Looking for a cool workout that will leave you feeling energized and inspired?
Then race from one show to another at Vashon Theatre Fest, as I did last weekend, checking out the bounty of all that is on offer, thanks to the work of Vashon Repertory Theatre’s artistic director, Charlotte Tiencken, and a company of almost 60 theater artists from Vashon and beyond.
The festival runs through July 31.
First up on my list was “Somewhere Between,” a new musical with book, music and lyrics by accomplished theater artist and islander Alan Bruce Becker.
Becker also plays the role of one of his musical’s main characters, a charming but enigmatic drifter who shows up in a small town in Idaho, complicating the relationship of two local soon-to-be-newlyweds.
The musical, which is aiming for a production off-Broadway, has a beautiful pop-jazz score, allowing intricate harmonies between all the members of the talented cast. The show’s love story is also distinctive — one I’d never before seen on stage.
Shining in the show, in particular, are performances by Casey Raiha and Cassi Kohl, who play the couple whose plans are upended when they find themselves suddenly navigating an unexpected love triangle.
Kohl is a supremely talented Broadway-style singer, whose pitch-perfect mixed belting is nothing short of show-stopping.
Part of the fun of attending the show is witnessing how the sausage of a musical gets made — the show is in development, and still has a way to go before it is ready for off-Broadway in terms of its structure, pacing and character development.
Vashon Repertory Theatre is to be commended for nurturing the artistic enterprise of “Somewhere Between” along its way to bigger audiences.
Be a part of the journey at 7 pm. Friday, July 29, and 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. Saturday, July 30, at Vashon Center for the Arts.
This acclaimed one-person show, about the music and life of the iconic folksinger and social activist Pete Seeger, comes to Vashon Theatre Fest fully formed, as it has already traveled to stages across the United States.
Its creator and performer, Randy Noojin, inhabits the role of Seeger — telling the story of his uncompromising genius through both song and story.
I thought I knew a lot about Pete Seeger — who wrote such iconic folk anthems as “We Shall Overcome” and “Where Have All the Flowers Gone” — before going into this show.
But Noojin’s show taught me much more about the singer’s role in helping to create the soundtrack for the civil rights, antiwar and environmental movements.
I sang along, I laughed and I also cried a bit as Noojin’s musical journey reminded me just how long and brutal the march toward social justice in America has been and continues to be.
It’s an inspiring show; one that asks its audiences to keep “holding the line” against tyranny, bigotry and fascism.
“Seeger” plays again at 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday, July 29 and 30, and 2 p.m. Sunday, July 31, at Open Space’s Bruce Black Box Theatre.
“Much Ado About Nothing”
Ah, Shakespeare on the Great Lawn of Open Space for Arts & Community — a natural stage boasting towering firs, gentle breezes, and birdsong that gently accents the Elizabethan cadences of “Much Ado About Nothing.”
So, hasten! Hie thee to see this show!
A disclosure: your critic has close personal relationships with several members of the cast and crew of “Much Ado” — in fact, I’ve known some of them since they were tiny babies.
But I’m guessing many audience members will share kinship and friendship with other ensemble members, and that’s definitely part of the fun of going to see this show, or any show, really, on Vashon.
How is it even possible that our small town boasts such a talented cadre of theater artists? How is it possible we share the aisles of Thriftway, much less our lives, with these fabulous people?
I loved seeing local theater stalwarts Miles Wingett, Kaycie Alanis, Maria Glanz, Anthony Winkler, Jeanne Dougherty, Cate O’Kane, Michael Barker and too many others to name tearing up the stage with talented off-island talents.
Christopher Kehoe and Meghan Ames expertly brought hilarious physical comedy, passion and perfect Shakespearean diction to their star turns as the reluctant lovers, Benedick and Beatrice,
Ellie Hughes and Nic Morton, as “Much Ado’s” other star-crossed duo of lovers, also delivered their theatrical A-game to their show — though it must be said that Shakespeare might deserve to be canceled for the sexist raw deal he gives to Hughes’ innocent character, Hero.
But we’ll let the Bard go on this one. Because all is also forgiven in “Much Ado,” as the play unfolds on a vibrantly colorful set designed by islander Max Sarkowsky, who also created the production’s stellar sound design.
“Much Ado About Nothing” plays again at 6 p.m. Friday and Saturday, July 29 and 30, and at 6 p.m. Sunday, July 31, on the Great Lawn of Open Space.
Also being performed on the glorious grounds of Open Space, “5-Minute Wonders” is a series of acts including physical theater, dance and performance art, curated by Janet McAlpin and Elizabeth Klob.
On the evening I attended, some of the acts on view were fill-ins for planned performances that had unfortunately been canceled due to the illness of some of the performers.
But too bad, COVID, you failed to stop the show, because the stand-ins were all marvelous. These included the mindboggling funny, bendy and strong acrobatic duo of Melissa Knowles and Terry Crane, who perform with the West Seattle-based Acrobatic Conundrum.
One of my favorite acts in “5-Minute Wonders” came from Willyum LaBeija, whose performance unexpectedly combined the forms of vogue and flag dancing. C.J. Dudley’s rap performance of “Black in America” was yet another particularly powerful moment in the show.
Other talented performers and creators involved in the show included Maria Glanz, Arlette Moody, Allison Crain-Trundle, Linda Severt, Lynelle Sjolberg, Foster & Frye and the UMO Ensemble.
See “5-Minute Wonders” at 6 p.m. Thursday, July 28, and 3 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, July 30 and 31, on the Great Lawn of Open Space.
Plays in a Snap!
Vashon Theatre Fest also includes a play-reading series, curated by local playwright Trista Baldwin, of new works by rising Northwest authors. Starting again on Friday, all readings take place at 3 p.m. at Snapdragon Café and Bakery.
See “Fetal,” by Trista Baldwin, on Friday, July 29; “Mrs. Hank,” a new musical by “Seeger” creator Randy Noojin, on Saturday, July 31; and ¡O Cascadia,” by Ramón Esquivel, on Sunday, July 31.
For more information about the plays, and to purchase tickets to all performances, visit vashonrepertorytheatre.org.