Saturday, July 29, 2006

*Disguises of Love* at EWU

Final three performances on Tues-Thurs, Aug. 1-3, at 6 pm
EWU, University Theater, Washington St., Cheney
directed by Jessica McLaughlin
performed by the Summer Teen Conservatory
based on Marivaux's *The Game of Love and Chance*
Call (309) 838-5515

Friday, July 21, 2006

*Pippin* — partial review

*Pippin* at Coeur d'Alene Summer Theater (through July 30)

So many musicals offer entertainment and escape, unadulterated by any pesky thoughts about psychology or, God forbid, political satire. *Pippin* isn’t that kind of musical.
Oh, you’ll leave humming some tunes — but you’ll also be asking yourself questions, wondering about the nature of happiness, confronting your own life.
With a slew of highlights — Stephen Schwartz’s music and lyrics, Roger Welch’s polished and inventive direction, Steve Booth’s exuberant questing in the title role, Michael Wasileski’s Fosse-style choreography, and any number of wonderful supporting bits — Coeur d’Alene Summer Theater is now offering a show that ventures past mere escapism into songs and debates that will actually matter to you for days and weeks later. It closes July 30, so make your plans for *Pippin* now — because this is one of Coeur d’Alene’s finest shows in years.

*Pippin* asks the Big Enchilada questions: What is a well-spent life? What is happiness? Pippin himself — naïve, full of wonder and longing — wants his life “to be more than just long.” Set on a quest, he predictably rejects various career paths: soldier, politician, artist, playboy. But when it comes to the wife and the house with the white picket fence, answers start to tumble in unexpectedly. In *Pippin,* people don’t settle down and live happily ever after. They settle down, but without settling.
But themes are only as engaging as the performances make them, and Welch has coached a lot of exceptional ones out of his cast. In the title role, Steve Booth has the boyish exuberance and arm-flailing energy you’d expect of a naïf chasing after his dreams. He sells “Corner of the Sky” as a rock anthem, belting the high notes in a way that compels listeners to share his character’s hunger for a better life. (In reprising snippets of the song, Booth finds its poignancy.) Booth — an Idaho native fresh from the Las Vegas production of the Tony-winning *Avenue Q* — isn’t afraid to show us that the young prince, while likeable, is also silly, violent, wrong-headed and incompetent. Booth’s is a very likeable, winning performance, and it’s the heart and soul of this show.
Booth gets great support. There’s Jack Bannon as his father the king, rattling off battle orders, fending off loved ones with a cell phone, willing to throw a few profanities around and even make fun of himself. Two particular delights arrive in throwaway scenes that hang like threads from the plot: Ellen Travolta as Berthe, Pippin’s grandmother, and Charissa Bertels as Fastrada, his scheming stepmother. When Pippin comes calling on Grandma for advice (it’s his usual conversational ploy), she responds with the show-stopping “No Time at All.” It’s a catchy little carpe diem ditty, and it works even in a slightly hokey audience sing-along format because Travolta projects her own joie de vivre right out past the footlights. If a woman of a certain age starts cajoling her listeners to stop wasting time, even twenty-somethings perk up and notice. As for Bertels, ambitious for her character’s son, she controls the king with sexuality and Pippin with her wiles. It’s like watching a dance hall version of Lady Macbeth: funny and enjoyable, but a little dangerous too. In what amount to single-scene parts, Travolta and Bertels stand out.


For the rest of this review, check out the July 27 *Inlander.* It'll add comments on the three actors who split up the Leading Player role; the chilling anti-war satire that Welch and costumer Hilary Winkworth achive in "Glory"; the parallels between *Pippin* and other 1970s musicals and movies; Hirson and Schwartz's use of ironic undercutting of idealism throughout; this show's haunting, energizing finale; Wasileski's choreography; those dark, sexy, sarcastic Players; a response to dismissals of *Pippin* as "dated"; and maybe even a bit about Schwartz's latter-day triumph in the moral relativism of *Wicked.* (Nah, that sounds way too academic. But go see this show, folks. It's thought-provoking, extremely well directed, powerfully performed and just plain wonderful.)

Lake City Playhouse is going to change its name ...

... to Lake City Playhouse.
At least that's how supporters overwhelmingly voted. Artistic Director Tracey Vaughan wanted to forge a new identity for the theater, but locals made clear that they prefer the traditional name.

local actors featured in OSF promotional e-mail

Bobo opened a "Come Back to the Oregon Shakespeare Festival" promotional e-mail just now (OK, I feel guilty -- haven't been there in three years) only to be greeted by four wonderful pictures of an acting couple familiar to CdA and Spokane audiences, along with the following text:

Summertime in Ashland..."Still Magical."

There's still time to be with us this season for some "Ashland days filled with laughter, chatter, camaraderie, and always stimulating discussion around the incredibly rich theatre experience. What a great gather and enjoy the gifts of each other, the luxury of time and enrichment of theater arts." -- Member Susan E. Shapiro

OSF members Jeanne and Barrie MacConnell renew their membership and enjoy their benefits; shopping at the Tudor Guild, visiting with actor John Tufts after the members' post-matinee discussion, and ordering a drink in the members' lounge.

... and just as soon as Bobo figures out how to download photos from an e-mail into this blog, maybe you'll see Alba Jeanne and Barrie, too.

Friday, July 14, 2006

*Pippin* in Conn. with a different ending

... and, in the role of Charlemagne, taken locally by Jack Bannon, none other than ... say hey he's a Monkee, Mickey Dolenz.
Opening tonight at Goodspeed Opera House in East Haddam, Conn.: a newish version of *Pippin,* which Stephen Schwarz himself says has a new ending borrowed from a London Fringe production, a new outro/intro to intermission, and a few cuts and line changes "that we've learned over the years."

ARt season auditions

Saturday, Aug. 5, from 1-5 pm at SFCC's Spartan Theater
Call 838-4013
photo and resume; two monologues (one classical, one contemporary)

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Berthe and Pippin

Berthe and Pippin
Originally uploaded by Sir Andrew Aguecheek.
at Coeur d'Alene Summer Theater
in Coeur d'Alene, Idaho
July 20-30, 2006
Schuler Auditorium, Boswell Hall, North Idaho College

Ellen Travolta as Berthe, Steve Booth as Pippin and the Players
directed by Roger Welch
book by Roger O. Hirson
music and lyrics by Stephen Schwartz
conceived and originally directed and choreographed by Bob Fosse
musical director/conductor: Steven Dahlke
choreographed by Michael Wasileski

King Charlemagne and dancers

Jack Bannon and his harem (?!)

*Pippin* chorus line

Pippin chorus line
Originally uploaded by Sir Andrew Aguecheek.
That was your Chorus Line.
This is your Chorus Line on drugs.

*Singin' in the Rain* auditions

to be directed by Kathie Doyle-Lipe
at Spokane Civic Theater, Sept. 29-Oct. 29

auditions on Monday-Tuesday, July 24-25, at 6:30 pm
prepare a verse and chorus of a song from another, different show — and be ready to dance
lots of roles for those 16 and older; particular need for two boys to appear in the range of ages 10-14
rehearsals throughout Aug. and Sept.
Call 325-1413

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

CCT *Joseph*

Christian Community Theater (an all-ages division of Christian Youth Theater)
*Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat*
Wednesday-Friday, July 19-21, at 7 pm
Saturday, July 22, at 3 pm and 7 pm
Sunday, July 23, at 3 pm

Tickets: $10
Spokane Community College, Lair auditorium, Bldg. 6
Greene St. and Mission Ave. or 487-6540

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

more on the CenterStage break-in

The thieves entered sometime between 7 pm Monday and "early" on Tuesday morning. They broke through the big glass doors at the top of the stairs on the second-floor landing. They took somewhere between $5,000 and $10,000 from cash registers, along with the safe. They also stole Executive Director Charles Tappa's laptop computer and a donations box. They did not take any alcohol, or a computer and printer that were in plain sight. And they didn't get up to ella's.

Most important: The credit card batch reports from June 25-July 7 were stolen. What that means: If you used a credit card at CenterStage during those two weeks, monitor your credit card report carefully. No need to change card numbers _yet_ -- but watch it closely, because that information has been compromised.

A police investigation is ongoing. This weekend's "indoor garage sale" will still go on -- now more needed than ever -- along with Independent Movie Night tonight and the "Wacky David Ives" shows this Thursday and Friday.

Director of Development and Marketing Connie Sagona adds that, while CenterStage staff members were understandably shocked and upset, they also immediately set about some crime-solving activity. "We watch entirely too much *CSI* around here," she says. "The cutest part was when Tim [Behrens] was down on his knees with a flashlight."

CenterStage broken into

Late Monday night, CenterStage was vandalized and ransacked: cash and cash registers stolen, laptops stolen, desks rifled through, a fire extinguisher emptied inside. The Montvale Hotel in the same block of First Avenue had been broken into on Saturday night. Details still emerging.

Monday, July 10, 2006

dinner theater at CenterStage

a follow-up to the review of "The Wacky World of David Ives," at CenterStage through Aug. 25

First of all, my review failed to mention two of the actors: Laura VanDerLinde (who was funniest as part of the foul-mouthed alter ego couple in "English Made Simple" — she and Scott Finlayson were hilarious voicing the _real_ thoughts underlying the social niceties exchanged by two former lovers meeting by chance years later) and Juli Wellman (who brought sexiness and dry humor to her high-priestess role in "Babel's in Arms").

Most of the following was written on Sunday, July 9 — the day before the unfortunate break-in at CenterStage. (I'm not trying to hit them when they're down. Just the reverse: I'd like to keep CenterStage going, particularly its theater. There are better marketing heads than mine at CenterStage — and their director of development and marketing, Connie Sagona, is one of them.) Bobo's just offering the following comments in support of what is, after all, unique around here. With the exception of some Lake City Playhouse/Brix cooperative ventures and Circle Moon Theater up toward Newport, Wash., nobody else (I don't think) is trying to do dinner theater.

To broaden the discussion beyond a review of just one production:
With audiences of only about 20 people each on Thursday and Friday nights at CenterStage, an evaluation may be in order. Is Spokane’s dinner-theater experiment failing? Fine food and thought-provoking theater are both specialized and demanding areas of expertise. Is it really likely that both would be mastered under one roof? People who are passionate about either food or theater will probably seek elsewhere. So far at CenterStage, the cooking is better than the acting.

With ella's performing well, moreover — and financial support coming in from the local jazz community — and the weddings/rehearsals segment of the CenterStage project also doing well, it is reportedly the dinner theater that's being eyed skeptically by management. People may scoff at the entire concept of dinner theater (and I have, it's true, and in print; but I've also tried to be fair).

So far, dinner theater at CenterStage has just been community theater with wood paneling and waiters (and a few bucks for the actors). So consider some new approaches:

Lower ticket prices; serve just dessert and coffee with the theatrics. $39 for dinner and a show is just too much for many people's budgets. And given ticket prices at Actors Rep, Interplayers and CdA Summer Theater, isn't $19 (just for the show) a bit steep for what CenterStage is producing?
Market local college and high school theater instructors and their students hard. Charge 'em $8 — then, no excuses: live theater for the same price as a movie. Well-done farce (with a reasonable-size audience) is simply funnier onstage than it is onscreen. Kids need to experience the interactivity of theater -- what it can do that movies can't.

Concentrate on better production values. Sure, you have two kitchens at CenterStage. And the appetizers and meals at ella's are exquisite -- some of the best food I've had locally. The servers and drinks and ambience are great. But that doesn't mean food should predominate, necessarily. Do folks really want to sit the same seat for three hours? Let 'em eat elsewhere (like up at ella's, for example) and offer 'em dessert at intermission by all means. But shave the food budget and raise the directing-acting-design elements budget.

Alternate jazz and theater: Sometimes jazz is in ella's, sometimes it's on the second floor; same with the acting. Might appeal to different folks.
Feature early-bird dinners at ellas’s and post-play discussions (your first glass of beer or wine is free!) in the auditorium.

Dangle free-drink cards in front of audience members who’ll walk upstairs to ella’s to meet the actors.
Make concerts part of the mix (that is, schedule them in repeat Friday-Saturday slots where the plays have sometimes been), then perform five-minute “theatrical trailers” at the concerts to lure the kinds of audiences that like country or the blues but don’t regularly attend plays.

And so on.

Saturday, July 08, 2006

partial review of “The Wacky World of David Ives"

an evening of one-acts at CenterStage (through Aug. 25)

Let’s get the bad stuff out of the way first: At the fourth performance of “The Wacky World of David Ives” at CenterStage on Friday night, the audience was small, the humor often strained, the timing sometimes off. Ives may be an acknowledged master of the genre known as “absurdist intellectual one-act comedy with lots of wordplay,” but even his scripts can sometimes seem dated or over-extended. The six CenterStage actors, usually competent, didn’t soar into any exceptional insights. Up at ella’s, my dinner-theater salmon was a little dry.
But let’s also consider the positive side of the ledger. Two of the seven playlets achieve a trick that’s hard to pull off: moving past jokey farce to the kind of intellectual comedy that elicits altered frames of reference and changes of heart. A couple of the actors pull off some finely observed moments. And Tim Behrens directs traffic capably.
Still, this is sketch comedy — smart, silly, thought-provoking comedy, but still trying to force its humor in that spontaneity-that’s-been-premeditated-and-you’d-damn-well-better-laugh kind of way. Comedy of this sort is usually hit-and-miss.
When skits are confined to one idea, as they sometimes are here, we grasp the contrast right off — and the humor drains away along with all the surprises. Examples: A guy thinks he’s found his identity ... as a typewriter. Or another guy (in a different play) falls in love with ... a washing machine. It’s funny, it’s cute, we get it after the first minute — but Ives milks the conceit too long. And it takes comedic talent greater than the CenterStage cast possesses to pull off this material with assurance.
The two best-performed one-acts here, however, move deftly and suddenly from game-playing silliness into deeper philosophical and psychological territory. In “Sure Thing,” Stephanie Brush and Scott Finlayson enact a couple’s first meeting; the scene restarts every time one of them says something that’s a relationship deal-breaker. It’s silly and fun, with the two characters coming off as capricious and childish. But as one date-ending bell after another sounds, the cumulative effect is a reminder: It’s miraculous that any of us ever find a mate, we’re all so picky and narrow-minded. The gimmick leads to an insight, and Ives’ script comes off so well here because Brush and Finlayson turn on an emotional dime from flirty to cold and over to assertive and back to bashful.
The other standout scene, “English Made Simple,” also involves Brush. A couple meet again years after their breakup; while the niceties of their small talk is parsed, another (identically dressed) couple pronounce what they’re really feeling (which doesn’t exactly meet Miss Manners’ Standards of Niceness). And you know you’ve hit on an important truth when audience howls over hearing usually unspoken thoughts. Yet even here, a switch in the men’s casting — Buddy Todd as the kind of officious instructor he does so well, and Skyler Chance McKinley as the romantic lead playing opposite Brush as the flirty-assertive woman that she does so well — would have balanced the scene better.
In a similar vein, there’s something liberating about sexual double-entendres and off-color expletives being thrown around with comic abandon. These may not be scripts for children, and they may be intended for adults — but they still appeal, with all their playfulness, to the kid inside all us grown-ups. (The smart-mouth, sassy kid, but still a kid.)


The complete version of this review will appear on Thursday in *The Inlander.* Additional topics there will include Behrens' directing, Finlayson's acting, the combination of physical comedy and intellectual humor in the skit about three monkeys typing *Hamlet* — and a commentary on dinner theater's future in Spokane.

Friday, July 07, 2006

"The Wacky Humor of David Ives"

July-August 2006
Stephanie Brush, Juli Wellman and Skyler Chance McKinley

"Time Flies"

"Time Flies"
Originally uploaded by Sir Andrew Aguecheek.
by David Ives
part of "The Wacky Humor of David Ives"
at Spokane CenterStage
July-Aug. 2006
directed by Tim Behrens; Laura VanDerLinde and Buddy Todd

Buddy Todd and Scott Finlayson

Spokane CenterStage
July-August 2006; in "Soap Opera," the seventh and last of the one-acts during this evening of plays by David Ives

waiting at the Bus Stop

Bobo dropped by Interplayers during the second set of *Bus Stop* auditions on an entirely unrelated matter (really, to see Ellen Travolta about something else entirely -- it' s not like I'm snooping on local auditions) and saw Jamie Flanery, Damon Abdallah, Damon Mentzer, Jamie Mathis, Todd Jasmin and others.
Jack Bannon informed Bobo that director Scott Allan, from L.A., is the son of Ellen T's childhood friend; we agreed that the '56 movie is awful.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

*Raggedy Ann and Andy*

at Lake City Playhouse in CdA
July 20-23 and July 27-30 at 7:30 pm (except for Sunday matinees at 2 pm)
Tickets: $12; $8, students and seniors; $5-$8, children

They have to go into the forest to save Babette from the Loonies; along the way, they run into a Witch and a Camel with Wrinkled Knees.

Lake City Playhouse
1320 E. Garden Ave.
Coeur d'Alene
(208) 667-1323

Monday, July 03, 2006

lagniappe on *Peter Pan*

I went to *Peter Pan* on Sunday, with my daughter and her next-door-neighbor, and then we ran into friends with grandchildren, and some major theorizing of a dramaturgical nature took place. And you know the thing about kids: They say the darnedest things ...

What do you think of Peter Pan not being willing to grow up?
"He should be willing to grow up to at least 20."
Why 20?
"Because then he’d know what it’d be like to be a grown-up, and then you could go back to being a kid."

Why does Peter fly back to Neverland by himself at the end?
"It’s a setup for Peter Pan too."
"You know, that movie we saw. *Peter Pan 2.*"
Oh, like a movie sequel. Got it. [She meant *Finding Neverland,* but I like how she’s thinking about the long-range profitability of the franchise. Disney could do something with this story.

Still, there's plenty of evidence that the Disney marketing machine is still functioning with strength:
One girl who went with me to the play knew all about how actors are flown above the stage, because she’d seen it all explained “on a 'Behind the Scenes' of *Wendy Woo, Homecoming Warrior.*"
I must have given her a blank look.
"It’s a Disney Channel Original Movie," she explained, helpfully.

The girls made some insightful comments about the play. On the other hand, they also argued “Did so/Did not/Did so/Did not” all the way from the Argonne on-ramp to the Pines Road exit.

I asked them about the stage tradition of Peter being played by a woman.
The reply: “Men can play women. Or at least small men can."
But what Disney execs will like is the footnote that the entering-fourth-grade girl gave:
"I saw it on *The Suite Life of Zach and Cody,* when Esteban played a maid.”

Favorite character?
"I love Tinker Bell — she can fly, and she’s cute, and she’s prissy-prass."
"That’s hyphenated."
"Yeah, it means she’s sassy."

With apologies to the (uncredited) actress who plays the elder Wendy in the final scene:
What was the deal with Wendy at the end?
"She couldn’t fly. She was too heavy."

(Actually, that conversation continued ...
Is that what the play said?
"No. She was too old. She didn't believe anymore."

But my favorite exchange of all between my little junior theater critics arrived during intermission, when I asked them what their favorite bit (in the play) was so far.

Kylie: “When Smee couldn’t get down off the stage. We laughed really hard, and we both snorted.”
Tiffany: “I didn’t snort.”
Kylie [tactful]: “I thought you did.”
Tiffany: “I didn’t snort, but I heard you snort.” [Kylie laughs some more] “There, you just did it again.”
Kylie [defensive]: “Then what did you do? You laughed and then you snorted, too.”
“Did not.”
“Did so.”
“Did not.”
“Did so.”

The Kasey R.T. Graham Watch

For those of you scoring at home ...
He conducted *Oklahoma!* on tour, is doing same now for *Peter Pan* ... then "I'll be playing for *Pippin,* and then I'll be doing *Producers* in the fall, on tour."

partial review of *Peter Pan*

at CdA Summer Theatre through July 15

Bob Sembiante’s production doesn’t waste time with a lot of talk. Pirates swagger through the aisles, whooping and shouting. During a number called “Ugh-a-wug,” Indians and Lost Boys pound the stage with drumsticks, in unison. And in the title role, there’s an active little pixie. Haley New Ostrander’s performance features robust singing (“I’m Flying”), energetic roostering (“I Gotta Crow”) and sprightly dancing (“Neverland,” and throughout). Ostrander can belt out an inspiring song and appears fearless in mid-air. She may be the smallest of the orphans, but as their captain, the sheer exuberance of her manner commands both their obedience and the audience’s sympathies.

And though the Lost Boys sometimes seem too cutesy, Sembiante keeps a light hand on the gender politics, even when Wendy abruptly starts longing for the woman-boy Peter.

As for ethnic politics, the treatment of Indians in this play is truly offensive — in just the same way that depicting pirates as buffoons is an insult to the reputation of the world’s many upstanding buccaneers. Because of this play’s debasing portrayal of their lifestyle, brigands and bandits everywhere should be outraged.

Troy Wageman manages, though, to strike a nice balance in his dual roles — sneering but not fearsome as Captain Hook (“the swiniest swine in the world”), yet not so cartoonish as to drain all the dignity out of his alter ego, Mr. Darling; he makes a couple of great bass-voiced entrances.

Among the technical elements, the standouts are Michael McGiveney’s sets (the Darlings’ bedroom, the jungle, Maroon Rock, the Lost Boys’ cave, the pirate ship), all rendered with storybook stylization.

*Peter Pan* is a musical patchwork, with two composers, three lyricists, and multiple versions over the years. Musical director Kasey R.T. Graham has reorchestrated some complicated music, and his 12-piece orchestra successfully navigates a variety of styles, from waltzes and tangos to rhythmic kids’ songs, ballads and lullabies.


For a complete version of this review — including comments on James M. Barrie's themes in *Peter Pan* and reactions to this production by various members of Girl Scout Troop 125 — see the July 6 *Pacific Northwest Inlander,* or listen to KPBX that morning at 7:35 am. Think happy thoughts and clap your hands.

Saturday, July 01, 2006

*Sylvia* in Twisp

at the Merc Playhouse through July 16
A.R. Gurney's play, starring Spokane actors John Oswald and Tony Caprile, with Caryn Hoaglund as the title mutt
Wednesdays-Saturdays at 8 pm, and Sundays at 2 pm
directed by Carolanne Steinebach
101 S. Glover St., Twisp, Wash.
(509) 997-2306

CenterStage "indoor garage sale" fund-raiser

Friday, July 14, from 8 am-6 pm, and Saturday, July 15, from 8 am-noon
You can either donate or buy
Call Julie at 216-7312 or e-mail at