‘Hairspray’ stars male performers in gender-bending roles

July 26, 2011

Andrew Gryniewicz, 15 (left), stars as Edna Turnblad in Hannah Lake stars as Tracy Turnblad in 'Hairspray’ at Village Theatre. By Jean Johnson/Village Theatre

“Hairspray” long ago earned a reputation for camp by casting a man in drag as mammoth matriarch Edna Turnblad.

The soon-to-open production at Village Theatre offers another gender bender: a male performer cast as a female character, in addition to Edna.

KIDSTAGE performers present “Hairspray” as a SummerStock production from July 30 to Aug. 7.

Andrew Gryniewicz, 15, a Sammamish Plateau resident and Bishop Blanchet High School student, stars as Edna, and Sheady Manning-Bruce, 17, a Renton resident and Liberty High School student, stars as smooth-as-silk television hostess Motormouth Maybelle.

Edna originated as a drag role. The drag queen Divine starred as Edna in director John Waters’ 1988 film and John Travolta donned a dress for the 2007 film musical.

The hefty heroine in the musical, Tracy Turnblad, is determined to sashay and shimmy on “The Corny Collins Show” — a segregated dance program in Baltimore — against unfavorable odds and Edna’s disapproval.

Kathryn Van Meter, “Hairspray” co-director and choreographer, adjusted the formula and cast a male performer as Motormouth, too.

The energy and sass Manning-Bruce unleashed during the audition tempted Van Meter to cast the actor in a less conventional role.

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‘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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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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Annie again: Issaquah girl’s latest acting gig is voice for ‘Magic Tree House’

February 8, 2011

Emily Rudolph records the voice for Annie, a character from the ‘Magic Tree House’ book series. By Cricket Moon Media

Jack and Annie climbed into their magic tree house and pointed at a book. As in all of the “Magic Tree House” stories, the book they chose sped them through time and space.

Random House Children’s Books brought the series to life with its Magic Tree House website, where a spunky Annie and eager Jack quiz readers about their historical, out-of-this-world adventures.

Issaquah Middle School sixth-grader Emily Rudolph knows the website well — she does the voice for Annie, guiding participants through games on the website.

“I’ve been reading ‘Magic Tree House’ since second grade,” she said. “I feel like I can relate to Annie.”

Emily has already recorded twice at Cricket Moon Media in Seattle, and Producer Laura Nash said she looked forward to more sessions with the pint-sized star.

“She just has a really great reading voice,” Nash said. “She is unusually peppy and friendly. She sounds like an all-American kid without trying, which is really hard to do.”

Though new to voice recording, Emily is familiar with show business. In 2007-08, she and her older brother Josh Rudolph played two of the King of Siam’s children in “The King and I” at Village Theatre.

The acting bug bit her. Onstage she could sing, dance and transform herself into another person.

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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

Liberty graduate stars in Seattle’s ‘Don Giovanni’

January 4, 2011

Danny Kam

Danny Kam, a 2006 Liberty High School graduate, has landed the lead role in “Don Giovanni: A New Musical,” at Seattle Musical Theatre and Fruition Productions.

Kam, who graduated from Western Washington University in 2010, said he was excited to play Don Giovanni so soon after college.

He recently talked about his background and his impressions about the musical:

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Our Savior Lutheran Church turns 50

November 2, 2010

At the beginning of most services during the past 50 years, organist Vern Lindquist has played a quiet prelude, helping people transition from their busy lives into the serenity of worship at Issaquah’s Our Savior Lutheran Church.

Youngsters and their camp leaders at Our Savior Lutheran Church form a line to return inside after recess and refreshments during vacation Bible school in the 1990s. Contributed

Lindquist played the piano for the first service, Oct. 1, 1960, at the Village Theatre KIDSTAGE, just as he will play the organ at the church’s three-day, 50th-anniversary celebration this weekend, when the church celebrates its past, current and future members.

The first Lutheran church in Issaquah, Our Savior Lutheran moved from the theater a year later, after its members dedicated the first phase of their new church building. The founding pastor, Ernest Collard, circled the rural city and built a congregation of 82 members at a time when the city was less than 4,000 people.

From there, the church grew, and today it has more than 300 families in its congregation.

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Village Theatre announces fall class schedule for children, teens

September 9, 2010

NEW — 6 a.m. Sept. 9, 2010

Village Theatre KIDSTAGE has released the fall line-up of exploratory and musical theater classes.

Professional arts educators teach the classes. The offerings include “Exploratory Acting” for children as young as pre-kindergarten, “Musical Theatre” for grades one and two, “Singing for Musical Theatre” for grades four through 10, and various dance courses and acting courses, including “Acting 1 — Character Voyage to Narnia” for third- through fifth-graders.

Find a complete class listing here.

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KIDSTAGE explores race in ‘Ragtime’

July 27, 2010

Nick Johnson (left), Jordon Bolden, Aaron Johnson, Madison Willis and Robert Poole perform the "Gettin' Ready Rag" with the many other 18-and-under cast members in a rehearsal for the Village Theatre KIDSTAGE production of "Ragtime." By Greg Farrar

The power and drama of the American experience at the turn of the 20th century unfolds on Village Theatre’s Mainstage as aspiring young actors from the theater’s KIDSTAGE program present “Ragtime” July 31 – Aug. 8.

Tackling issues of poverty and wealth, hope and despair, and freedom and prejudice, the musical unfolds as a story told from the perspectives of three very different families living in post-industrial America.

One of the show’s main characters, Harlem musician Coalhouse Walker Jr., is faced with racism as he tries to make a career for himself as an artist.

The show is a challenge for young actors, because it deals with a wide variety of issues that allows them to stretch their abilities, said Renton resident Jordan Bolden, 16, who plays Walker.

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