Friday, January 2, 2009

'Glorious!' might be best of theater schedule

Published in The News Tribune, Jan. 2, 2009

Theatergoers in the South Sound have some wonderfully original and entertaining performances to look forward to this year, the most unusual of which may be “Glorious!,” a musical about the worst singer in the world, at Tacoma Musical Playhouse.

“Glorious!” is based on the true story of Florence Foster Jenkins, a New York society dame who thought she was a great singer, though she was anything but, and who was loved by audiences precisely because her singing was so atrocious (audience hilarity egged on by Jenkins’ longtime accompanist, Cosmé McMoon, who made faces at her behind her back wherever they performed).

It must take some special comedic acting skills to play a bad singer and make it entertaining, without sending the audience running for the hills, and if anyone can pull that off, TMP favorite Sharry O’Hare as Florence is just the actress to do the job. O’Hare will be joined on stage by a small supporting cast of some of the area’s finest actors and opera enthusiasts, including Tom Birkeland, Kat Dollarhide, Maria Valenzuela, Jill Goodman and Josh Anderson. (I can’t imagine anyone else could possibly be a better McMoon than Anderson, one of South Sound’s premiere comic actors, who is known for his roles as Melvin P. Thorpe in “Best Little Whorehouse in Texas” and the Elvis-like “visitor” in “Picasso at the Lapin Agile.”)

Chris Serface is well known as an actor and director at TMP and at Capital Playhouse in Olympia, as well as for his work with Tacoma Children’s Musical Theater. When asked what is the best play coming up in 2009 Serface said: “I immediately want to say ‘Glorious!,’ seeing as it is something entirely different and new for our patrons to experience, but then a part of me says ‘Hold on, what about the other shows?’ and I have to stop and look at the four great shows we have coming up for the main stage and realistically say I am excited the most for ‘The Wizard of Oz.’ ”

Seface said he’s hoping for a part in “Oz.” The other two shows he referred to are “Footloose” and “The Producers.”

Like TMP, Olympia’s Capital Playhouse has a lineup of outstanding musicals. Capital Playhouse publicist Stephanie Nace said “A Little Night Music” and “A Grand Night for Singing” are two to watch for. “Both are going to be really great shows,” she said.

Nace said “A Grand Night for Singing” is “a marvelous showcasing of the music and lyrics of Rodgers and Hammerstein. Lovers of this celebrated songwriting duo from the golden age of musical theater will enjoy the revue immensely, and those looking for something contemporary will adore the fresh and current musical arrangements of classic numbers from R&H favorites including ‘Oklahoma!’ ‘South Pacific,’ ‘Cinderella’ and ‘State Fair.’”

Steven Sondheim’s “A Little Night Music,” coming to Capital Playhouse in May, was inspired by Ingmar Bergman’s “Smiles of a Summer Night.” Nace said they are offering it as a tribute to Bergman, who died in 2008. Calling it “one of Broadway’s most neglected masterpieces,” Nace said it is “romantic and achingly beautiful” and “disarmingly warm, funny, charming and very human.”

Another unique musical offering will be the world premiere of “Carl Sagan’s Contact” at Centerstage, based on Sagan’s sci-fi novel, with music by Peter Sipos, lyrics by Amy Engelhardt and book by Alan Bryce.

Finally, for fans of comedy, Lakewood Playhouse presents “Greater Tuna” this month. “Greater Tuna” is a send-up of small-town morals and mores featuring the eccentric denizens of a tiny town in Texas. It’s been one of America’s most popular comedies for more than two decades, and it is also one of the most challenging of plays for any company to produce because it calls for two actors to play all 20 parts. In this case, Marcus Walker, managing artistic director, and Scott Campbell, associate managing artistic director. This one should be a hoot.


“Greater Tuna,” Thursday-Jan. 18: Lakewood Playhouse, Lakewood, 253-588-0042,

“A Grand Night for Singing,” Jan. 29-Feb. 21: Capital Playhouse, Olympia, 360-943-2744,

“Glorious!” Jan. 30-Feb. 2: Tacoma Musical Playhouse, Tacoma, 253-565-6867,

“Carl Sagan’s Contact,” May 8-31: Centerstage, Knutzen Family Theatre, Federal Way, 253-661-1444,

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