Theater Preview

Deceptions gone wrong. Christmas music and drama. An incredible journey. Unwelcome visitors and a Shakespearean comedy. An updated Scrooge and classic Agatha Christie. Nuns—some fundraising, some poisoned, one teaching. South Sound theaters have an impressive line-up scheduled for this fall. With comedies, dramas, and musicals, from Olympia to Seattle and places in between, there’s something for every theater buff.

The season gets underway at Olympia Little Theatre. Celebrating their 70th year, the playhouse presents Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Ernest. Two young gentlemen have taken to bending the truth in order to put some excitement into their lives. Jack Worthing has invented a ne’er-do-well brother, Ernest, whom he uses as an excuse to leave his respectable country life behind and visit his ladylove Gwendolyn. Intrigued, his friend, Algy, borrows the identity of “Ernest” to visit Worthing’s young and beautiful ward, Cecily. Things start to go awry when Jack, Algy, and Ernest all make an appearance at the same time and the deception is discovered—which threatens everyone’s love life.

Olympia’s Harlequin Productions features Shakespeare’s As You Like It, in which treachery, jealousy, banishment, escape and a disguise all lead to a hilarious romantic romp in the forest of Arden. The daughter of a banished duke, Rosalind, flees the court with her cousin Celia. Once in the wild wood, she takes on the disguise of a boy in order to advise her heart’s desire, Orlando, and cure him of the foolery of love.

Next in the Harlequin’s line-up is Stardust Homecoming. It’s Christmas Eve 1942 and a mysterious man from the Fulton Street Fish Market makes a delivery to the Stardust. The fish are fresh but he’s long overdue and has a story to tell and a song to share. Stardust Homecoming brings 1940s music, comedy and romance for Christmas.

About a quarter mile east of The Harlequin is the Capital Playhouse. In Nunsense, the Little Sisters of Hoboken need to raise money to bury the sisters accidentally poisoned by the convent cook’s tainted vichyssoise. The five surviving sisters decide the best way to fundraise funeral cash is to put on a telethon variety show. This show has become an international phenomenon bordering on cult classic. These sisters may be on their way to heaven, but they are here to raise some hell!

Olympia’s Washington Center for the Performing Arts produces Late Nite Catechism II. The fun continues in Sister’s second catechism class. It is not necessary to be a graduate of Late Nite Catechism to enjoy this one—Sister will give extra attention to her slower students! She has felt banners, a filmstrip, handouts, historical facts and hysterical insights to explain the goal of every nun: getting into heaven and bringing along as many of the faithful as possible. Using a special version of Chutes & Ladders to demonstrate her point, Sister tells us where we have gone wrong, and no one is excused from her firm belief that “sometimes we feel guilty because we are guilty.”

To the north, The Mousetrap is offered by the Lakewood Playhouse. In the well known Agatha Christie murder mystery play, a crazed murderer seeking revenge stalks a group of victims snowbound at a country inn. Audiences will find this classic suspenseful and funny.

Next up, the cast of the Playhouse performs Tuesdays With Morrie, based on the best-selling true story. Sixteen years after graduation, a journalist happens to learn that his old professor is battling Lou Gehrig’s disease. Mitch looks Morrie up, and what starts as simple visits becomes a class in the meaning of life.

The year ends with Tom Sawyer, the Musical. Mark Twain’s delightful story of Tom, Huck and Becky are freshly set to music conceived and written by the masterful comedic writer Ken Ludwig. The perfect holiday show for the whole family!

Further north, Tacoma Little Theatre’s cast performs Lend Me a Tenor. Saunders, the general manager of the Cleveland Grand Opera Company, is expecting Tito Morelli, the greatest tenor of his generation, to appear for one night only as Otello. Through a hilarious series of comic mishaps, two Otellos end up running around in costume with two women chasing them in lingerie.

TLT moves ahead with A Christmas Story. It’s 1940 in the town of Hohman, Indiana. Nine-year-old Ralphie Parker wants one thing for Christmas—an official Red Ryder BB rifle with a compass in the stock. Everyone tells him “You’ll shoot your eye out, kid.” Between the bully at school and the Old Man’s leg lamp, Ralphie is having a tough Christmas this year.

Tacoma’s Broadway Center has been partnering with a new local acting company, Theatre Northwest. The two entities copresent two shows in 2009-10, utilizing each organization’s strengths and abilities.

One production will be Streetcar Named Desire. Set in the French Quarter of New Orleans during the restless years following World War II, this is the story of Blanche DuBois, a fragile and neurotic woman on a desperate search for someplace in the world to call her own. Blanche turns to her sister Stella for safe harbor, but Stella’s husband Stanley is suspicious of Blanche’s abrupt arrival. The two quickly form a volatile rivalry and Stella increasingly finds herself torn between the two. Stanley’s temper and Blanche’s past threaten to tear their relationships apart. Don’t miss the cultural touchstone written by American playwright Tennessee Williams.

Up next is The Salvation of Iggy Scrooge. A cross between Dickens and a rollicking trip down pop culture’s memory lane, this is an evening of irreverent Christmas cheer. Ebenezer is a burned out misanthropic superstar who snarls through Christmas Eve until a top of the charts gaggle of ghosts shows up: rock legends Buddy Holly, Bob Marley and King Elvis come to boogie with Iggy and set his warped values straight. This inventive Christmas offering reverberates with show stopping tunes and characters that may have never occurred to Dickens.

In Federal Way, the Centerstage Theatre proudly debuts Contact, the world premier of a new musical based on Carl Sagan’s best-selling novel and the hit movie which followed. Contact tells the riveting story of a young woman who embarks on a voyage that humans have only before dreamed of—and the incredible truth that she learns as a result. It promises to be the theatrical experience of a lifetime.

Just in time for the holidays the 5th Avenue in Seattle brings back one of their most popular and beloved productions ever, Irving Berlin’s White Christmas. The story of two ex-soldiers who pursue a pair of lovely ladies right to the lodge that their ex-commanding officer is running is a song-and-dance extravaganza. This show played to large and enthusiastic audiences here in its premiere in Seattle back in 2006, and had a similar reception on Broadway this past winter. Now it returns in a brand-new production with all of the old favorites still intact.

South Sound Theater is alive and well. With too many shows and too little time, reserve your tickets now—there’s something for everyone.

Mary Morgan