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Saturday, September 24, 2016

"Masters of the Musical Universe: Battle for Etheria" @ Headwaters Theatre

"He-Man" wasn't a big part of my childhood, I was born in 1984, and that already puts me a little late for the height of its popularity, plus I was just a weird kid. But it doesn't matter! I still very much enjoyed Masters of the Musical Universe: Battle for Etheria. You don't need any real knowledge of the show beyond the absolute basics, least of all a need to have seen Episode 1, which was a lightning sell-out last year, (though they do sell a DVD at the merch-table.) The fun of the show lies in the hilarious costumes, the carefully chosen '80s rock classics, and the total-commitment of the cast, who despite the intentional schlocky-ness of the show never use that as an excuse to phone-in a single note. Tickets are selling briskly, and the production only runs through tonight and tomorrow. I recommend this show to both fans of its source, as well as those who just like their theatre funny and fringy!

Monday, September 19, 2016

"Little Shop of Horrors" @ Portland Center Stage

"Little Shop of Horrors" is the "Ultimate Musical for People Who Don't Like Musicals" It is untraditional from the ground-up, taking its inspiration from a shoestring-budgeted Roger Corman film, which happened to feature a young Jack Nicholson. It also has a fairly un-Broadway Score, with lots of street-corner doo-wop, my favorite being "Ya Never Know"  A close-second is "Dentist"

The scale of Portland Center Stage's version is perfect. Midsize. "Little Shop" is so frequently produced-by small theatres, and even high schools--that one might be fooled into thinking it's a small show, and yet, I also saw the Broadway in Portland Touring Version,  in the mammoth Keller Auditorium, where it was swallowed. (I just realized "swallowed" is a delicious unintentional pun!) Also, the medium-ness of the production allows the puppets to tower even more.

Here's my advice:

1. Take a reluctant friend

2. Be ready to laugh

3. Don't feed the plants

Monday, September 12, 2016

"Trevor" @ Artist's Rep

I must admit that when I skimmed the synopsis of "Trevor" in one of Artist Rep's mailings, my first reaction was, "Huh?" I remember a phrase along the lines of, "washed-up showbiz monkey." (You just said, 'huh?,' didn't you?") Now add in the fact that the aforementioned washed-up showbiz monkey is-by stern admonition of playwright Nick Jones-not in  any kind of chimp costume, and your confusion should double.

"Trevor" may be the funniest play I have seen at Artist's Rep. Artist's Rep is usually at least a little darker in the majority of their choices than, perhaps, Portland Center Stage, and while the idea for the play was gleaned from tragic news stories, most of the humor in "Trevor" is light, which is a nice change of pace, despite my preference for its opposite. Even though the "news story" inspiration is mentioned in the playbill, as well as Jones' careful foreshadowing within the play, we like Trevor so much, the sobering turn comes as far more of a surprise than it should.

This is due to John San Nicholas' performance-to call  it "fully-committed" is a nearly inexcusable understatement-but it's the best I can do.

"Trevor" is the kind of show that will reward you if you can get past the fact that it sounds like it should never, ever, have worked. Let me assure you, it does.

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

A Funny Thing Happened On the Way to the Forum @ Broadway Rose

Dan Murphy is usually the "M.C." for Broadway Rose's productions, introducing the show and thanking donors. As far as I know, he has never before graced their stage as an actor. After "A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum," I am convinced that it should become a far more common occurrence. His Pseudolus  is hilarious.

The cover of the playbill should have been a reminder that "West Side Story" and "Forum" were presented at Broadway Rose back-to-back, but I just thought of the nice combination of dark Sondheim washed down by light-Sondheim. They really do make unexpectedly nice bookends. Go see Broadway Rose flex their muscles once again, but in an entirely different way.

Gregory Alan Isakov @ The Crystal Ballroom 8-8-16

Gregory Alan Isakov opened for Josh Ritter at the Aladdin Theater years ago, and  he's been on my "remember that name" list ever since. So, I approached his Crystal Ballroom show with great anticipation. I was not disappointed. In fact, from the very first moment, I was treated like a royalty, scoring a wristband for the VIP Area.  Isakov belongs to what I term The Trinity of Literary Folk-Rock, along with Josh Ritter and Joe Pug.

He was accompanied by The Ghost Orchestra, and they performed so well together, I found myself hoping that the show was being recorded. It was sonic-heaven. The show was at once symphonic and rocking.  My one complaint was the remarkably low lighting. They may have been striving for a "mood",  but in reality it was just plain dark.

It is my privilege to highly recommend Mr. Isakov to you,  here is a sampling:

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

"West Side Story" @ Broadway Rose

Broadway Rose's "West Side Story" has a 15-piece band. This is remarkable for a theatre of its size. It is quite possibly remarkable for a theatre twice its size. "West Side Story" signals a gigantic leap-forward in all ways, from orchestra to cast-size for Tigard's little theatre with enormous ambition. This production is probably on par with the expansion to its own theatre-building.

Broadway Rose's rendering of the Sondheim classic boasts fiercely talented leads in returning local-actor Andrew Wade as Tony, and Mia Pinero as Maria.

"West Side Story" marked a transition into grittier territory than what was expected in musicals of the era, and in certain ways,  even now. In that way, it is a show that may appeal to those of us whose tastes run a little darker.

I must restate for a final time, the impressiveness of its scope. Are even bigger things on the horizon?

Monday, June 13, 2016

Vandaveer at The KINK Skype Live Studio 6/10/16

I first saw Vandaveer  open for Joe Pug at the Doug Fir Lounge. They were a good fit. Both are folky and poetically verbose, but Vandaveer is heavier on harmony, whereas Pug is a vocal soloist even when accompanied by a band. There was very little room for the interview portion of their Skype show because the absolutely insane traffic had made them late, and they had some other engagement immediately after, which was in addition to their ticketed evening performance. Therefore, the only knowledge gleaned from the exceptionally brief interview was that many of the band's members are native to Kentucky, but all met each other and formed the band in D.C. And that their final song's lyrics were penned by an Oregon based poet.

Here's an an animated music video from their new album "The Wild Mercury":

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Brett Dennen @ The Skype Live Studio June 2, 2016

Brett Dennen is a poet. A singer-songwriter of the highest order. He is capable of both contemplative lyrics and bouncy melodies. His Skype Live Studio set was acoustic, which is well-suited to that venue, and showcased the aforementioned contemplative lyrics, but since  I am a newly-minted fan, I came home and found the studio-versions. The album version of Cassidy, (from his latest effort "Por Favor") is far more upbeat than the way he played it at Skype. Hearing it both ways was a privilege, and a testament to Dennen's versatility as a musician.

All but one of Dennen's songs came from "Por Favor," he played "San Francisco" in response to an audience member's request to pay tribute to The Golden State Warriors. Apparently, Dennen is a sports-fan as well, because he said, "Not that they need any help." he also had occasion to imitate an audience member's dance moves, (thankfully at a different performance), which demonstrated his humorous side. Once again, audience members at The Skype Live Studio are treated to seeing musicians in an intimate way that would be impossible at a full-scale concert. It is a jewel of the city.

Friday, May 27, 2016

Michael Tyler @ The Skype Live Studio

This is my second-entry in an ongoing series of reviews at Alpha Broadcasting's Skype Live Studio. I usually refer it as KINK's Skype Live Studio, but today's performance by Michael Tyler was hosted by Alpha's Country station, "The Bull".  According to his introduction by personalities from The Bull's morning show,  Mr. Tyler is best-known for penning "Somewhere on a Beach,"  currently a hit-song for Dierks Bentley. I truly prefer Mr. Tyler's version. He also sang a song called "Hi Momma" I predict it will be a hit as well.

One of the greatest advantages of reviewing Skype Shows on a regular basis is finding out about artists i would have otherwise never encountered. The performers I've seen under the KINK-banner usually have an evening show at a local venue, Michael Tyler did not, but if he had, I would have rushed out immediately to buy a ticket.

I can't quite gauge how well-known he is, but I have a feeling that he is just beginning his career. In that case, it is a distinct privilege to say, "You heard it here first."

"Hawthorne" @ Action/Adventure Theatre

Zoe Rudman is a very versatile actress. I know this because only exposure to her work was "Fierce Love" in which all her roles were light-hearted. So, it was quite a shock to see she was playing the lead in "Hawthorne,"  a neo-noir world premiere at Action/Adventure Theatre. Sure, there are the wisecracks that are expected of the genre, (some quite good), but "Hawthorne" also requires a fair amount of seriousness. I guess I shouldn't be too surprised that Ms. Rudman does a masterful job, my favorite scene of hers in "Fierce Love" involved finding the humor in learning how to pick yourself up after learning your child has been diagnosed with a disability.  If that's not a mix of funny and somber I don't know what is. (Ms. Rudman played a "Stunt Double.")

Also of note are the expressive projections, and the truly moody instrumental score. Unfortunately, some of the projections were not just for scene-setting, but included small jokes or necessary information like internet search results, and sometimes I missed them, either due to their speed or my sightline. Also unfortunate is "Hawthorne" 's relatively brief run, Thurs-Sat, thru June 4. I sincerely hope they extend it, there was a packed house the night I attended, so they may.  I look forward to seeing more work from Action/Adventure, and of course, Ms. Rudman.