Tuesday, April 22, 2014

BREAKING REVIEW NEWS: Four Shows at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival in Ashland

THIS JUST IN: We'll be reviewing four shows presented at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival near the end of May.

On May 21 we'll be seeing THE SIGN IN SIDNEY BRUSTEIN'S WINDOW from the playwright who wrote A Raisin in the Sun.

On May 22 we'll be seeing the stage adaption of the Marx Bros. musical COCOANUTS with music by Irving Berlin. We'll also be seeing the Bard's THE COMEDY OF ERRORS that day.

On May 23 we'll be seeing the stage adaption of Madeleine L'Engle's A WRINKLE IN TIME.


OPENING SOON: Some of the Best Theater in Clark County from these Two High Schools

The "Adventures of Robin Hood" presented by Prairie High School

Venture out among the trees of Sherwood Forest and enjoy an evening of lighthearted adventure as students with the Prairie Ground Drama Club, under the direction of Prairie High School Drama Instructor Claire Verity, light up the stage in The Adventures of Robin Hood.

This family-friendly, humorous adventure, with sword-fighting scenes and witty characters, will take place May 1, 2, 3 and May 8, 9 and 10 at 7 p.m. at the PHS Theater, 11500 NE 117th Ave., Vancouver, Wash.

Tickets at: www.seatyourself.biz/prairiehighschool

The Musical "GREASE" presented by Battle Ground High School

The classic '50s musical, directed by Stephan "Cash" Henry opens one week later at BGHS.

The cast list includes the following leads: Sarah Russell as Sandy, Ryan McNeal as Danny, Brianna Sievers as Rizzo, Tristan Tindall as Kenickie, Tanner Leeds as Doody, Jessie Akerley as Frenchie, James Dyer as Roger, Tiffany Jara as Jan, Bailey Baxter as Marty, Cade Hansen as Sonny, Brendan Groat as Eugene, Sky Ring as Miss Lynch, Emily Pulley as Patty, Teva Egar as Cha-Cha, and Skyler Denfield as Teen Angel. 

Sky Ring, also the choreographer, has been replaced in her role at the last minute due to personal matters.

Hear all the popular hits including "Summer Nights," "Greased Lightning," "Sandy," "You're the One That I Want," "Alone at the Drive-in Movies," "Beauty School Drop Out," "We Go to Together" and many more.

We are reviewing BOTH shows on their opening nights; the reviews will be posted by noon the following day.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Journey to Rock the Schoolhouse This May

Journey Theater Arts Group (not the band, though they will be coming to the Clark Co. Amphitheater this summer) presents SCHOOLHOUSE ROCK LIVE! JR., based on the Emmy® Award-winning Saturday morning educational cartoon series and pop culture phenomenon, one of the most fun musicals ever to hit the stage. The junior version features a bevy of young performers.

This energetic musical follows Tom, a young school teacher who is nervous about his first day of teaching. He tries to relax by watching TV when various characters representing facets of his personality emerge from the set and show him how to win his students over with imagination and music. Memorable songs as “Just A Bill,” “Interplanet Janet,” “Interjections” and “Conjunction Junction” bring his lesson plans vividly to life.

Performances are May 16 – 24, 2014 at Fort Vancouver High School. Friday showings at 7 p.m., Saturday showings at 3 p.m. and 7 p.m., Sundays at 2 p.m. Tickets are on sale now at journeytheater.org or by calling 360.750.8550.

Pre-sale adult tickets are $12. Youth and senior tickets are $10. The May 17, 7 p.m. showing is a “family day” performance with all tickets $10 in advance. Tickets for all performances will be $3 more at the door.

School Day Performances will be offered at 9:30 a.m. and 11:45 a.m. on Wednesday, May 21. Tickets are $6 each for groups of 10 – 99 and $5 each for groups of 100 or more, with one free ticket for every 15 purchased. Call our office to arrange to bring your class or home school group!

Journey is a theater arts community in the Portland/Vancouver area, offering dozens of classes in drama, dance, voice and more, as well as producing twelve shows in four locations during the school year and a professional-level community theater musical each summer, along with a variety of camps for kids ages 6 to 18. Journey strives for excellence, while providing a welcoming and encouraging environment where kids ages 6 to 18, and their families, can build life-long skills and friendships. Journey is a 501(c)3 nonprofit educational organization, with offices located at 1400 NE 136th Ave, Suite 201, Vancouver WA. Contact at 360.750.8550 or www.journeytheater.org.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

45 Adorable Cats and Kittens — Live on Stage this Weekend Only!

The musical "CATS" will be presented by MPAA's Musical Theatre Program Students Friday, April 18 at 7 p.m., Saturday, April 19 at 2 and 7 p.m., and Sunday, April 20 at 3 p.m. All performance take place at the Washburn Performing Arts Center, 1201 39th Street, Washougal, Wash.
Click for Directions to the Theatre

The show is based on the universally popular poetry of T.S. Eliot, CATS tells the story, in song and dance, of the annual gathering of Jellicle cats at which time one special cat is selected to ascend to the Heaviside layer. A true musical theatre phenomenon, "CATS" opened at London's New London Theatre on May 11, 1981 and ran for a record-setting 21 years. The show's London success was nearly matched on Broadway where it ran at the Wintergarden Theatre for just over 18 years. The show's most memorable song is "Memory."

Music by Andrew Lloyd Weber, Lyrics by T.S. Eliot, Directed by Noah Scott, Vocal Direction by Barbara Richardson, Choreographed by Jayla Rose Sullivan and Tod Alan.

Tickets can be purchased in advance here or at the Washburn Performing Arts Center box office. The box office will open one hour prior to each performance. All seats $10 in advance or $13 at the door.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

REVIEW: RSP's "Enchanted April" is a Truly Enchanting Garden of Delights

Whimsical women, wisteria and heart-warming wonder weave wonderfully in this wistful winter tale following a world war. 

In the gray gloom of a London winter at the end of the World War, a group of four ladies wonder if life will ever be happy again. Struggling in relationships, drudgery and general "blah"-ness, they rent a castle villa in Italy for a spring holiday.

During this Enchanted April the women (all different, but not so different from one another) rediscover what is really important to make life full and satisfying once again.

The clever and charming play by Matthew Barber, based on the novel by Elizabeth von Arnim, continues its run April 12, 18, 19, 25, and 26 at 7:30 p.m. with matinees on April 19 and 26 at 2 p.m. in the Rising Star Productions theater in Kelso's Three Rivers Mall.

The play, first performed in 2000, is rich with introspection, emotion, humor, pathos and joy. I believe you will be deeply touched by this work--especially if you are a woman (my wife really enjoyed it, but so did I).

Blooms and Blossoms

Alexis Bloomfeldt makes her directorial debut and does a great job at the overall conception and brings out some great performances. Blocking was a bit stilted and the actors could have moved around more while in conversation (French curves anyone?), but definitely a delightful first effort.

Stephanie Biwer as Caroline Bramble.
The cast was great though the leading ladies exceeded greatness--each of the four were ideally cast. Before I get to them in detail I must commend young Jeffrey Meyers whom I have seen in several plays now. And I must say he is growing as an actor; this was by far his greatest performance--much of which was delivered in Italian. At times each of the cast must do so, and while Stephanie Biwer seemed to do it best, 92% of young Meyers' dialogue was in the language. What made his performance special were his facial expression and body language that so well translated much of what he said.

Jueanne Meyers, Jane Still, Stephanie Biwer and Laurel Moore were stunning and carried the bulk of the show with aplomb. Each had a great character role and fantastic material to work with (the script is a work of genius), but in lesser hands, no matter how good the material, it could have been flat.

Laurel Moore (L) as Mrs. Graves and Jueanne Meyers as Lotty Wilton.
Meyers, as the bubbly ring-leader/instigator Lotty Wilton, kept up with the energy. You could see the genuine feelings of boredom and stifled adventurer that lay under the character's skin while, at the same time, feeling her resolve at breaking away from a staid and regimented life. How do you play that? I don't know, but she did. "Marvelous."

Still, as Rose Arnott--the forgotten and mousy, but faithful wife of a budding writer, carefully walks her character through a dramatic change. The transformation is remarkable--at first reflected in a demeanor of low self-esteem, reluctant to believe she can be or do more, but breaking into a new dawn of assurance and resolve.

I have seen Biwer in a few plays, too, and she is a really good actress--one of those that throws themselves into the role. I last saw her as a pirate captain, full of buffoonery and broad characterization. Contrast that with this role, played close and mysterious, and you will see that she is a talented and able performer.

I last saw Moore in Pinkalicious--much lighter fare--and she was good, but here she is fantastic. I once had the chance to speak with her at length and she is a very nice lady. I can't say that about her character in this play. She comes across as persnickety, crotchety and fussy; totally unlike her. Her performance really was a great one, so well done that I was tickled (my very favorite performance of the show). She, too, is transformed, but so subtly does it take place that you believe it thoroughly.

Jane Still and Ryan Gaylor as Rose and Frederick Arnott.
The play also featured three men in supporting roles: Phil Olsen as Mellersh Wilton, Ryan Gaylor as Frederick Arnott and Nic Portwood as Antony Wilding. Each performed well. Gaylor especially gave a convincing performance, often relaying much of his feeling on his face.

Tilling and Tending

The set was one of the company's best, yet simple and traditional (flats and a backdrop), but none-the-less beautiful and effective. The lighting, too, (with very few instruments) was done quite well. Costumes, though not period (but, when you come right down to it, the play needs no specific period setting) were nice.

You should really see this play for its excellent and introspective script, the truly enjoyable performances and the delightful feeling you'll have when you leave after a night well spent. You're going to get a lot of bang for your buck, too. Tickets are just $10 general, $5 children (12 and under), $8 seniors (65+). Tickets online here or call 360-749-5212.

All performances are at the Rising Star Theater inside the Three Rivers Mall in Kelso, Washington. (Enter through the food court and head down towards Macy's. On the right, across from Big 5.)

Review by Gregory E. Zschomler
Photos provided

Saturday, April 12, 2014

REVIEW: A Steampunk "Romeo and Juliet" at Magenta Theater Deft and Punk

I must admit upfront that I'm not a huge Shakespeare fan. Oh, I appreciate the artistry of his work, and really do enjoy his comedies from time to time, but (let's face it) it's old stuff. The archaic language just doesn't really connect well with modern audiences.

And then there's the Bard Snobs; (like the Mac Snobs of the computer world) they think they're really something special. Sort of the elite who like to flaunt their sophistication. I'm more of a pop culture guy.

None-the-less, I do like a good production of the Master's work from time to time. I like to see what people do with it and I have seen some amazing work that, despite the language barrier, managed to connect with the audience through exceptional acting and directing.

I came in expecting this kind of translation and direction from the Magenta production of "Romeo and Juliet" directed by David Roberts, framed in (get this) a "steampunk" setting. Yes, I was intrigued.

Robbin Goss as Romeo (L) and Hannah Mock
as Juliet are watched by Eli Swihart (Tybalt).

We all know the story--it's one of the most famous tales of all time: Boy meets girl, they fall in love, their families hate each other and forbid their love, they rebel, they die. Yeah, I know, the ending is a bit rough. It's not your Disney "happily-ever-after" faerie tale. Not my kind of ending, but, hey, I HAD to see this--David Roberts was directing! (Even if Magenta no longer gives review comps. Yes, I paid for my ticket.)

What Light in Yonder Window Breaks?

You see, I've seen Roberts' direction before. He did an absolutely amazing job with "Wait Until Dark" at the Love Street Playhouse. He even handled the Bard's work well in "Much Ado About Nothing" when he performed (as Benedict) for his own Vancouver OnStage production (his wife Stephanie directing) some years ago. I think he is a very good director.

He is also responsible for the adaption--a two hour truncation of the three and a half hour play. Using the 1968 Franco Zeffirelli film as a framework, Roberts added back in what he thought was needed for exposition in the play. Nothing was really lost in the trim. And his steampunk setting was an innovative and inspired move as well.

The acting was generally good, but uneven across the board. I enjoyed all the roles. Most were played straight, a couple (one bit part and one prominent role) seemed a little too much on the lighter side. The leads--Robbin Goss (Romeo) and Hannah Mock (Juliet) were exceptionally strong, as were David Bower (Friar Laurence ) and Matt Newport (Benvolio ) who seemed the best at playing Shakespeare. Beth VanBuecken (Mercutio) was also good--a very strong performer (though, perhaps, better stylized for a musical).

Goss could have played a bit more of his emotion on his face in the intimate theater, but his physicality and voice were near perfect. Mock, trained by MPAA and OCT, gave a delightful performance; her Juliet was part feminist, part rebel teen, part innocence, part bravado--all expressed well through body language, voice and facial expression.

Romeo and Tybalt duel in one of the plays many fights.

A Rose by Any Other Name

And speaking of language, more importantly the interpretation--the translation--came off really well. Roberts "gets" Shakespeare and is able to relate the meanings to his cast and knows how to have them express the archaic terms and subtle subtexts to the audience. These were often achieved via a look or action.

The poetry was carefully delivered while not sounding overly foreign to the modern ear. Certainly a stunning achievement in and of itself.

The blocking (on the small stage and with a large cast) was also interesting and artful. The fight scenes or violence design (choreographed by David Gregory Bareford) were really good.

And speaking of choreography (there is a ballroom scene) I was particularly blown away by the work of Suzanne Vannatter. It's hard to put a label on it. Part Victorian, part Medieval, part folk to a Techno track. Suffice it to say that it worked very well. And I really liked how she isolated and highlighted Romeo and Juliet--an almost cinematographic effect.

Technically the show was a marvel. Lighting (by Reba Hoffman and Brenda McGinnis) was impressive. The costumes (by Bethie Duvall) were creative, eclectic and interesting. Especially delightful, interesting (and also eclectic) was the soundscape. The sound design (by Tim Klein) was nicely done--very creative. But, I must say, it is the music that is the star of the show. Again eclectic, but decidedly modern. Pop, techno, symphonic, etc. Yes, this brave approach really worked. It was so complex it took three "Music Curators" (Tim Klein, David Roberts and Eli Swihart) to put it together. And each number, in it's place, was ideal.

Most impressive of all was the set designed by David Roberts and implemented by Melinda Leuthold and Michele Glover. Innovative and detailed--filled with gears, gadgets, and gauges; pipes, valves, truss, and brick--the decidedly steampunk scenery, painted in metallic copper and iron, was a living piece of the action (as much an actor as any human). Very awesome!

The scene changes, laden with creative effects, were mechanical and visually interesting. Video was used creatively as well. All in all a delightful evening.

Wherefore Art Thou?

I highly recommend this production for Shakespeare aficionados and neophytes alike. It would be a great introduction to the Master's work--enjoyable and educational. I don't recommend it for those under ten years of age due to some thematic elements (violence, suicide) and the "sex scene" (played suggestively in shadow on video). If you go please tell them you saw our review.

The classic play is being presented by Magenta Theater, 606 Main St., Vancouver, Wash. Show dates and times are: April 11, 12, 17, 18, 19, 23, 24, 25 at 7:30 p.m.; April 19 and 26 at 2 p.m. Seats are $13-16. For tickets go to click here.

For another review of the play and more wonderful production photographs click here.

Review by Gregory E. Zschomler
Photographs provided.