason Collins (Algernon Moncrieff), Paul Morgan Stetler (John ‘Jack’ Worthing), Angela DiMarco (Cecily Cardew), Jennifer Lee Taylor (Gwendolen Fairfax) and Laura Kenny (Lady Bracknell). By Jay Koh/Property of Village Theatre

In a scene featuring most of the cast of ‘The Importance of Being Earnest’ are (from left) Jason Collins (Algernon Moncrieff), Paul Morgan Stetler (John ‘Jack’ Worthing), Angela DiMarco (Cecily Cardew), Jennifer Lee Taylor (Gwendolen Fairfax) and Laura Kenny (Lady Bracknell). By Jay Koh/Property of Village Theatre

Sumptuous. Delightful. Exquisite. Decadent.

That’s the sets, the dresses, the cast and the lines.

“The Importance of Being Earnest” is deeply shallow and shallowly deep. And that makes it a lot of fun.

But this isn’t a musical. There’s no singing and there’s no dancing. If you go, you’re going to have to work for this one.

But “Earnest” is totally worth it, so pay close attention.

There are three acts, not two. So, when the first interval happens, it’s a surprise that left many people wondering, how can it already be halfway through? Also, those two intervals are not very long, which is amazing, because that’s when the crew changes the sets. 

A city house becomes a country garden becomes the inside of the country home in nothing flat. And all three of those places are gorgeous in their simplicity. Read more

‘Nutcracker’ fills the season with wonderment

December 8, 2008

Pacific Northwest Ballet Co. dancers and PNB School students in ‘Nutcracker.’ Photo by Angela Sterling.

Pacific Northwest Ballet Co. dancers and PNB School students in ‘Nutcracker.’ Photo by Angela Sterling.

Whether you’re an annual viewer, an occasional ticket holder or a newcomer, young or old, the Pacific Northwest Ballet’s “Nutcracker” is a feast of wonderment for the eyes and ears. 

This year’s 25th anniversary production is no exception. McCaw Hall itself drips with holiday magic and the possibility that makes this season so bright. 

But it’s truly the performers who bring “Nutcracker” to life.It’s hard not to feel wonderment as the rich costumes and sets fill the stage and as Clara’s dreams transport her to other worlds. 

It’s a timeless story created by PNB Founding Artistic Director Kent Stowell and world-famous children’s author and illustrator Maurice Sendak (“Where the Wild Things Are”) that will have Seattle’s “Nutcracker” celebrating its 1,000 performance Christmas Eve. Read more

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