‘Chicago’ offers smart social satire — and lessons for director

July 12, 2011

“Chicago” the stage musical is not so far off from Chicago the Midwestern metropolis.

Chicago is a synonym for corruption and scandal. “Chicago” revels in corruption and scandal.

Rianna Hidalgo, as Roxie Hart, and Taylor Niemeyer, as Velma Kelly, star in Village Theatre KIDSTAGE’s ‘Chicago.’ By Jean Johnson/Village Theatre

So, Chicago functions as a seamless setting as murderesses Roxie Hart and Velma Kelly pursue a disposable sort of fame afforded to celebrity criminals. Prohibition serves as the backdrop for the smart satire about celebrity and media manipulation.

The razzle-dazzle musical is the latest offering from KIDSTAGE, the long-running youth education program at Village Theatre. “Chicago” is managed from opening number to curtain call by student-actors in the program.

Director Jacob Moe-Lange, a Skyline High School graduate and University of California, Berkeley, student, debuts as director on the production.

“‘Chicago’ is not a subtle show. It is a very in-your-face show about a lot of things,” he said. “What I want the audience to walk away with is, I want them to have seen the show and recognize that what happens onstage is not isolated from what happens in their own lives.”

The musical named for the Windy City peddles camp and vamp in equal measures. Theatergoers can catch “Chicago” starting July 15.

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ArtWalk returns for 10th season

May 3, 2011

Pedestrians pause to admire art displayed at the former UP Front Gallery during ArtWalk last year. The gallery has since relocated down the street. File

The DownTown Issaquah Association’s 10th annual ArtWalk season kicks off May 6. The popular event, the first Friday of every month through September, invites visitors to meet local business owners, enjoy free music, watch artists in action, and shop and dine in downtown Issaquah after normal business hours.

ArtWalk draws hundreds of visitors to traditional art destinations such as artEAST’s Art Center and the newly expanded Museo Art and Design School on Front Street. In addition, nontraditional locations open their doors to the event throughout downtown Issaquah and Gilman Village.

Typically, the event ran from 5-9 p.m. in the past. But by popular request, that has changed.

“The event now runs from 5-8 p.m. with a soft close at 8,” said Annique Bennett, cultural events coordinator for the DownTown Issaquah Association. “Those with signs out front of their businesses can now pull them in and go home at 8, or they can choose to stay open as long as they want to.”

For May, artEAST opens a new exhibit, “150 Feet of Art,” at Up Front Art. More than 100 pieces of art on one-square-foot canvases will be displayed and available for purchase during the monthlong auction.

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Rebuilt First Stage Theatre readies for debut

April 5, 2011

Village Theatre plans additional offerings at downtown venue

Robb Hunt (above) shows off the finished interior of the rebuilt First Stage Theatre on March 29, as actors rehearse on the boards. By Greg Farrar

The curtain rises soon on the rebuilt First Stage Theatre in downtown Issaquah.

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Teen performers offer middle school musical, ‘13’

April 5, 2011

Some milestones trigger stomach-churning dread.

Turning 40 comes to mind, but turning, say, 18 or 21 does not.

The Village Theatre KIDSTAGE production of ‘13’ includes the work of adults Casey Craig, choreographer (far left) and Suzie Bixler, director, along with Matt Sleeth, 15, as Evan Goldman, and Katie Griffith, 13, as Patrice DeCrette. By Greg Farrar

The latest musical from the KIDSTAGE program at Village Theatre stares down another fraught numeral: 13, the year acne and angst transform cherubic children into temperamental teenagers.

The musical “13” offers a little more edge and sass than “High School Musical” and other shows geared for teenage performers. The show premieres at the rebuilt First Stage Theatre on April 7.

“Kids love the show” and the material, director and KIDSTAGE Programs Manager Suzie Bixler said.

Divorce upends life for Evan, a 12-year-old Manhattanite.

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Village Theatre First Stage sign restoration / January 2011

January 19, 2011

Curtain rises on refurbished theater sign

January 18, 2011

Shellee Miggins (left), neon department chief, and Chris Greytak, router operator, employees at The Sign Factory in Kirkland, turn up the lights for the first time Jan. 11 on the restored Village Theatre First Stage Theatre sign. By Greg Farrar

The color palette on the sign slicing the First Stage Theatre façade suggests a candy store.

Consider the rich chocolate and cream blended to form the soft-edged letters. Or the neon — as brash as Liberace — done up in bubblegum pink and spearmint green.

The restoration team at a Kirkland sign manufacturer spent weeks to restore the decades-old sign. Crews installed the refurbished sign on the façade Jan. 14, as the theater reconstruction project nears completion. Read more

KIDSTAGE kicks out with ‘Footloose’

January 4, 2011


A trio of friends in ‘Footloose,’ Sarah Russell (Rusty), Molly Knudson (Urleen) and Emily Johnson (Wendy Jo) burst into a 1980s song. Photos by Jean Johnson

The 1980s are back with Village Theatre KIDSTAGE’s production of “Footloose,” drawing audiences into a small California town that has a ban on dancing and many young, eager dancers trying to repeal the stifling law.

KIDSTAGE last performed “Footloose” in 2002, shortly after the musical made popular by the 1984 movie with Kevin Bacon, Sarah Jessica Parker, John Lithgow and Dianne Wiest was turned into a stage show. Director Faith Russell and her colleagues chose it again for its high-energy music and dancing, and good take-home messages, Production Coordinator Helen Voelker said.

“The musical is about having an obstacle and overcoming that obstacle — and having a dance,” she said.

The play follows Ren McCormack (Jordon Bolden) and his mother Ethel (Joell Weil) when they move from Chicago, where Ren is the king of teenage dancers at Windy City nightclubs, to Bomont, Calif. Read more

Issaquah tragedies, triumphs define a tumultuous year

December 28, 2010

Traffic lines up on state Route 900 at Northwest Talus Drive in February. State Department of Transportation crews completed the long-running project in 2010. By Greg Farrar

The economy lurched from the recession, population growth all but stalled and Issaquah — after cutbacks and setbacks in 2009 — defied the odds to reach major milestones throughout 2010.

Momentum returned in 2010 after a year spent in a holding pattern. Set against the backdrop of a fragile recovery, leaders cut the ribbon on businesses and roads, laid the foundation for preservation and construction, and marked tragedies and successes. Read more

Crews raze 97-year-old First Stage

July 13, 2010

The curtain has fallen for a downtown Issaquah landmark.

Crews brought down the outdated, frontier-era First Stage Theatre last week, as Village Theatre readies to build a modern facility on the same site.

Foushée & Associates, a Bellevue contractor, started to disassemble the building in late June, and completed the task July 8. Before the teardown, workers salvaged material from the old theater to be used in the planned building.

A claw digs into the last part of the theater building.

Plans for the soon-to-be-constructed theater call for better seating, more space onstage and backstage, and a similar façade to the former structure.

Theater executives launched a capital campaign to fund the First Stage reconstruction, after they realized the extent of decay to the 1913 theater and shelved renovation plans.

Crews detoured pedestrians through wooden scaffolding built adjacent to the street for the duration of the project. The sidewalk closure runs through March 2011.

The first Village Theatre show — “How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying” — opened there in 1979. Until the Francis J. Gaudette Theatre — referred to as the Mainstage — opened, First Stage Theatre housed the Issaquah theater. KIDSTAGE and the Village Originals programs occupied the space after Village Theatre built the Mainstage in the early 1990s.

Curtain falls for 97-year-old First Stage Theatre

July 8, 2010

Demolition crews take down the last piece of the frontier-era First Stage Theatre on Thursday afternoon. By Kirsten Johnson

NEW — 4:15 p.m. July 8, 2010

Crews brought down the outdated, frontier-era First Stage Theatre on Thursday afternoon, as Village Theatre readies to build a modern facility on the same downtown Issaquah site.

Foushée & Associates, a Bellevue builder, started to disassemble the building in late June, and completed the task Thursday. Before the teardown, workers salvaged material from the old theater to be used in the planned building.

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