Issaquah memorable moments from 2012 entertain, educate

December 25, 2012

The cast of the national tour of the jukebox musical ‘Million Dollar Quartet’ performs a song in the Tony Award-winning show. File

Entertainment came to Issaquah in some surprising forms throughout 2012.

Besides the usual retinue on the page, stage and screen, a documentary peeled back the layers at Costco and big-name authors signed books for local readers.

The city hosted celebrities, spotlighted residents on the national stage and celebrated big debuts in recent months. The boldface names earned cred through stints on reality TV, titles on bestseller lists and hardware aplenty — a Tony Award, a National Book Award.

Reality TV plugs in local contestants

Lindzi Cox pursued “The Bachelor” and Lizzie Parker competed for the title “Fashion Star” as local women added grace to reality TV contests.

Cox, a 2003 Liberty High School grad, competed against 24 other bachelorettes to win a rose from the titular bachelor, Ben Flajnik, and reached the final round on the ABC dating game.

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Skyline High School alumna tackles role in ‘Celebrity Ghost Stories’

December 4, 2012

Heather Refvem

For years, actress Dot Jones — feared Coach Shannon Beiste on the musical sitcom “Glee” — felt a supernatural presence, not a menacing ghost, but a spirit that watched over her.

Jones’ tale comes to the screen Dec. 8 in the BIO Channel series “Celebrity Ghost Stories” — a chronicle of celebrities’ paranormal experiences. Heather Refvem, a Skyline High School and Village Theatre alumna, portrays a young Jones in flashback sequences during the episode.

The episode marks the television debut for Refvem, a stage veteran since starring in local theater productions as a child.

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Sammamish Symphony joins choir to create sounds of season

December 4, 2012

One of Sammamish’s holiday traditions, the Holiday Pops concert by the Sammamish Symphony, will have a new twist this year.

John Patrick Lowrie, known for work at the Village Theatre and voice-acting in a host of popular video games, will read “’Twas the Night Before Christmas,” to the accompaniment of the symphony.

“We try to make it interesting,” said R. Joseph Scott, conductor of the symphony.

The show will feature a host of popular holiday songs, Scott said, including Christmas and Hanukkah songs.

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‘Fiddler on the Roof’ delivers perfect match of familiar, fresh

November 13, 2012

Jennifer Weingarten and Eric Polani Jensen star as daughter and father in Village Theatre’s ‘Fiddler on the Roof.’ By Jay Koh/Village Theatre

“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.

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Village Theatre’s ‘Fiddler on the Roof’ stars dynamic duo

October 30, 2012

Eric Polani Jensen (left) and Bobbi Kotula star as Tevye and Golde in Village Theatre’s upcoming production of ‘Fiddler on the Roof.’ By Mike Hipple/Village Theatre

The lead actors in Village Theatre’s soon-to-open “Fiddler on Roof” share the same easy rhythms as a long-married couple — a comfortable arrangement, because Eric Polani Jensen and Bobbi Kotula play a long-married couple in the classic musical.

The professional relationship between Jensen and Kotula extends back to the early 1990s, and the duo is poised to share the stage again Nov. 7 as “Fiddler on the Roof” opens. In the musical, Jensen is Tevye, a Jewish milkman struggling to stick to tradition in czarist Russia, and Kotula is Tevye’s sharp-tongued but soft-hearted wife.

The duo often shares a stage at Village Theatre and other local playhouses. The familiarity comes across as Jensen and Kotula discussed the theme at the show’s core. In the opening number and throughout the musical, “Fiddler on the Roof” focuses on the tug-of-war between tradition and change.

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Village Theatre’s KIDSTAGE hosts Sing It Forward fundraiser

October 16, 2012

Performers in Village Theatre’s KIDSTAGE program plan to sing to raise money for the youth education effort.

Sing It Forward includes a benefit concert from young performers in the KIDSTAGE and Village Theatre Institute programs. The program includes a benefit concert at 7 p.m. Oct. 20 and a pizza party at 6 p.m. Oct. 21.

The benefit concert is meant for patrons 21 and older; the pizza party is more casual and open to all ages. Both events take place at Village Theatre’s First Stage Theatre, 120 Front St. N.

Tickets for the benefit concert cost $100. Tickets for the pizza party cost $40 for general admission and $20 for youth admission. Learn more at www.villagetheatre.org/SIF-Issaquah.php.

‘Que Será!’ musical honors Doris Day’s iconic career

October 9, 2012

Vocalist Kristi King embodies legendary performer Doris Day in the musical ‘Que Será! Celebrating Doris Day.’ By Jim Dorothy

Iconic American songstress Doris Day may have left showbiz for good in the 1970s, but that doesn’t mean enthusiasm has soured for the performer who starred in classic films such as “Teacher’s Pet” and “The Man Who Knew Too Much.”

“Que Será! Celebrating Doris Day,” a musical coming to Village Theatre’s First Stage Theatre on Oct. 14, pays tribute to the legendary singer.

Vocalist Kristi King dons a familiar platinum-blonde wig and sings more than 20 of Day’s greatest hits in the show. King also tells stories of Day’s life, in the actual persona of the beloved entertainer.

“It’s really a walk down memory lane of one of the most amazing performers ever,” King said.

Accompanied by the Hans Brehmer Quartet, King will sing some of Day’s most popular songs, including, of course, “Que Será, Será.” She will also re-enact a scene from “Pillow Talk,” the award-winning romantic comedy starring Day and Rock Hudson.

King has always been a fan of Day, ever since her mother, also a singer, played Day’s records in their Portland home.

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‘Big River’ confronts big ideas on small stage

September 18, 2012

Huck, played by Randy Scholz (left), and Jim, played by Rodney Hicks, float down the Mississippi River on a raft in a scene from the Village Theatre musical ‘Big River.’ By Jay Koh/Village Theatre

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.

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Inaugural Issaquah Film Festival features classic movie musicals

September 11, 2012

The stars on screen during the inaugural Issaquah Film Festival need no introduction.

Moviegoers can see The Beatles slog through “A Hard Day’s Night” and the fleet-footed Gene Kelly dance across the screen in “An American in Paris” as the festival runs from Sept. 14-16 at Village Theatre’s First Stage Theatre.

The festival lineup focuses on the evolution of musicals on film, from 1933 and “Footlight Parade” to 1980 and the last days of disco in the Village People farce “Can’t Stop the Music.”

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Skyline High School student takes stage in ‘Legally Blonde: The Musical’

September 11, 2012

Brendan Rosell rehearses a dance number from ‘Legally Blonde: The Musical.’ By C. Rupley

Skyline High School junior Brendan Rosell grew up on the theater stage.

From dance classes through Village Theatre’s KIDSTAGE program to starring roles in school plays, Rosell seized any local opportunity to perform for an audience.

“I’ve grown up in the performing arts community,” he said. “My mother was a dancer and performing has always been such an enriching thing for me.”

Now, Rosell, 16, will participate in his biggest performance yet when he joins Seattle Musical Theatre’s production of “Legally Blonde: The Musical” beginning Sept. 14 at Magnuson Park in Seattle.

Based on the 2001 movie starring Reese Witherspoon, “Legally Blonde: The Musical” incorporates singing and dancing to the story about a sorority girl who attends Harvard Law School to try and impress her ex-boyfriend.

The show’s original run on Broadway in 2007 received seven Tony Award nominations.

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