Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Should I stay or should I go?

The Seattle Times reported Tuesday, in a front-page story, that Bart Sher is leaving as artistic director of the city's Intiman Theatre., which doesn't have a "front page" any more, reported that Sher is staying. Both are, apparently, correct. Sher plans to leave Intiman at the end of 2010. His successor, alreay chosen but not yet identified by Intiman brass, will work as some sort of understudy director for a year before taking the reins. This rather odd arrangement is called a "multi-year succession plan" on Intiman's Web site.

Weisenheimer isn't a big fan of Sher. In fact, we're awfully perplexed at the ga-ga boy genius staus that Sher seems to have attained. Especially puzzling are the accolades heaped on The Light in the Piazza, a Tony Award winner despite being as mundane a piece of bilge as ever produced.

We had great hope for Sher when he first arrived in town. As fans of the Bard, we were delighted that he produced Coriolanus and Titus Andronicus. But recent history has not been so great. We thought Sher's Richard III was totally botched a couple of years ago. And the Intiman stage has been littered with klinkers for quite some time, leading us to drop a long-standing subscription to the theater. The saving grace is that Sher, too busy with his New York projects, is not going to direct the Intiman production of Othello this year as originally announced. But it won't be a local production, either. They're bringing in a staging from New York's Theatre for a New Audience.

We're glad to give up Sher to the New York audiences. We hope his succession plan doesn't lead to more of the same from Intiman.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Grease invaded by Hicks

The other day one of my Facebook friends announced that she was "going to see Taylor Hicks in Grease in Seattle today!" And that is about the only thing that's wrong with the production of the Jacobs and Casey musical playing through the end of the month at the 5th Avenue Theatre.

Call us un-American if you must, but my Sweetie, the official scorer, and I had our cable TV unplugged several years ago. Mostly it was because all we really wanted to watch on TV was the Mariners, and the Bavasi-era M's were just too painful to look at, certainly not worth the $50+ monthly cable bill. I'm sure we'd never have seen these shows anyway, but I've never seen an episode of "American Idolator", "Survivor", "Dancing With the Has-beens", "America's Next Scary Anorexic", or any of the other fodder that seems to make the world go 'round these days. So up until Sunday I wouldn't have known Taylor Hicks from the Unabomber if the three of us had met in the bar of JaK's Grill in West Seattle on a Monday evening when the theaters were dark.

Nothing against this Hicks dude, really, except the fact that most of the players in Grease were better singers and actors. We even had an understudy Sandy, Ruby Lewis, who was most enjoyable and really could belt out a tune. Allie Schulz was sassy, brassy, and bawdy as Rizzo. Eric Schneider, who also played Frankie Valli in the touring production of Jersey Boys, was grand as Danny. David Ruffin was marvelous as Kenicke, even if he's stolen the name of the great Temptation, who has been dead for almost 20 years now. All of the Pink Ladies were great, too.

They went so far as to make references to the "Idolator" show during Grease. As Hicks, who played the Teen Angel, sang "Beauty School Dropout" to Frenchy, she noted that "I voted for you." Ugh. Get back into the giant soft-serve cone and go back to that malt shop in the sky.

In the end, Hicks got to do one of his own songs after the show, got the biggest cheer, and got to sell CDs in the lobby. Too bad. He was the weakest link in Grease. My friend Lisa over at Dancing Again got to interview Hicks the other day and found him very nice. I don't doubt it. But the rest of the cast of Grease were better. We weren't expecting big, brainy stuff from the kids at Rydell High. But we can at least try to value talent over celebrity.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

I won the New Yorker cartoon caption contest. Sorta.

The last page of The New Yorker each week features a cartoon caption contest. It's easy. One of the magazine's cartoonists provides a cartoon. Readers submit captions. The editors pick three finalists, and readers vote on the winner. Weisenheimer submitted the winning entry for the April 20, 2009, contest, the drawing for which is at right. What caption would you choose?

Unfortunately, I apparently wasn't the only weisenheimer to submit the winning caption. I checked the contest rules, and if multiple entrants submit the same caption, and it is chosen as a finalist, the finalist contestant is chosen at random.


Thus, Bob Vogel of Portland, Maine goes on to eternal fame and glory, and all Weisenheimer has to show for it is this lousy blog post.

What was the winning caption?


Sunday, May 10, 2009

Gutenberg impressive

Weisenheimer and my Sweetie, the official scorer, were founding subscribers to West Seattle's ArtsWest theater, and our names are carved on the facility's wall in recognition of our contributions to the capital campaign that made the gallery and performance space a reality. It had been several years since we'd taken in a show at the theater, but the blurb for the company's current production caught my eye:

GUTENBERG! THE MUSICAL! is a loving spoof in which two aspiring playwrights perform a backers’ audition for their new project: A big, splashy musical about printing press inventor Johann Gutenberg (not Steve Guttenberg from the cinema classic Short Circuit).

Who could resist that? Gutenberg! The Musical! was written by Scott Brown and Anthony King, directed by Stephanie Farhood, and stars Chris Shea and Evan Woltz (at right) with Kim Dare on piano. Shea and Woltz play Doug and Bud, the playwrights who perform the entire show for all of the "Broadway producers" who may be in the audience.

The show is hilarious and Shea and Woltz do a great job wearing the hats -- literally -- of multiple characters. One thing scared me a little, and that was when Woltz was portraying the evil monk who didn't want everyone to learn to read. I swear he was channeling Wayne Knight's character Newman from the television series Seinfeld.

Sweetie and I really busted a gut at this one. It's worth a look, but there's only a week left in the run. Go see it in West Seattle!

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Deedles disappoints

Weisenheimer has seen Diane Schuur perform maybe 20 times, dating back to when she was a virtual unknown playing clubs around town, and I've never been disappointed until yesterday's show at Jazz Alley.

It wasn't that the music was bad. In fact it was good. But Schuur had a decided lack of energy -- in fact she looked bad and I thought she might be ill. And there was almost none of the often-randy play with the audience that, while occasionally overdone, has usually been an enjoyable part of any concert by Schuur.

She played four tracks from her most recent album, Some Other Time: "Takin' a Chance on Love", "They Say it's Wonderful", "Beginner's Luck", and "My Favorite Things". The latter was my favorite thing of the evening, a lengthy piece that showcased the excellent band.

The one time we got to enjoy Schuur's personality a bit was when she actually left the stage mid-set for a potty break. "If you gotta go, you gotta go." The band played on, and when she returned Schuur played and sang a few bars from The Guess Who's "No Sugar Tonight/New Mother Nature." I'll never again hear the lyric "that new splendid lady come to call" in quite the same way.

The band -- Scott Steed on bass, Dan Balmer on guitar, and Reggie Jackson on drums -- did a lot of extensive jamming, notably on "My Favorite Things", on Ellington's "It Don't Mean a Thing if it Ain't Got That Swing", and Brubeck's "In Your Own Sweet Way." They were outstanding. But the instrument we came to hear was Schuur's voice, and she didn't have her usual spark and energy.

The turnout was surprisingly small for a Friday night, and we knew the late set was going to have some room when they offered everyone at the first the chance to stick around for the second at no cover. It didn't appear they were getting many takers, and there was just a small line waiting for the second set as we left the club.

Too bad. Some Other Time has received pretty good reviews, and by all accounts Schuur, one of my favorite recording artists, still has it. She didn't much last night. Maybe some other time.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Picasso and Einstein walk into a bar...

... and a Steve Martin comedy erupts! Balagan Theatre's production of Picasso at the Lapin Agile, directed by Shawn Belyea, is a laugh riot, with talented actors using Martin's brilliant script to make me, like the character Gaston, have to pee. And laugh like hell.

Full disclosure: Weisenheimer has recently become a member and president of Balagan's board, but that doesn't mean I can't keep loving and reviewing their shows, as I did when just a civilian.

The premise of Picasso is as simple as the headline to this post. Picasso and Einstein meet up in a Paris bar around 1904, and hilarity ensues. The opening-night audience Thursday laughed at length throughout and gave a rousing ovation at the end.

Trick Danneker as Picasso and James Weidman as Einstein were a most entertaining lead duo. Danneker's Spanish accent seemed to come and go a bit. Weidman was quite German and played the great physicist with great humor (though it took a while on occasion.) The rest of the cast were also wonderful. Seanjohn Walsh was a hoot as the frequently urinating Gaston, Ray Tagavilla was marvelous as the pompous art dealer Sagot, and Megan Ahiers was busting out all over as Germaine the barmaid. Jason Harber stole his several scenes, as he is wont to do, as the bombastic Schmendiman. Balagan regular Mike Dooly had the sneer down as the strage visitor from the future, though my Sweetie, the official scorer, thinks he still needs to work on the pelvis action if he's going to be king on this stage.

In between all the tomfoolery the cast are able to shed some light on a bunch of key subjects: love, sex (Einstein gets the girl by going to a bar other than the one he tells her to. Try it, guys!), creativity in art and science, business, and how darn fine the 20th Century is going to be.

My friend Mark, who attended the performance (and actually visited the Lapin Agile in Paris), gave the show thumbs up, and felt the best of the many great laugh lines was delivered by Jane May as Suzanne, a lover of Picasso's: "When Picasso looked at me, the word 'no' became like a Polish village -- unpronouncable."

That was a great one. I give top joke to another, a one-liner from Terri Weagant as "Female Admirer" late in the show. I'm not giving it away, though. You'll have to see for yourself. Picasso runs at Balagan through May 30, though there's already talk of extending the production for at least a week. Go see it!

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Maybe I wrote too soon

A week ago I marveled that the Mariners were looking pretty sharp and had a 2 1/2 game lead in the AL West at the end of May. Apparently this recognition from the West Seattle Weisenheimer was more than the club could bear. They've gone 2-5 since, are on a four-game losing skid after today's 3-1 loss to Kansas City, and will probably wind up a half game out, in second, if Oakland's 5-0 lead over Texas holds up.

Weisenheimer actually attended Tuesday afternoon's home game against the Rangers. It was the first time I've paid for a ticket in several years. I just couldn't bear giving money to the inept Bavasi regime; they'd just go blow it on Carlos Silva or something. But I'm on staycation this week and it seemed the best thing I could do; one can only have so many naps. 

Anyway, Tuesday's game underscored the fact that this M's team is a far cry from the Junior-Edgar-Bone-PayRod offensive juggernauts of the glory days. Through nine innings Tuesday the M's had ONE hit against the legendary Vicente Padilla, who came into the game with a robust ERA of 7.42. The M's scratched out a run without a hit in the sixth and were tied 1-1 before Denny Stark imploded in the tenth. It was an entertaining game to watch, as Erik Bedard held the Rangers in check save for one loooong homer.

Other than that the pitching wasn't so great this week, either, as Seattle was outscored 42-27 in the last seven games. Felix Hernandez had his first shaky outing of the year, and Silva has been just plain horrible.

Tuesday's game had Sweetie, the official scorer, pondering a change to the "dandy" rules. (A dandy is a game in which fewer than five runs scored, neither team with more than three, and in which no errors are committed.) A Texas error eliminated the 1-1 game from consideration. Late in the game the Mariners made a great play to snuff out a run at the plate. Sweetie, perhaps hoping for a dandy some time, suggested that a tremendous defensive play could negate an error and move a game back into the dandy column. I'm not sure that one will get out of committee, however.