Just Opened: Dreamgirls

A review of Portland Center Stage's season-opening musical.

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Arts & Books
Mirroring the meteoric rise and personal turmoil of the Supremes, the Tony Award-winning musical Dreamgirls is steeped in Motown rhythms, racial struggles and lots of sequins. Young Chicago trio the Dreamettes finds early success singing backup for Jimmy “Thunder” Early (played with fiery aplomb by David Jennings, he’s the show’s most interesting character). The power-hungry meddling ...   More
 
Tuesday, September 30, 2014 PENELOPE BASS

Just Opened: La Cage Aux Folles

A review of Pixie Dust Productions' season opener.

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Arts & Books
We all know that still waters run deep, but what of those that strut, in thick layers of makeup and outfits made of feathers and sequins? According to 1983 Tony-winning musical La Cage Aux Folles, in which a campy exterior conceals underlying crisis, these have their share of sub-surface struggles as well.La Cage Aux Folles, by Harvey Fierstein and Jerry Herman and staged by Pixie Dust Productions, ...   More
 
Tuesday, September 23, 2014 JAMES HELMSWORTH

Just Opened: Tick, Tick... Boom!

A review of Jonathan Larson's musical at Triangle Productions.

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Arts & Books
Jonathan Larson is feeling anxious. He’s about to turn 30 and is still waiting tables in New York while struggling to get his long-slaved-over rock musical produced. Of course, he did ultimately succeed in getting a rock show on Broadway, but not before his untimely death at age 35. You’ve probably heard of it. That show was Rent. But before his work became widely known, Larson wrote Tick, Tick… ...   More
 
Monday, September 8, 2014 PENELOPE BASS

Just Opened: The Sweatermakers

A review of a new play by Portlander Andrew Wardenaar.

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Arts & Books
On dark, cold days, a cozy sweater can make all the difference. That’s the general conceit behind Portlander Andrew Wardenaar’s new play, The Sweatermakers, which in some ways feels like an exploration of another world entirely. The protagonists, siblings Brin (Jen Rowe) and Henry (JR Wickman), knit sweaters for a mysterious organization that delivers the garments to those who’ve experienced ...   More
 
Monday, August 11, 2014 TREE PALMEDO

Just Opened: The Tempest

A review of Portland Shakespeare Project's production of Shakespeare's stormy play.

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Arts & Books
The Tempest, generally believed to be Shakespeare’s final play, is both a bumbling island adventure and a philosophical meditation on humanity. This Portland Shakespeare Project production will disappoint purists or those craving weighty intellectualism, but it will satisfy just about everyone else, thanks to Michael Mendelson’s lighthearted—if not particularly lighthanded—direction. Most notably, ...   More
 
Monday, July 14, 2014 ENID SPITZ

Just Opened: Othello

A review of Portland Center Stage's production of Shakespeare's tragedy of love and jealousy.

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Arts & Books
Othello can be a bit of a tough sell. Not only is it one of Shakespeare's most racially insensitive plays (and that's saying something), but even the most credulous audience member might wonder why the title character, a warrior with a reputation for bravery and a Moor known for his passion, can be so easily persuaded to think the worst of his great love.The key to our willingness to suspend disbelief ...   More
 
Monday, April 14, 2014 DEBORAH KENNEDY

Just Opened: Aida

A review of Stumptown Stages' production of the Elton John-Tim Rice musical.

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Arts & Books
Originally optioned by Disney from a children’s storybook—which was itself based on the Verdi opera of the same name—Elton John and Tim Rice’s Aida retains all the depth of an animated feature, with the erotic undercurrent of a Danielle Steel novel. Sure, the slave girl may actually be a Nubian princess, but you can still take her roughly in your palace bedchamber. Stumptown Stages’ adaptation ...   More
 
Monday, February 24, 2014 PENELOPE BASS

Just Opened: The Monster-Builder

A review of Artists Rep's production of Amy Freed's world-premiere play.

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Arts & Books
Gregor Zubrowski, the megalomaniacal architect at the center of Amy Freed’s The Monster-Builder, is as slick a villain as can be: Clad in a trim black suit, he’s got a bald pate, severe goatee and round spectacles, and he delights in razing old buildings and erecting gleaming monstrosities in their place. All confident stride and rapacious gaze, he venerates Nietzsche and unleashes a cackle not ...   More
 
Monday, February 3, 2014 REBECCA JACOBSON

Just Opened: Noises Off

A review of Third Rail Rep's production of the legendary farce.

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Arts & Books
When I first saw Noises Off as a 14-year-old at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, I didn’t know theater could do that. A dozen years later—and after watching dozens and dozens of plays—I’m still not quite sure how Noises Off does what it does. What’s clear, though, is that Michael Frayn’s 1982 backstage comedy is perhaps the world’s most exactingly constructed play, and certainly one of ...   More
 
Tuesday, December 10, 2013 REBECCA JACOBSON

Just Opened: Rudolph: On Stage

A review of Bad Reputation Productions' adaptation of the Christmas special.

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Arts & Books
Fun fact: When the 1964 stop-motion TV special Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer first aired, Santa never swung by the Island of Misfit Toys. Viewers were apparently so aghast at his heartlessness that the studio produced a new scene, with Santa rescuing the toys for delivery to deserving children. I’m not sure how those viewers would respond to the updates Bad Reputation Productions has made in its ...   More
 
Tuesday, December 3, 2013 REBECCA JACOBSON

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