Lakewood Theatre

ArtsWatch Weekly: all aboard for Eugene

A Eugene cultural tour, Anne Boleyn's music book, a little shop of horror and a full gallop, monkey business, Yetis, two top art shows, "Hughie," roots music, Alien Boy, guns galore, spirit of '76

There are lots of good reasons to go to Eugene that have nothing to do with Ducks or football. Sure, the presence of the University of Oregon has a lot to do with the quality of things down the valley: two of ArtsWatch’s favorite things, for instance, the Oregon Bach Festival and the Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art, are intimately tied to the university, and a lot of what’s good about Oregon’s new-music scene emanates from the halls and studios of the university’s music department. But the university is far from the only game in town. However you keep your cultural scorecard, Eugene – population roughly 160,000, metro area another 200,000 added to that – consistently hits above its weight.

Here at ArtsWatch we like to keep tabs on what’s happening in the Emerald City, and lately that’s been quite a bit. For starters, check out Gary Ferrington’s Arts Sampler: Eugene by train for a car-free, arts-stuffed weekend, a sort of cultural travelogue for Portlanders looking for a close-to-home adventure. Go ahead, plan an autumn getaway. And if you like, feel free to slip in a football game or a track meet on the side, too.

Portland-bound Amtrak Cascades at Eugene Station.

Portland-bound Amtrak Cascades at Eugene Station.

We’ve also picked up some good features from some top Eugene writers:

— Photographer and arts journalist Bob Keefer, author of the invaluable Eugene Art Talk online journal, has undertaken an almost year-long project of following the development of a new version of The Snow Queen for Eugene Ballet, with a fresh score by Oregon composer Kenji Bunch and choreography by EB’s longtime artistic director, Toni Pimble, who is recognized nationally as a creator of vivid and original ballets. Keefer will write about ten installments leading up to the premiere next spring, and ArtsWatch will reprint them once they’ve debuted on Eugene Art Talk. Here’s Episode 2, focusing on designer Nadya Geras-Carson.

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Today in politics: Singing a revolution

As America scrambles toward the presidential election goal line, Lakewood Theatre harks back to the origins with the high-spirited musical "1776"

They were, in a manner of speaking, the original Tea Partiers. A bunch of stridently anti-tax, small-government extremists, they were hell-bent on disrupting the political status quo, wresting control from the capital and expanding local authority. The prevailing powers likely saw them as kooks, cranks and malcontents.

Yet, under that sainted sobriquet “the Founding Fathers,” they are remembered and revered as some of history’s greatest men — passionate, courageous, resourceful, visionary — and among the most influential political thinkers, writers and activist the world has known.

And if we’re to believe the way they’re being portrayed currently at Lakewood Theatre Company, they could sing a little, too.

Foundational harmonizers, from left: Jeremy Sloan (Robert Livingston), Adam Eliott Davis (Thomas Jefferson), Dennis Corwin (Roger Sherman). Triumph Photography

Foundational harmonizers, from left: Jeremy Sloan (Robert Livingston), Adam Eliott Davis (Thomas Jefferson), Dennis Corwin (Roger Sherman). Triumph Photography

1776, the high-spirited musical by composer/lyricist Sherman Edwards and librettist Peter Stone, dramatizes their finest hour. Well, actually, their finest two months, that crucial period from early May to early July in which the Second Continental Congress, against internal odds and long division (or maybe the reverse), approved a resolution to declare the 13 colonies independent of Great Britain, and so launched a new nation upon the tide of history.

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The Divine Comedy of ‘Nine’

Lakewood's brash and splashy neo-Fellini stage musical ups the ante in the iconic film classic '8½'

A midlife crisis is always a good spectacle, and as a friend noted, the Italians have been having them in style since Dante. Lakewood Theatre Company is getting in the spirit with its current Nine, a Tony Award-winning musical written in 1982 by Maury Yeston and Arthur Kopit. All good stories bare repeating: Nine is based on Frederico Fellini’s 8½ , a semi-autobiographical movie about failing to make a movie, and Nine was made into a film in 2009.

Lakewood keeps outdoing itself this year, and Nine keeps the pattern going. The stage is a labyrinth of scaffolding, faded Roman columns, three projection screens, and moving sets. It’s not the peaceful and grandiose spa where the film is set; it’s a little slice of Italy. The show has a cast of 21, most of them long-legged, curvy, and well-coifed creatures whose form we appreciate and call women. There are only three men, and they play the same character, Guido Contini, star director and writer of the screen.

Matthew Hayward as Guido and Ecatarina Lynn as Carlo in "Nine." Triumph Photography

Matthew Hayward as Guido and Ecatarina Lynn as Carlo in “Nine.” Triumph Photography

Matthew Hayward is Guido, a stand-in for lead Marcello Mastroianni in the film, who in turn was the stand-in for Fellini, the star director and writer of Italian Neo-Realism. Hayward’s Contini is unearthly handsome, like Mastroianni, with the same rough edges of a man who’s seen too many women: the tousled bedhead, the striking 5 o’clock shadow that exudes testosterone and accents the angles of his finely boned chin. Hayward is well-suited, with a white starched shirt and thin tie, vestire bene for the iconic early ’60s. He’s a little slumped at times, and with 18 women on his heels, Jay-Z – who’s known for 99 problems, but not with females – would buy him a drink or two. Contini persuades his wife, Luisa (Chrissy Kelly-Pettit), to get away and take in the waters at an ancient spa. In the meantime, he’s creating a diversion to procrastinate on a script deadline and mental breakdown. Hayward delivers Contini as a scattered earnestness in his deceptions, a playboy with a believable Northern Italian accent. Hayward sings a robust and flawless The Grand Canal, a solo with a complex syncopated rhyme scheme and rhythm, that left the audience in shock.

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PAMTAs: a night for windmills, misbehavin’, Cuban rhythms, and a big green ogre

Lakewood's "Man of La Mancha" takes home the trophies in Monday night's Portland Area Musical Theatre Awards celebration in the Winnie

What do you get with a packed house full of theater lovers celebrating musicals? The ninth annual Portland Area Musical Theater Awards celebration, which took over the Dolores Winningstad Theatre on Monday night to celebrate the best of the 2015-16 season. For one night the Winnie had the cream of Portland’s crop of golden pipes filling the air with some of the best musical numbers of the year.

The evening’s big winner was Don Quixote, who tilted at enough windmills to bring the house down. Lakewood Theatre’s Man of La Mancha took home a helmetful of hardware, winning for best production, actor and supporting actor (Leif Norby as Quixote, Joey Cote as his sidekick Sancho Panza), musical direction (Alan B. Lytle), and sound design (Marcus Storey and Timothy Greenidge).  In addition, Greg Tamblyn was named best director, sharing the award with Chris Coleman, who won for Ain’t Misbehavin‘.

Matthew Brown sings "More Than I Can Say" from "Falsettos," holding the PAMTA audience spellbound. Photo: David Kinder/kinderpics photography

Matthew Brown sings “More Than I Can Say” from “Falsettos,” holding the PAMTA audience spellbound. Photo: David Kinder/kinderpics photography

Portland Center Stage’s Ain’t Misbehavin’ also won for scenic design (Tony Cisek) and lighting design Diane Ferry Williams). The evening’s third big winner was Cuba Libre, the ambitious premiere musical at Artists Repertory Theatre featuring the music of Tiempo Libre. It won for best original production, choreography (Maija Garcia) and original score (Jorge Gomez). Northwest Children’s Theatre’s Shrek: The Musical was a double winner, for outstanding ensemble and costumes (Mary Rochon).

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Don Quixote: a man for all seasons

Lakewood Theatre's revival of "Man of La Mancha" injects some fresh hopefulness into a season of cynicism

Some days it’s easier to roll up the carpet, wipe the twinkle from your eye, and put any hope you may have out to the curb. There will always be an abundance of opportunities to take a turn to the cynical, election cycle or not. This year, however, the better bet is not to brush up on your Thomas More and Utopia, but to take in a little Cervantes: Lakewood Theatre Company has brought back the 1964 musical Man of La Manchaand is making the case for dreamers everywhere.

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A little background hints at why this half-century-old Broadway show remains so familiar and deeply loved. The tale traces all the way back to 1605, when Cervantes’ novel Don Quixote, the inspiration for Man of La Mancha, was published.

Leif Norby (left), Joey Corté, and Pam Mahon in Lakewood's "La Mancha." Photo: Triumph Studios

Leif Norby (left), Joey Corté, and Pam Mahon in Lakewood’s “La Mancha.” Photo: Triumph Studios

Miguel de Cervantes was in a hustle to make a buck near the end of his life: it had been hard and cruel, with one obstacle after another; never did any fair winds of fortune blow his way. He was a 16th century jack-of-all-trades who failed most of his life at being a poet, playwright, soldier, assistant to a cardinal, and tax collector. Like many authors, he was more celebrated after his death than while he was alive. He was imprisoned by pirates in Algiers, and in his darkest of hours he was a victim of the Inquisition: somewhere in his brilliant veins coursed some Jewish blood. He had everything to win, as he had nothing left to lose, when he began writing about Don Quixote and his sidekick Sancho Panza.

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Look up! Look down! Look out!

"Bullshot Crummond" rides again in a new, campy, serial stage adventure at Lakewood

Lakewood Theatre Company continues its love affair with the Golden Age of Hollywood by rolling out lock, stock and smoking barrel a side-splitting homage to the dashing detective. Bullshot Crummond: The Evil Eye of Jabar and The Invisible Bride of Death, in its world-premiere production, is a parody H.C. McNeile’s popular 1920s and ’30s series of books featuring the war hero Bulldog Drummond, and also  takes its cues from Inspector Clouseau, while maintaining the stiff British upper lip. It’s based on the original Bullshot Crummond, which was first staged in 1974 and was later put on the silver screen by George Harrison’s Handmade Films. Ron House, one of the original actors and writers, wrote the new play, it’s directed by another original actor/writer, Alan Shearman, and it’s one of Lakewood’s most extravagant productions this season.

Andrew Harris and Spencer Conway hit the road (and the sheep). Triumph Photography

Andrew Harris and Spencer Conway hit the road (and the sheep). Triumph Photography

Bullshot, played by Spencer Conway, is a drop-dead handsome specimen of a man whose reputation and virility are due in part to his lapping-up of the English countryside and service to the crown during World War I. While popular opinion finds him to be a bangers-and-mash version of Philip Marlowe, Bullshot has a half-empty cerebral tank to take into battle against German spies. His lack of ingenuity recalls the naughty innuendos that made Peter Sellers’ Goon Show a smash hit and inspired a generation of comedy such as Monty Python’s Flying Circus, early Woody Allen, and the somewhat entertaining It’s a Mad Mad Mad Mad World. Bullshot Crummond is an American-written lampoon mashup of P.G. Wodehouse and Ian Fleming. Conway is the iconic caricature of the tally-ho officer strutting across stage with the imperialist swagger of a man out on a lion hunt in a zoo. His Jeeves is his fiancee, Rosemary, played by Kelly Stewart. Rosemary has the British lisp; she’s the milk-and-honey Elysian virgin soon to be caught up in a spy adventure. There are some over-the-top gaffes as they play out their romance, and it’s a nice laugh back to bawdy but less explicit times, when sex was more taboo.

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Upstart: Lakewood’s ‘Golden Boy’

Ty Boice returns as Clifford Odets' conflicted boxer, putting on the gloves of old-fashioned American realism at Lakewood

By CHRISTA MORLETTI McINTYRE

Lakewood Theatre Company packs punches with its production of Clifford Odets’ Golden Boy, but not the kind you expect. Boxing as the American sport has gone by the wayside since Mike Tyson started biting ears, but once it was the golden sport, responsible for a huge number of radio sales: Families crowded around the old wooden box to see if their hero and their bets were coming through.

That’s the time and atmosphere of Golden Boy, which premiered at The Group Theatre in 1937. Ty Boice stars as Joe Bonaparte, an Italian immigrant’s son who wants to escape the shame and struggle of poverty and make a name and a man of himself. Boice, the founding artistic director of Post5 in Portland and now associate artistic director of Island Stage Left in Friday Harbor, Washington, remains a darling of the Portland stage, and for good reason. He puts on the gloves and doesn’t hit below the belt in Golden Boy. With his natural shock of blond hair he’s a sensitive, but driven, hero, with a keen awareness of Bonaparte’s mixed-up inner world beneath his strong-man facade. Boice gives Bonaparte a slight stutter in Act 1; his hands move jaggedly, and he hangs his head in a slight nod. He’s an innocent boy, subconsciously aware he’s making the choice to bite some apples and lose the comfort of childhood. The inner lion of Boice’s Bonaparte is rehearsing for the moments he comes into his own.

Tabitha Trosen and Ty Boice: cruising for a bruising. Lakewood Theatre photo.

Tabitha Trosen and Ty Boice: cruising for a bruising. Lakewood Theatre photo.

Gary Powell, who played the stand-in for Noel Coward in Lakewood’s recent Present Laughter, delivers a masculine tour de force as Joe’s father, this time without the trappings of crystal decanters and silk robes: he is the interior strength and moral center of Joe’s world. A pushcart fruit salesman, he has set out to make a better life in the New World for his family – not one of a bigger and better house and car, but of the heart and mind. He and Boice together create a powerful dynamic onstage.

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Odets, the playwright, grew up in the Bronx as the son of Jewish immigrants, and Golden Boy is something of a many-layered, fictionalized memoir. His father was a go-getter who aimed to make it big in the U.S. of A. Odets was a roommate and close friend of director Elia Kazan, and a vital member of the radical theater scene of the 1930s. He came of artistic age in a perfect swirl: the great Yiddish theater and journalism of New York City; the politicking of FDR that created the WPA and its art and performance projects; The Group Theater, led by Lee Strasberg, which forged new avenues in acting by careful and thorough self-reflection, popularly known as “method acting.”

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