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Posts tagged: Theater

A feathered escape artist flees the Comedy Pet Theater

High drama, involving green feathers, took place at intermission on the street outside of the Popovich Comedy Pet Theater performance last week at the Bing Crosby Theater.

Michael Smith, who manages the Bing, said his first inkling came when he looked out the window of the lobby and saw an alarming sight.

“I saw the people from the show running down the street with a ladder,” said Smith.

Turns out, the show's big green parrot had flown the coop during intermission, swooped through the stage door, and winged its way across Lincoln Street. It was perched on the ledge of a fourth floor window at the Davenport Hotel.

The show's parrot wranglers set the ladder up on the sidewalk and tried to lure the parrot down. The parrot was stubborn and refused to budge.

The ladder and general hubbub attracted the attention of the Davenport's security people. They brought the frantic Popovich people into the hotel and took them up to the fourth floor room. They opened the window and talked the parrot off the ledge and into the room.

Those of us in the audience had no idea what was going on — although I wondered why intermission went on so long.

The show resumed, with the usual retinue of 12 cats, 10 dogs, three geese — and one adventuresome parrot.

‘Much Ado’ about quality

I caught the Spokane Shakespeare Company's free production of “Much Ado About Nothing” on the lawn at Gonzaga Prep and I was astonished at how good it was.

This cast — mostly college-age or just a little beyond — brought this comedy to life. They did the three things required to turn Shakespeare from a mere recitation into a lively, engaging work of theater:

  • The cast, without exception, had great enunciation and projection.
  • They had fun with Shakespeare's language, delivering the juiciest phrases with evident relish.
  • They accompanied nearly every line with some kind of visual cue or comic business, which made it easier for us to grasp the meaning. It also, not coincidentally,  made the show funnier.

The credit for this must go to director Kevin Connell, who was endlessly inventive in helping his actors “suit the action to the word and the word to the action.”

The run is over for the summer. Here's hoping they're back next year. 

‘Sperm! The Musical’? Really?

 “Sperm! The Musical” is on the way to the Panida Theatre in Sandpoint.  No, I don't think this is a joke.

It's an original musical comedy set in that most romantic of settings, a sperm bank.

It's about “sperm radiation therapy, and killer mutant sperm monsters,” or, to put it more directly, about a couple named Willy and Delouise Johnson who are having trouble conceiving. It's written by Sandpoint playwright Ben Olson with music by Brian Hibbard and directed by Andrew Sorg.

If it's anywhere near as entertaining as Olson's press release, this show could be a hoot.

One example: “Brian's songs are so catchy, you'd hum them all day if they weren't written about sperm.”

Another example: “This play is going to make you laugh, shout, blow milk out of your nose, cover your children's ears and rush home to tend to your lover, all at once.”

You probably shouldn't take the above sentence literally. First, the play is R-rated, so there probably won't be any children present  to require ear-covering. Second, you probably shouldn't be drinking milk during a play anyway. As for tending to your lover, well, the “all at once” part may be ill-advised.

It will run Aug. 19, 20, 26 and 27 at 7:30 p.m. Doors open at 7 p.m. Tickets will be $15 at the door, but a couple of bucks cheaper if bought in advance at Eichardt's, Eve's Leaves, Main Street Music. Pack River Potions and other spots around Sandpoint

Brush up your Shakespeare

We have plenty of Shakespeare in the region this month, including:

  • “Much Ado About Nothing,” on the lawn at Gonzaga Prep, 1224 E. Euclid Ave., weekends through Aug. 21 – The Spokane Shakespeare Company, under the direction of Kevin Connell, continues its run of this sprightly comedy over the next two weekends (Fridays and Saturdays at 6 p.m. and Sundays at 3 p.m.). Admission is free, and no reservations are required; donations will be accepted. Bring your own food and other refreshments and maybe a blanket. Seating is on the grass. The Spokane Shakespeare Company includes a number of area college actors and local theater veterans.
  • The Shakespeare Walla Walla Summer Festival, through Aug. 14 – This new festival is doing  “The Comedy of Errors” and “Swansong” (which is by Patrick Page but is about Shakespeare) – at two venues. “Swansong” runs through Aug. 14 at the newly renovated Power House Theatre, 111 6th St. (at Rose Street) in downtown Walla Walla, and is performed by Shakespeare Walla Walla.The two Shakespeare plays will be performed by the Seattle Shakespeare Company at the Fort Walla Walla Amphitheatre, 757 Myra Road. You’ve already missed out on “Macbeth,” since the last performance was Sunday, but “The Comedy of Errors” runs Wednesday through Aug. 14 at 8 p.m. For tickets and details go here. By the way, playwright Page, who won the American Theater Critics Association award for Best New Play for “Swansong,” is a Whitman College grad.
  • Montana Shakespeare in the Parks – This annual free tour, which covers Montana all summer, will sneak into our region for a couple of performances of “Much Ado About Nothing.” The show will be at the Heron, Mont., Ballfield on Aug. 20 at 6 p.m. (Mountain Time) and at Liberty Lake’s Pavillion Park on Aug. 24 at 6 p.m. Yes, Montana Shakespeare does sneak into Washington occasionally.

On-sale dates for Best of Broadway single tix

On-sale dates for single tickets to the upcoming Best of Broadway shows and various add-on events have now been set by WestCoast Entertainment.

These will be the first time you can get tickets to these shows without buying a full subscription or group package. Here are the dates, all effective at 10 a.m.:

Aug. 12 – “Defending the Caveman,” “Spamalot,” Blues Brothers, Clayton-Hamilton Orchestra and the New Shanghai Circus.

Aug. 26 – “Come Fly Away,” “Young Frankenstein” and “In The Heights.”

Sept. 16 – “Beauty & The Beast.”

Nov. 4 – “Mary Poppins.”

Tickets will be available through TicketsWest. For more information about the Best of Broadway shows, check out www.bestofbroadwayspokane.com.

Duke’s ‘Miracle’ will return

“The Miracle Worker,” directed by Patty Duke – a springtime hit for Interplayers Professional Theatre – is coming back next month for a 12-performance encore.

The story of Helen Keller and Annie Sullivan will return from Aug. 26 to Sept. 4.

Tickets are $24 and should become available soon through TicketsWest outlets. Keep an eye out for further details.

Sarah Denison will return in her award-winning role as Annie Sullivan. However, audiences will be seeing a new Helen Keller: Caroline Slater, 9.

Duke was quoted in a press release as saying, “Thank you, Spokane, for keeping ‘The Miracle’ going.”

Rebecca Cook will be “associate director” of this revival.

Best of Broadway’s single ticket on-sale date

On-sale dates for single tickets to the upcoming Best of Broadway shows and various add-on events have now been set by WestCoast Entertainment.

These will be the first dates you can buy tickets to these shows without buying a full subscription or group package. Here are the dates, all effective at 10 a.m.:

  • Aug. 12 – “Defending the Caveman,”  “Spamalot,”  “Blues Brothers,” “Clayton-Hamilton Orchestra” and the “New Shanghai Circus.”
  • Aug. 26 – “Come Fly Away,”  “Young Frankenstein” and “In The Heights.”
  • Sept. 16 – “Beauty & The Beast.”
  • Nov. 4 – “Mary Poppins.”

On those dates, tickets will be available through TicketsWest outlets.

For more information about the Best of Broadway shows, check out the Best of Broadway site. .

An outdoor ‘Much Ado’ at G-Prep

Free Shakespeare will return to the lawn on the Gonzaga Prep campus, with “Much Ado About Nothing,” Aug. 5-21. This follows a successful “Taming of the Shrew” in 2009.

Director and creative force Kevin Connell (also known as the G-Prep principal) said this year's production will be a little different: Three more performances have been added and most shows will be in early evening (6 p.m.) instead of in the afternoon. Seating is on the grass, so blankets and lawn chairs are a good idea.

Here's the complete info, from Connell's press release:

The Spokane Shakespeare Company will present Much Ado About Nothing, one of Shakespeare’s most popular romantic comedies, on the first three weekends of August outdoors on the campus of Gonzaga Preparatory School.  Much Ado tells the story of the “merry war” between Shakespeare’s wittiest lovers, Benedick and Beatrice, as they employ every verbal weapon at their command to resist the irresistible attraction that everyone but themselves can see pulling them together.  The production will be staged in the days after WWII as men return home from battle and women refuse to surrender the independence their war-time responsibilities have won them.  The cast features actors from EWU, GU, and SFCC along with several popular local theater veterans and is directed by Kevin Connell, S.J. of GU’s Theatre Arts Program and the principal of Gonzaga Prep.  Performances will take place Friday through Sunday, August 5-7, 12-14, and 19-21.  Friday and Saturday shows will begin at 6 p.m. and Sunday shows at 3 p.m.  The performance runs 90 minutes and is suitable for all ages.  Seating is on the grass and patrons are encouraged to bring their own food and refreshments.  Admission is by donation and reservations will not be taken. For more information call 509-994-2788 or consult Spokane Shakespeare Company on Facebook.

Here’s John Travolta, with CdA’s Munchkins

John Travolta talks to all of the Munchkins in the cast of “Wizard of Oz” during intermission, in this photo sent in by Laura Little of the Coeur d'Alene Summer Theatre.

Travolta was in town to attend “The Wizard of Oz” because two of his sisters, Ellen and Margaret, played the Wicked Witch and the Good Witch, respectively.

He apparently gave the children an inspiring talk about following their dreams.

“A special day indeed for the 27 local children,” noted Little.

The Civic brings home two national awards

The Spokane Civic Theatre brought home two awards from last weekend's AACT/FEST 2011 national community theater awards in Rochester, NY:

  • Lacey Bohnet won Best Supporting Actress.
  • Nancy Vancil won Best Musical Accompaniment

The Civic's entry, “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee,” also earned three nominations:

  • David Baker, nominee for Best Lighting Design
  • Mark Pleasant, nominee for Best Actor
  • The cast, nominated for Best Ensemble

By the way, the overall winner at this competition  was “Dog Sees God: Confessions of a Teenage Blockhead” — Ohlook Performing Arts Center, Grapevine, TX
  

Spokane’s Sophia, in the NY Times

Spokane's Sophia Caruso, 9, pictured here in rehearsals for “The Miracle Worker” at Interplayers Professional Theatre, was in the pages of the NY Times on Monday. She was one of thousands of little girls auditioning for a new production of “Annie” in New York. Here's the link to the story.

She made it through the first call-back, and has been asked to return for a second call-back, which is already a victory. She still has a lot of competition, as you can see from the interactive feature the NY Times did on 43 other girls (not Sophia) who were auditioning.

 Sophia  played Helen Keller in the “The Miracle Worker” this spring.  She's loaded with talent and moxie.

Go get 'em, kid.

Shakespeare’s Globe, coming to a screen near you

Can’t afford the trip to London to see Shakespeare performed in the best of all possible venues, Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre?

Catch it right here on the big screen, at the Northtown 12 Cinemas, 4750 N. Division St.

The same company that has been bringing the Metropolitan Opera to local theaters has announced a new series, filmed last year at the Globe and broadcast digitally to 260 movie theaters around the country.

Here’s the lineup:

“The Merry Wives of Windsor” – June 27.

“Henry IV, Part 1” – Aug. 1.

“Henry IV, Part 2” – Aug. 18.

“Henry VIII” – Sept. 15.

All shows are at 7 p.m., and each showing includes a 20-minute historical feature on the Globe, the modern replica of Shakespeare’s original theater. Tickets will be $15, available at the theater box office, or here.

A great and powerful ‘Oz’

The opening show at the Coeur d’Alene Summer Theatre, “The Wizard of Oz,” which runs June 9-19, has had a robust pre-sale – just 300 tickets behind the theater’s all-time biggest seller, last year’s “Cinderella,” at a comparable date.

That’s a good harbinger going into the season. Executive director Laura Little said “The Sound of Music” (Aug. 11-21) is also selling well, because – well, because it’s “The Sound of Music.”

The other two shows – Stephen Sondheim’s “A Little Night Music” (June 30-July 10) and “Once Upon This Island” (July 21-31)  – may not be quite as well-known but are just as promising – at least, from a theater critic’s viewpoint.

Be warned: The CDA Summer Theatre has reduced the run of each show this year from nine performances to eight, which increases the risk that procrastinators will have trouble finding good tickets.

Call (208) 769-7780 for tickets.

These busy ‘Bees’ need help to get to Rochester

The folks in “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee” are feverishly raising money to go to Rochester, N.Y., for AACT/Fest, which is the national community theater competition.

They’ve already come up with $20,000. They have $10,000 more to go.

This Spokane Civic Theatre production qualified for the nationals by winning the state and regional competitions. It costs a lot of money to transport everybody to New York and house them during the competition, so they are staging three “dress rehearsal” fundraisers. No tickets are required, but donations will be gratefully accepted.

The dates are:

  • May 31, 7 p.m. – Lewis and Clark High School Auditorium.
  • June 1, 7 p.m. – Lewis and Clark High School Auditorium.
  • June 8, 7:30 p.m. – Spokane Civic Theatre, 1020 N. Howard.

Director Kathie Doyle-Lipe says they are “working feverishly to get this accomplished, but we can use any help we can get.”

The competition takes place June 20-26. It’s worth noting that the Civic has had more success in this national competition than just about any theater in the country. The Civic has won it twice and finished second once.

Is it a giant bat? Or a dragon?

I received an e-mail from a reader pointing out that what I called a “a giant dragon looming over the proscenium” in “Wicked” was, in fact, a giant bat.

“Don't you remember the bats in the 'Wizard of Oz?” she asked.

I was ready to kick myself for my poor bat-identfication skills, but I decided to do some research.

You know what? I think it is a dragon, something called the Clock of the Time Dragon, an apparition which comes right out of Gregory Maguire's book.

For one thing, it has a pair of horns. I am clearly not a bat-identification expert, but I dont think bats have horns. They do have bodacious ears, however.

What do you think? Is it a bat, or a dragon?

A spring theater full house: ‘Monty,’ ‘Wicked,’ ‘Miracle,’ ‘Nixon’

Let's take a moment to savor an exceptional moment in Spokane theater. Rarely, in my 22 years covering local theater, have I seen so much creative energy, at the same moment, enlivening our cultural scene:

  • Raucous sellout crowds are whooping and hollering at “The Full Monty,” continuing at the Spokane Civic Theatre's Main stage through June 19. Here's the  review.
  • More than 40,000 people are attending the national tour of “Wicked,” which continues through May 29 at the INB Performing Arts Center. Here's the  review.
  • “The Miracle Worker” at Interplayers Professional Theatre has been making national news because of Patty Duke, who has closed a circle with this, her first time directing the show that brought her an Oscar and an Emmy.  It has been extended a week, through May 29, because of popular demand. Here's the review,
  • “Frost/Nixon” sold out its first weekend at the Spokane Civic Theatre's Firth Chew Studio Theatre and continues through June 5. Here's Tracy Poindexter-Canton's review.

So, if you have any hankering whatsoever to see live actors tell a story on a stage, the time doesn't get much riper.

The full ‘Wicked’ review

 

Here's my unedited review of “Wicked.” It will appear in Saturday morning's print edition, after more editing and refinement:

“Wicked,” Thursday night, INB Performing Arts Center, continues through May 29, tickets available through TicketsWest outlets (800-325-SEAT, www.ticketswest.com)

 

The first thing a newcomer to the “Wicked” phenomenon will notice is that this production has a great “eye” — a rich visual style, all gears, cogs, clock-faces and Emerald City glow.

And then, as the story unfolds, you’ll find that “Wicked” also possesses — unlike certain Oz denizens — a heart and brains.

Brains, because this “Wizard of Oz” spin-off has a funny, first-rate script by Winnie Holzman (“My So-Called Life”) that brilliantly distills Gregory Maguire’s novel into its essence. It’s the story of the fraught love-hate relationship between Elphaba and Glinda (the Wicked One and the Good One, respectively). They’re more than just Oz witches; they’re universal archetypes, familiar to everyone over age 8.

Heart, because Holzman and composer Stephen Schwartz (“Godspell,” “Pippin”) make us sympathize deeply with Elphaba – yeah, the Wicked One. The last thing I expected from “Wicked” was to be moved emotionally by the plight of a green-skinned witch on a broom. But I was.

This is all delivered nearly flawlessly by a tremendously talented cast, led by Anne Brummel as Elphaba and Natalie Daradich as Glinda (or Galinda — the two spellings are actually a plot point).

 “Wicked” has a rich cast of characters ranging from talking goats to flying monkeys to surprisingly tall Munchkins. There’s a side-plot, lifted from the novel, about animal liberation. There are many, many nods to the great 1939 film, some of them sly, others earnest and some of which will take you by surprise.

Yet the “Wicked” creative team never lost sight of the key arc of the story, which goes like this: Elphaba, the green-skinned outcast, and Glinda, the blonde popular girl, are thrown together at school. They loathe each other. I mean, really loooathe each other. Then, slowly, they learn to understand each other. A deep friendship forms. That friendship is stretched and broken by events. But even in the darkest times, that bond never completely dies.

It’s no coincidence that the most entertaining musical number is “Popular,” in which Glinda tries to do a makeover of Elphaba. Daradich, an expert comic actress, flounces around the stage, tossing her blonde locks, flinging herself petulantly on the bed and cooing adoringly at her own face in the mirror.

Brummel is equally funny and charming as she tries gamely to learn the art of feminine lock-tossing. This is an impressive acting feat, since her character is not naturally funny and charming. Elphaba is brilliant and talented – yet also glum and resentful over the fact that in Oz, as in our own world, happiness is easier to achieve by the shallow and superficial.

Ultimately, Brummel delivers the show’s most emotional moments, the most amazing of which is the first-act closer, “Defying Gravity.” It’s a stirring anthem of empowerment, conveyed through Brummel’s strong, controlled voice and through some astonishing lighting and technical legerdemain. I won’t give it away except to say you’ll be left with a bright and uplifting image at intermission.

The design team deserves a tremendous amount of credit for the success of this show. Even before the show starts, your eyes can feast on the curtain-sized map of Oz and the giant dragon looming over the proscenium. Once the show starts, we get a dizzying array of sets, most of which share a common circular theme. There are many toothed gears, a number of gigantic clock-faces, enormous round windows and immense green-lit arches Emerald City arches.

The costumes owe a debt to the movie, yet they are endlessly imaginative. Think “Harry Potter” crossed with “Alice in Wonderland.”

And finally, this show delivers some true surprises at the end, the kind that will make you ponder what really happened at the end of that 1939 movie. It’s a complete package of comedy, song, creativity and emotion.

No wonder this show will draw somewhere around 40,000 people over its two-week Spokane run. My guess is that the majority of those 40,000 people will file out of the INB Performing Arts Center feeling the way I did – satisfied, happy and yes, even a little bit uplifted.

 

A ‘Wicked’ quickie review

Just got in from 'Wicked' and I will write a full review for Saturday's print edition. But here's my quick initial reaction:

“Wicked” is a feast or the eyes, with exceptionally creative sets, costumes and lighting. And it works for the heart and the brain, as well. I was affected, sometimes deeply, by the story, about the stormy relationship between Elphaba (“The Wicked”) and Glinda (“The Good”).  The acting talent is first-rate.

I approached this musical with some trepidation, since I was not a big fan of the book. Yet “Wicked” does an outstanding job of distilling the novel to it's essence. The musical is clearer, more focused, and altogether more fun.

I'll post a fuller review on Friday morning.

Robert Cray, John Prine booked into Spokane

Two new shows to report:

  • The Robert Cray Band, an old favorite among Spokane blues aficionados, will play the Knitting Factory Concert House on July 2, 8:30 p.m. Cray was a fixture in Spokane clubs before he broke out and became an international star. Tickets will be $25 general admission in advance, on sale Friday through Ticketfly outlets, or $27.50 at the door, day of show.
  • John Prine, one of America's premier singer-songwriters, will play the Bing Crosby Theater, on Sept. 4, 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $53.50, on sale Friday through TicketsWest.

Going to ‘Wicked’? Read this first

The people at WestCoast Entertainment have a few important reminders for people who have tickets to “Wicked,” which opens a two-week run Wednesday.

Those are:

  • Leave the babies and toddlers with the sitter. No one under 4 will be allowed in the theater. And although 'Wicked” is family entertainment, it is recommended for ages 8 and above.
  • Get to the show on time, preferably at least 10 minutes before show time. If you arrive late, they're not going to let you in to the performance until after the first number, nine minutes after the show starts.
  • People with Saturday (May 21) tickets will really have to plan ahead. Here's what the West Coast people say:

    “Saturday, May 21 is an exciting day in downtown Spokane with two sold-out performances of WICKED and the annual Spokane Lilac Festival Parade.  Please allow extra time to find parking downtown as some congestion is expected. 

    Spokane Falls Blvd. will be closed at Browne Street. Guests who need to drop off theatre attendees will be allowed access to drive to the front of the INB Performing Arts Center, drop off guests, and will be rerouted to Bernard.  If you need this access, please advise the police officer at Spokane Falls Blvd. and Browne that you need brief access for WICKED theatre attendees.”

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