Sunday, May 22, 2011

We're opera mad (and we're not even in Camelot)

The three of you who read Weisenheimer on occasion know that my Sweetie, the official scorer, and I enjoy going to the theater. Yet up until this weekend we had, between us, exactly one visit to the opera in our entire lives combined. My Sweetie went with her third-grade class, and still recalls being petrified with all the rules laid down for her behavior: don't make noise, don't speak unless spoken to, don't stand up, don't fidget. She was afraid to breathe until the thing was over!

We're opera-mad in Camelot; we sing from the diaphragm
a lot. From Monty Python and the Holy Grail.
Weisenheimer's opera experience has been pretty much limited to the movies A Night at the Opera by the Marx Brothers, during which Harpo inserts "Take Me Out to the Ball Game" into the score, and Moonstruck, in which Nicholas Cage wins Cher by taking her to the opera.

Oh, and there was Tommy, but that was a rock opera, and not quite the same.

Anyway, Friday we changed all that by going to The Magic Flute at Seattle Opera, and we had a darn good time! Speight Jenkins was the general director and Asher Fisch principal guest conductor for the work by Mozart and Emanuel Schikaneder.

The folks at Seattle Opera did their best to frighten my Sweetie by sending out a pre-show email that included a First Timers Guide with handy tips on such topics as what to wear and when to yell "Bravo!" (After the song is over, it turns out, is a good time for that.) She didn't get scared, though, because she never got around to reading the note.

Cynthia didn't do the full Cher treatment, but did get her hair done. I didn't go all tux-y, but did wear gray slacks, a white shirt, black jacket, and my best comedy/drama tie. We looked smashing!

I'm not sure I'm qualified to review operas after one time, but the set was fascinating, the costumes gorgeous, puppetry and clowning fantastic, and there was some incredible singing, led by Mari Moriya, who was the Queen of the Night. Jonathan Boyd as prince Tamino and Leigh Melrose as Papageno were great, too, and a bunch of little kids who were the offspring of Papageno and Papagena were adorable, with one particularly getting amped up during ovation time. (Or maybe she just had to pee badly. Anyway she was hopping around like she was a pogo stick!)

Like Rick Blaine when the Nazis marched into Paris, my German is a little rusty, but I could pick up some of the lyrics and dialog, and luckily the English supertitles filled in the gaps.

I expect we will continue to mix some opera in with our theater-going in the future. Bravo!!

Monday, May 16, 2011

Greeks, guys, and dolls

I experienced both ends of the Seattle theater spectrum this weekend, saw two enjoyable shows, and came away from it feeling a little sad.

Brandon O'Neill, center, plays
Sky Masterson in the 5th Avenue
Theatre production of Guys and
Dolls. Also pictured are Brittany
Jamieson, Kasey Nusbickel, Nikki
Long, and Marissa Quimby. 
The 5th Avenue Theatre production of Guys and Dolls is a lot of fun. The show is stuffed with standards such as "Luck Be a Lady", "A Bushel and a Peck", "Adelaide's Lament", and "If I Were a Bell." The fabulous "Sit Down, You're Rockin' the Boat" by Nicely-Nicely (Todd Buonopáne) was a show-stopper at the end. Director Peter Rothstein filled the show with clever staging, Noah Racey's choreography and the dancing were marvelous, and Kate Sutton-Johnson's set was cool. The four leads all are familiar to Seattle audiences, as are many of the supporting players including the incomparable Clayton Corzatte and Laura Kenny. Musicals aren't Weisenheimer's favorite, but Ma Weisenheimer loves 'em and so we go. Guys and Dolls ranks among my favorites of the last couple of years. A big Sunday matinee crowd enjoyed the show immensely.

Friday night my Sweetie, the official scorer, and I took in Sophocles' Ajax at Open Circle Theater. Like the musical, the Greek tragedy isn't necessarily my favorite, though I write that knowing that, if we ever get around to handing out the Wisey Awards for 2010, the Seattle Shakes production of Electra probably wins. However the Ajax cast was loaded with talented Balagan Theatre pals, so it was a show we didn't want to miss. Todd van der Ark adapted the story and Linda Lombardi directed the tale of war, betrayal, rage, madness, and love.

They did a great job. We really like Ryan Fields, who was super in the title role. Ryan Higgins as Achilles was one of the more intense dead guys you'll ever see. Daniel Arreola, Ashley Bagwell, Curtis Eastwood, and Hannah Schnabel were super.

Unfortunately, there were just 10 people in the audience, including the bartender. Friday night in Belltown and they couldn't draw a crowd of any sort. We had dinner at a restaurant just a block away, and our server had never heard of the show or the theater.

That's where my sadness comes in. The 5th Avenue has resources. I remember thinking a couple of years ago, while watching their production of Hello, Dolly!, that the train everyone climbed aboard was a set piece that probably cost more than Balagan's entire annual budget. They're pleasing big crowds. Meanwhile Open Circle is pleasing crowds, too, and talented actors are working hard to put on a show that entertains. But their program includes an appeal for donated office supplies and, maybe, a new sewing machine.

This weekend is the final one for Ajax. I think you need to get out and see it! Guys and Dolls runs at the 5th through June 5.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Fly swatter day? Are you kidding me?

Back in the day major league baseball teams used to give away cool items that were worth having in order to entice fans to the ballpark. Bat night, ball night, mitt night, cap night, seat cushion night, and t-shirt night were staples. I had a Seattle Pilots helmet given away on helmet night. The helmets had two holes in the top, ostensibly for ventilation, though we smart-ass 12-year-olds considered the helmets to be crying buckets (given the sorry nature of the club) and thought the holes had to be plugged in order to avoid the spilling of the tears all over town. For years I carried my keys on a Mariners give-away keychain that was emblazoned with the team slogan of the year, "Anything Can Happen." They might even win 50 games this season! Wow!

As Dave Barry would say, I am
not making this up. If you're free
for the M's afternoon game of May
19 you can get a Franklin Gutierrez
flyswatter absolutely free.
He's got a huge mitt. Get it?
Thus it was with a certain amount of disbelief that as my Sweetie, the official scorer, and I listened to today's game during a drive down to Seaview for a stay at the Audubon Cottage at China Beach Retreat, we heard a promo for the upcoming Franklin Gutierrez fly swatter day.

This is no joke. Well, it is, but it's also apparently a true story.

Gutierrez is a fabulous center fielder who has earned the not-so-creative sobriquet "Death to Flying Things" for his ability to snare fly balls. It wasn't a great leap, then, for the marketing geniuses with the team to come up with the idea for flyswatter night. It puts me in mind of the old George Carlin bit, "How much is that dog crap in the window?", in which the guys in sales came up with suggested placements for fake vomit that would maximize the humor. "Near the refrigerator! Hey, Charlie, stop the presses!"

As if flyswatter day needed any help being funny, the subject of the giveaway, Gutierrez, has been on the disabled list all year with irritable bowel syndrome, which suggests that there might be a Lomotil night in the M's future. And flyswatter day is Thursday, May 19, a game with a 12:40 start time that ensures that mainly business executives and the rest of the luxury suite set, the homeless, the unemployed, shift workers, and truants will be able to snag the Guti swatter. Not everyone, though, just the first 20,000 people through the turnstiles. How many of these things will we see on EBay within 24 hours? (As of this moment there are 404 results on EBay for "flyswatter," though none of them involve Gutierrez or any other baseball player. You can get a flyswatter with the Cubs logo, just $7 plus shipping, and there is a lovely WWF swatter, too.) And what sort of price will they fetch?

You can buy a hand-made
Cubs flyswatter on EBay. I
am not making this up.
What sort of promotions are other teams cooking up for their star players? I wonder if there's a Derek Jeter mousetrap night. How about Albert Pujols roach motel giveaway? Maybe a Roy Halladay no-pest-strip promotion.

Back when the M's were winning 116 games in a year, the good promotions must have been easier to come by. Now that they're in their more familiar place as 100-game losers and A.L. West doormats, the club is so bad that flyswatter day isn't even the dumbest promotion on the schedule. Last month they gave away bags of dirt to fans, a mockable event (I joked at the time it was nearly as exciting as Jack Wilson bobblehead night), though it apparently had something to do with educating fans about composting. During today's broadcast I swear I heard a promo for another dirt night, though there's nothing on the M's website about it. And mark your calendars for Sunday, June 5, which is Little League Day, at which all kids 14 and under will receive a Chone Figgins poster because there's no better model for kids than a self-centered .217-hitting malcontent who is probably still on the payroll of the Angels, who are paying him to continue to suck while playing for a division rival. And Friday, July 29, is Sonics Celebration Night, some sort of remembrance of the NBA club that last played in town three years ago. One has to hope that Howard Schultz will throw out the first pitch. A lot of folks in town would love to give him a little chin music. There's also an M's Oktoberfest, which is scheduled for Sept. 27 because, let's face it, the M's won't be playing in October.

There are signs the weather won't be getting any better, too. King Felix knit cap night is June 18, and, in the heat of the summer, Aug. 26 is Mariners Fleece Blanket Night. The next night is singles night, and I'm not sure if that's for people without partners, or just a recognition of the team's lack of power.

Oh, and guys, on Fathers Day, June 19, the team will give away Mariners coasters to the first 10,000 dads. The folks who frisk you at the gate will also do the DNA test. Holy smokes!

Sunday, May 1, 2011

We are slackers. Here are 13 mini-reviews.

Way back on Feb. 24 before a performance of The Brothers Size at Seattle Rep, Weisenheimer and my Sweetie, the official scorer, were grilled by readers Jason Harber and José Amador (and we were a bit amazed to find that we really had readers, actually) about our paucity of posts in recent months. Not to make excuses, but in early December we moved out of our house and into a rental for a two-month remodeling project that, as we move into month number six, is nearly finished. Somewhere in there I quit my job and joined the family firm. So things have been a little hectic.

John Bradshaw left, then returned to
Seattle Shakespeare Company,
where he's managing director.
We've managed fully one post since then, about the departures of John Bradshaw and Stephanie Shine from Seattle Shakespeare Company. Bradshaw left first, but upon the departure of Shine a week later, decided not to leave after all and returned to his post as the company's managing director. That's a good thing! We've not commented at all about the troubles over at Intiman, which has sacked its entire staff and shut down for the rest of its season, intending to regroup and re-emerge next year. How that will play with those who had recently forked over in an effort to keep the financially troubled theater afloat is anyone's guess.

Despite the craziness in our lives, we have still been getting out to the theatre. Here's what we've been up to since our last review, a Jan. 29 post about Balagan Theatre's production of Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog.

Merry Wives of Windsor at Seattle Shakes. The final production of the company's current season, directed by Terry Edward Moore, scores with big laughs. Leslie Law and Candace Vance were especially great as the title wives, John Patrick Lowrie was grand as Sir John Falstaff, and Therese Diekhans was marvelous as the scheming Mistress Quickly. Merry Wives runs through May 15.

9 to 5 at 5th Avenue. A fun, musical stage version of the 1980 film featured Dolly Parton on video and a lot of period pieces on the set. Where did they find so many Selectric typewriters?

You are about to enter another dimension. Tim
Moore as Rod Serling in Twilight Zone Live!
Twilight Zone Live! at Theater Schmeater. Adapted from the TV series and directed by Tim Moore, who also got big laughs with his spot-on Rod Serling impression, the cast included many of this page's favorites, including  Megan Ahiers, Ashley Bagwell, Tracy Leigh, Lisa Viertel, and Jon Lutyens. Props to Rob Burgess, who has roles  in all three episodes, including Wordworth, the obsolete librarian from one of my favorite shows in the series.

Of Mice and Men at Seattle Rep. John Steinbeck is one of Weisenheimer's favorite authors, and there have been a couple of great film versions of the book, but we really hadn't intended to go to this until we learned of the cast, led by Seattle favorite Charles Leggett as Lennie, and also featuring Troy Fischnaller (George), Ray Tagavilla (Carlson), and Seanjohn Walsh (Curley). While we enjoyed the production, we thought director Jerry Manning went a little too cartoonish with Curley, who was in a ridiculous red wig and spent most of the time strutting about sputtering with his chest puffed out. Leggett's performance alone was worth the price of admission (which is getting awfully high at the Rep, I must say.)

Shawn Belyea as Daniel and Jaime Roberts as Virginia in
LGT's proeduction of Hardball. Photo: Omar Willey.
Hardball by Live Girls Theater at Annex. The world premiere of Victoria Stewart's play about a young woman's transformation from journalist to popular pundit. The story, the main character of which is not-very-loosely based on Ann Coulter, doesn't sound like that exciting of a premise for a play. But an outstanding cast and direction by Meghan Arnette, make for an outstanding show. A late scene of an on-camera debate between the Coulter character, Virginia (played by Jaime Roberts) and Suzanne (Alyssa Keene) really crackled.

Great Expectations at Book-It. Kevin McKeon directed this wonderful adaptation of the Dickens book, starring Lee Osorio as Pip and our good friend Mike Dooly as Joe.

Janiva Magness at Jazz Alley. We worked some music into the first quarter, as chart-topping blues artist Janiva Magness played the Alley on March 1. Magness does a great live show. Check out our reviews from last year's performaces in February and April.

The Threepenny Opera by Seattle Shakes at Intiman. A big cast, marvelous costumes, and a bigger house over at Intiman ultimately led to a pretty disappointing and overlong production.

The Brothers Size at Seattle Rep. My Sweetie, the official scorer, didn't seem all that impressed by this story of brotherly love, but Tarell McCraney's script and story moved me. Directed by Juliette Carrillo and set, essentially, on a big pile of old tires, it was a grand tale of brothers who don't have much but each other.

The K of D at Seattle Rep. We spent a lot of time at the Rep, which is wrapping up a pretty good season. This time my Sweetie really liked the production. I, while impressed with actress Renata Friedman's ability to carry this one-woman show and portray about 250 characters seamlessly, the story really didn't grab me all that much.

Ann Flannigan was great as Norma, the bossy and bitchy
sister who is just trying to keep the family together. I'm sure
all of the characters wanted to kill her! Photo by TorStudios.
The Last Schwartz at Harlequin Productions. This Olympia theater is doing some great work these days, and for the second straight year staged a show by Deborah Zoe Laufer, playwright of End Days. Schwartz featured a super strong cast, with great performances from my former colleague Ann Flannigan as Norma, the de facto momma of a somewhat disfunctional family, Scott C. Brown as brother Herb, who just wants the coffee table, and Alison Monda as Kia, outrageous model girlfriend of brother Gene.

Emilie at ArtsWest. An encore performance. I'd seen the play one evening when my Sweetie was out of town and was sure she'd like it, so went again. She did.

Duel of the Linguist Mages at Annex Theatre. Local playwright Scotto Moore wrote and directed this interesting sci-fi play featuring local favorites Jen Moon, James Weidman, and Curtis Eastwood. Moore's work is out there, and Mages is no exception, with a fascinating plot featuring researchers hacking language to control everything.

OK, there. You're up to date.