Tuesday, January 31, 2023

Snapshots So Much More Than A Scrapbook by Tina Arth

A Musical Scrapbook is playing at Broadway Rose’s New Stage, 12850
SW Grant Avenue, Tigard through Sunday, February 19th.

Although I love musical theater, I still generally have modest hopes for musical
revues, even in the deft hands of a company as skilled as Broadway Rose. I expect
to hear memorable songs sung by strong vocalists with clear solos and complex
and beautiful harmonies. I expect to see all of this draped loosely around a story
line that sometimes fits, sometimes feels like an afterthought. However, I do not
expect to be moved – much less driven to tears – by the beauty of a tale that
unfolds on stage and is enhanced rather than limited by the music. To say that
Snapshots: A Musical Scrapbook exceeded my expectations is a vast

The show is based on thirty + songs from the rich musical catalogue of
playwright/songwriter Stephen Schwartz (think Wicked, Godspell, Pippin,
Enchanted, Children of Eden, as well as a few shows I’ve never heard of and a
couple of songs written just for Snapshots). Among the many unique features of
this utterly original work, perhaps the most extraordinary is that Schwartz
collaborated closely with playwright David Stern, actually rewriting the lyrics to
some of his most iconic songs to conform to the needs of the book. The result is a
completely new story, woven seamlessly around music that is often familiar but
that can be experienced in an entirely new light.

The story covers thirty + years in the relationship between Sue and Dan,
childhood friends/buddies who eventually marry, raise a son, and find themselves
drifting apart. Sue is planning to leave her husband, and comes across a box of old
snapshots while packing in the attic. As she and Dan look at the snapshots they
relive the path that has brought them to this point. Vignettes from various
periods in their lives are handled by six actors – the mature Sue and Dan (Ali Bell
and Andrew Maldarelli), the young adult Susan and Daniel (Marin Donohue and
Alex Trull), and the children Susie and Danny (Sophie MacKay and Collin Carver).
While the story shifts frequently between past and present, it’s easy to adjust to
the rhythm, and it’s fascinating to watch Sue and Dan interact (through their
memories) with their younger selves.

The entire cast brings remarkable vocal and dramatic prowess to each scene; the
solos and vocal ensemble work are equally sublime, and the mixture of nostalgia
and loneliness is leavened by frequent moments of witty awareness and even flat-
out comedy (MacKay’s sassy charm and Carver’s defensive insecurity are
wonderful, and as cheerleader “Marilou” Carver is simply stunning). A high point
in the show, for me, was finally hearing Maldarelli utter the last words in “With
You,” and Bell drove me to tears with the quiet “The Hardest Part of Love.” In a
show replete with strong voices, Trull still manages to stand out, and he and
Donohue are unforgettable in the much-reprised “If We Never Meet Again.”

Music Director/Conductor Colin Shepard manages to weave piano, bass, drums
and guitar into orchestral accompaniment worthy of each song’s illustrious
origins, and Director Annie Kaiser has navigated the swirls and eddies of an
incredibly complex show so that it flows smoothly. Scenic Designer Larry Larsen
has built a beautifully cluttered, utterly believable multi-level attic perfectly suited
to the mood of the show. In short, I could not love it more.

Friday, January 27, 2023

Proof – I’m Convinced by Tina Arth


Photo by Beth Moore shows Katie Souza, Amelia Michaels, and Jason Paris

Mask & Mirror’s latest is one of those “stop reading right now, get your tickets, then come back if you are so moved” shows. I would say this if it were playing in a 500-seat theater, but myadvice is all the more urgent because playwright David Auburn’s Proof is on stage at the tiny Tualatin Heritage Center and there are only six remaining performances. The Pulitzer Prize/Tony Award winning play, in the hands of Director Tony Broom and four superb actors, is hands down the most powerful and moving thing I’ve seen since local stages reopened after the pandemic shut-downs. 

Other than my general awareness that the play involves mathematical theory, I had no idea what to expect – I had never seen the stage play before, nor have I seen the 2005 movie version. To say that I was blown away is an understatement – the script is brilliant, and clearly informed by the author’s deep understanding of the nuances of both mental illness and the mathematical mind. Even the best script requires careful direction of the right actors to really shine, and Broom has guided his fine cast through both character and plot twists with a subtle, steady and knowing touch.


In a spoiler-free nutshell: Catherine (Amelia Michaels) remains in her family home, where she has been caretaker to her recently deceased father Robert (Greg Prosser), a once brilliant mathematician whose mind has succumbed to mental illness. Catherine’s sister Claire (Katie Souza) is determined to convincethe obviously depressed Catherine come live with her in New York. One of Robert’s former students, Hal (Jason Paris), suspects that his previously-gifted mentor may have left a spark of genius in his hundreds of notebooks (many filled with drivel), and he is determined to search them all. By the end, Hal finds both the proof (mathematical) and proof (as in compelling and irrefutable evidence) that nicely ties the strands of the plot writ large and the human relationships together into a satisfying whole.


Michaels delivers a master class in acting throughout the show – there was not a moment that she was on stage that I was not riveted by her performance as she revealed herself and developed her very different relationships with her fellow cast members.  During the few times that she was on the sidelines I was torn about who to watch, so my head swiveled back and forth to catch every movement and expression. Prosser’s “Robert” has just the right flat, mindlessly abrasive affect to convey his mental illness, and is surprisingly passionate in the moments when he is (or thinks he is) in control. Souza is hard to love as Claire  trying to be the “good” daughter but coming across as appallingly pushy and domineering – but she ultimately shows us enough of her background to convince us that she’s not a monster. Paris is simply fabulous as Hal – naïve, academically ambitious, good-hearted but utterly clueless in the ways of the world, crushing on his mentor’s daughter and still enamored of his professor’s former brilliance. 


A final note – the sets at the Tualatin Heritage Center is notoriously, necessarily minimalist, and never more so than in Mask & Mirror’s staging of Proof where the set décor consists almost completely of a folding table, three chairs, and a snow shovel. I can give no higher praise for this show than to say that it simply doesn’t matter – it’s the performances that make the show, and an elaborate set would have been at best a distraction.


Mask & Mirror’s Proof is playing at The Tualatin Heritage Center, 8700 SW Sweek Drive, Tualatin, through Sunday, February 5, with performances at 7:30 on Fridays and Saturdays, 3:00 on Sundays.


Thursday, January 26, 2023

5 Lesbians Eating a Quiche – a Light Snack at Twilight by Tina Arth

Fey Devro, August Wygal, Alicia Turvin, Jenny Tien, and Brit 

There is a lot to like about Twilight Theater Company’s current production, 5 Lesbians Eating a

Quiche – the comic chops of the five actors, the careful fidelity of the set, costumes, and

makeup to the show’s time and place, some fun special effects with both lighting and sound,

and director Jeremy Abe’s attention to his cast’s blocking, delivery, timing, and pacing. Can you

feel a “but” coming? Here it is: I really am not thrilled with the script. I know it’s not fair to

expect a lot of depth from any farce, even with a topic as deliciously dark as this one, but 5

Lesbians feels more like a super-sized The Kids in the Hall sketch than a fully realized, two-act


Playwrights Evan Linder and Andrew Hobgood begin with a premise ripe for exploration and

exploitation – it’s the annual Quiche Breakfast of the Susan B. Anthony Society for the Sisters of

Gertrude Stein (just in case the title didn’t cue us in on the lesbian angle?). The entire audience

is made part of the club – we have been randomly issued name tags giving us overtly female

identities before we enter the theater, and the cast frequently alludes to our presence as

society members. The five lesbians referred to in the title are, of course, the five actors on a

stage that represents a middle-American community center basement/bomb shelter at the

height of Red scare paranoia in 1956. These are Officially Good Christian Women who are either

heavily closeted or truly unaware that they are lesbians, despite their overt disgust with all

things male and frenetic devotion to all things egg-related. There are definitely lots of laughs,

drawn in large part by fine physical comedy, but by the end of a very brief Act I most of the core

jokes have been trotted out (for the first time, at least).

That said, it’s a fun show to watch - - just keep your literary expectations low and immerse

yourself in the performances. Jenny Tien (“Ginny”) sports a wonderful accent, her

pronunciation of “quiche” is captivatingly inept, and her full-throated/utensil-free attack on the

winning quiche is worth the price of admission. August Wygal (“Dale”) goes from peppy

photographer to trauma-laden hysteric in a smooth arc, and her final incarnation as athletic

hero is oddly hilarious – as is her demise. The real power in the Susan B. Anthony Society is held

by Lulie (the president, played with admirable ferocity by Alicia Turvin), Wren (Brit Eagan, a

twittering dynamo of an events chair), and the overtly butch Vern (Fey Devro), facilities

manager/construction guru who takes no crap from anybody. Each of these power players

helps to drive the utterly implausible script, laden with PBOT-sized plot holes, to the show’s

appropriately illogical conclusion.

From the abundant laughter on opening night, it was clear that the audience was amply

entertained, and sometimes that’s all that’s required. If you need some laughs and a light

evening out (as we all occasionally do) then I definitely recommend 5 Lesbians…just be

prepared for a theatrical snack rather than a hearty meal!

5 Lesbians Eating a Quiche is playing at Twilight’s Performing Arts Theater, 7515 N. Brandon

Avenue, Portland, through February 5 th with performances at 8 pm on Friday and Saturday and

3 pm on Sunday. There is an additional 8 pm performance on Thursday, February 2 nd .

Wednesday, December 7, 2022

Strap Yourself in for Bag&Baggage’s Danny and the Deep Blue Sea by Tina Arth

Janelle Rae and Jayna Sweet

I mean it – Bag&Baggage’s production of Danny and the Deep Blue Sea is a wild ride – 70
minutes of some of the most intense emotional and physical theater I’ve ever experienced.
“Enjoyable” may not be the right word to describe it – perhaps try “riveting” and
“heartbreaking” and ”authentic” and “intimate” and “raw,” but ultimately two exquisite
performances that kept me vibrating for hours after the stage went dark. In 1984, playwright
John Patrick Shanley (better known for Moonstruck, Doubt: A Parable, and other later work)
emerged as a playwright of note when he brought Danny to New York and London stages.
Director T.S. McCormick honors Shanley’s original vision with laser-like focus, and his actors are
simply brilliant.

The play brings Danny and Roberta, two severely damaged, sometimes explosive, and
psychologically fragile people, together in a deserted bar where they literally and figuratively
crash against each other as they reach out for a human connection. Each is tortured by a secret
– a “bad thing” that they have done, and that they believe is so unforgiveable that they do not
deserve love. As they work through Danny’s nearly uncontrollable rage and Roberta’s crippling
shame, they manage for at least one night to find comfort, peace, acceptance, and a touching
version of love in each other’s arms.

The on-stage chemistry between Janelle Rae (“Danny”) and Jayna Sweet (“Roberta”) is electric -
props not only to the actors and director, but to intimacy choreographer Amanda Vander Hyde
for helping to make this unlikely coupling believable. Rae is violently jacked up for most of the
play, with open wounds on their face and hands serving as mutely powerful testimony to
Danny’s dangerous physical and mental state. Sweet’s character initially seems unreasonably
calm – Danny’s fury is met with a fearless combination of seductiveness and sauciness that
makes sense only when her despair leaks though and we learn that she’s not afraid because, in
her despair, she really doesn’t believe that her life has any value. Rae and Sweet each commit
100% to their characters and lend their transformation a gripping authenticity.

Blanca Forzán’s scenic design is perfectly proportioned to the action - two simple but detailed
sets on a rotating platform to create a seamless transition from bar to Roberta’s small room.
Gabe Costales’ lighting design – in particular, the use of artificial light in place of open sky –
embraces the themes and enhances the moodily surreal atmosphere. A final note – Director
McCormick’s choice to set the action at Christmas time is inspired. While nothing in the script
implies a holiday setting , the small touches highlight the vast divide between conventional
familial warmth and the desperate loneliness of so many trauma victims. Danny is a show that
will stay with its audience for a long, long time.

Content warning: due to mature language and themes of sexual violence, the show is not
appropriate for children, and could be triggering to some survivors.

Bag&Baggage’s Danny and the Deep Blue Sea is playing at The Vault, 350 E. Main Street,
Hillsboro, through December 18 th , with 7:30 p.m. performances Thursday, Friday, and Saturday
and 2:00 p.m. Sunday matinees. There will be a meet and greet with B&B’s new artistic
director, Nik Whitcomb, following the December 16 th performance.

Monday, December 5, 2022

Christmas Carol – A Ghost Story By Tina Arth


Ruth Jenkins, Samm Hill, Tony Domingue, and Morgan Harrison

Ever since 1962, when Mr. Magoo first transformed A Christmas Carol from a Victorian morality

play into a comic holiday tradition, film makers and playwrights have been finding new and

bizarrely wonderful ways to twist Charles Dickens’ classic novella. Twilight Theater Company’s

current production of playwright Jerry A. Montoya’s 2007 adaptation, Christmas Carol – A

Ghost Story, fits squarely into this proud tradition – it’s as whacked out as they come, yet still

adheres to the basic tenets and themes of the original. Director Leslie Inmon has allowed her

imagination (and her cast) to run just a little bit wild, and the result is a fast-paced, occasionally

chaotic two hours where the audience and the cast compete to see who can have the most fun.

I will assume that you are familiar with the basics: Scrooge, Marley, Cratchit, Tiny Tim, ghosts,

laundresses, Fan, Fezziwig, Belle, and of course the original Big Bird – and all are faithfully, if

sometimes playfully, represented in Montoya’s version of the story. However, the Twilight

production includes several non-Dickensian touches, including a pirate, a camo-wearing

narrator who opens the show by leading an enthusiastic audience sing-a-long of “We Wish You

A Merry Christmas” (twice on opening night, due to unforeseen technical difficulties), and a

surprisingly jovial Marley’s Ghost who seems to be having entirely too much fun in his tortured

afterlife. The costumes and sets capture the same playful spirit, with occasional stabs at period

fidelity but lots of wiggle room – kudos to the revolving door that sometimes hides, sometimes

reveals, a multitude of critical stuff!

The cast is generally strong, although, as to be expected, there were a few opening night

hiccups. Special props to Samm Hill – his Scrooge is a delight, and he navigates from cranky

(dare I say, Scrooge-like?) to warm and genial on his journey to salvation. Elliott Dutcher’s

“Fred” is downright hyperactive as he bounces around the stage, and he definitely makes the

role his own! Carl Dahlquist’s “Marley” is a real audience pleaser – his broad, self-aware grin

lets us know that he knows we are watching, and that he’s fine with that. Each of the narrators

fulfills a critical role, with top honors in this category going to the camo-clad, sing-a-long leading

Tony Domingue and the frighteningly intense Lindsey LaFollett. Of course, all eyes are on Jade

Vanderhoof every time child Scrooge, Tiny Tim, or the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come appears

on stage – no actor ever wants to compete with a kid, and Jade provides fierce competition.

Conclusion? Charles Dickens would probably have been appalled to see what playwright

Montoya, in the capable hands of Inmon and her cast, have done to his novella. On the other

hand, the opening night Twilight audience, in many cases jaded by dozens of renditions of A

Christmas Carol, was highly amused and fully invested in this unexpectedly whlmsical,

thoroughly family friendly if occasionally dark and ghostly, take on the classic tale.

Christmas Carol – A Ghost Story is playing at Twilight’s Performing Arts Theater, 7515 N.

Brandon Avenue, Portland, through December 18 th with performances at 8 pm on Fridays and

Saturdays and 3 pm on Sundays.

Friday, December 2, 2022

Kick off A Very Merry PDX-Mas at Broadway Rose By Tina Arth


Among the plethora of holiday highlights in my world, few are as filled with untrammeled joy as the annual Broadway Rose Christmas show, and this year’s offering no exception. For 2022, Portland’s premier musical theater troupe resurrects and updatesA Very Merry PDX-mas, their traditional script-free revue of established holiday classics delivered by a superb ensemble cast (augmented with a memorable children’s choir). The key to making it a fresh experience, rather than a re-hash of every Christmas CD on your shelf (OK – I’m dating myself – but you get the point) is twofold: first, many of the lyrics have been skillfully, hilariously given a distinctive PDX touch through Abe Reybold’s “original direction and specialty material” in collaboration with vocal arranger Jay Tumminello, and second, the lineup incorporates some hauntingly beautiful tunes that are not necessarily associated with Christmas, but deepen the emotional impact of the production. Director Sharon Maroney and Music Director Billy Thompson, in collaboration with Reybold,  Tumminello, and Broadway Rose’s usual cast of excellent vocalists, have crafted two hours of superb, family-friendly entertainment. 

In all the show offers 18 full songs; add in the Winter Medley, Kidz Medley, Santa Swings Medley, and the Big Nativity Medley and the audience is treated to all or part of almost 50 songs ranging from the serene and sacred to the humorously irreverent. Interspersed among holiday GOAT contenders like “White Christmas” and “O Holy Night” the cast offers up some great Reybold twists like the classic “Joy to the ‘Burbs” (is any PDX special complete without digs at Clackamas Town Center, Washington Square, and Bridgeport Mall?). His “Green X-mas” takes aim, fires, and lands a direct hit on Portland’s  oh-so eco-conscious, virtue-signaling populace, and we can all relate to the tragic “Re-Gifter’s Lament.” 

Vocalists Cara Arcuni, Michael Hammerstrom, William Shindler, Richie Stone, Malia Tippets, Tara Velarde, and Blythe Woodland each offer something special in addition to their fine ensemble work. Watch for Woodland’s exquisite “Breath of Heaven,” Tippets’ classic “O Holy Night,” Arcuni’s “White Christmas,” and Schindler and Stone’s “Children, Go Where I send Thee.” For kitschy nostalgia, look no  further than Hammerstrom’s “l Like Old PeopleDon’t You?” Comic effects are sprinkled throughout with songs like Velarde’s Shalom Santa” and by frequent slightly whacked-out cameos fromBroadway Rose managing director Dan Murphy. The cast is rounded out by the cutest children’s choir in recent memory -eleven singing, dancing, grinning little elves whose presence reminds us of the importance of children in the holiday season.

The collaboration of scenic designer Jim Crino, lighting designer Carl Faber, and technical director Phil McBeth brings magic to stage with special effects to fit every mood. Another dynamite team is pianist/conductor Billy Thompson, bassist Amy Roesler, and drummer Zac Stowell whose non-stop beautiful music and artistry cannot be overpraised as they enhance every moment of the show.

If you are not yet feeling the holiday season, let Broadway Rose drive the Grinch from your psyche – and if your heart is already full, grab some tickets and let your holiday cup overflow!

A Very Merry PDX-mas is playing at Broadway Rose’s New Stage, 12850 SW Grant Avenue, Tigard through Thursday, December 22.

Wednesday, October 26, 2022

A Very LOoPy Ruddigore by Tina Arth

Picture shows Lindsey Lefler, Chad Dickerson, Laurence Cox, Casey 
Lebold, and a Chorus of Professional Bridesmaids

Light opera should be fun, and by that measure alone, Light Opera of Portland’s
current production of Gilbert and Sullivan’s Ruddigore is a clear success. However,
LOoP’s return to the Multnomah Arts Center after a five-year absence is a delight
on every level – and with only a two-week run, and three performances left, I
recommend that plan your weekend around this gem. It’s clearly a labor of love,
and several players are doing double duty – there’s Director (and set designer,
and Robin Oakapple) Laurence Cox, Music Director (playing keyboard/synthesizer)
Reece Sauve, Costume Designer (and Rose Maybud) Lindsey Lefler, and Producer
(and Dame Hannah) Sara Rivara. These key players and the rest of the 21-person
cast work together seamlessly to wring every drop of humor out of this bawdy
parody of conventional melodrama.

Not unexpectedly, the plot is convoluted and fairly silly. Many years ago, a witch
placed a strange curse on the Baronets of Ruddigore which rendered them wicked
and required them to commit at least one crime each day (the first Baronet of
Ruddigore had rudely burnt her at the stake). Failure to fulfill the rules of the
curse doomed the Baronet to die in agony. After the death of the most recent
Baronet, Sir Ruthven, his younger brother Despard inherited the title and its
attendant wickedness. In the meantime, the exceptionally proper Rose Maybud,
fairest woman in the village, has no suitors – all of the eligible men are afraid to
speak their hearts, and none will wed another if there’s a chance of winning Rose.
A chorus of professional bridesmaids yearns for the day that Rose will wed, as
their careers have been stunted by the absence of any weddings for the past six

Timid, lovestruck young farmer Robin Oakapple has caught Rose’s eye, and she
his, but her obsession with etiquette and his timidity make courting impossible –
until Robin’s foster brother, the dashing rake Richard Dauntless, offers to speak
up for Robin. Richard takes one look at Rose, falls in love, and proposes to her –
and she accepts. Side plot alert: the evil Sir Despard Murgatroyd, wicked Baronet
of Ruddigore, has broken the heart of Mad Margaret, a crazed maiden – and she
fears that Sir Despard will carry Rose off as one of his daily crimes. Rose assures
her that she is betrothed to another and that Mad Margaret need not worry.
There’s lots more, much of it entertainingly preposterous, but you’ll have to see
the show (or consult Wikipedia, I suppose) to find out how it all turns out!

The Professional Bridesmaids, led by Zorah (Dominique Garrison), are marvelous
as they flit about the stage dancing and singing their little hearts out (and flirting
madly with any man in sight). Their male counterparts, the chorus of sailors,
bucks, and blades, are hilarious as they gamely attempt to execute the
choreography – the sailors’ hornpipe and other dances juxtapose nicely with their
flawless vocal harmonies. Sara Rivara’s dry performance as Dame Hannah delivers
a dose of (at least by G&S standards) relative sanity, and she plays a central role in
delivering the back story of the Wicked Baronets, plus her contralto stands out
nicely on a stage full of sopranos.

For me, Chad Dickerson’s “Richard Dauntless” clearly takes top honors for
comedy – he never misses a chance to express his character’s insuppressibly
bawdy and self-serving nature; while delivering his vocals in a blameless tenor, he
makes the most of the nickname “Dick” at every opportunity. Laurence Cox uses
his marvelous voice as well as the comic timing needed for Robin Oakapple as he
switches convincingly from timid hero to a reluctant, ineffective villain and back
again – Dauntless may be the family seaman, but Cox navigates the show’s most
improbable plot and character twists. Finally, there’s Lindsey Lefler’s “Rose” – as
always, Lefler’s soprano vocals are impeccable, but it is her straight-faced
expression of the character’s bizarre addiction to etiquette that really makes the

The costumes and set are perfect – elaborate costumes, simple set – with a huge
thumbs up for the clever Act II portraits! Sauve’s work on the synthesizer stands
in nicely for a room full of instruments, and the frequent interplay between Sauve
and the cast adds another level of humor to an already funny show. Quite
honestly, I was shocked that the production didn’t get a massive standing ovation
– perhaps when you see it you can remedy this grave injustice!

Light Opera of Portland’s production of Ruddigore is playing at the Multnomah
Arts Center, 7688 SW Capitol Highway, Portland through Sunday, October 30 th ,
with shows at 7:00 pm on Friday and Saturday and a 1:00 pm Sunday matinee.