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Published May 23rd, 2014 - 12:05AM
“La Cage Aux Folles” at Tacoma Musical Playhouse is fabulous.
Published May 23rd, 2014 - 12:05AM
Tacoma-Seattle band Cloud Person — gigging at Northwest Folklife for the first time this weekend — defines its sound as a blend of roots folk, psychedelia, spaghetti western and indie rock. And it’s that kind of mingling that defines Folklife itself.
Published May 22nd, 2014 - 5:43AM

“La Cage aux Folles” at Tacoma Musical Playhouse

TMP finishes the season with the Jerry Herman musical comedy “La Cage aux Folles,” based on a play by Jean Poiret about what happens when the long-time unmarried couple Georges and Albin suddenly have to pretend to be “normal” when Georges’ son announces he’s marrying into a bigoted right-wing family. 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, 2 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays through June 8. $29 adult/$27 senior, student, military/$20 ages 12 and under (PG-13 show). Tacoma Musical Playhouse, 7116 6th Ave., Tacoma. 253-565-6867,

Operetta evening at Tacoma Musical Playhouse

Musical theater and operetta are kissing cousins – which is why Tacoma Musical Playhouse’s upcoming “Night at the Operetta” makes so much sense. Local opera singers Jenny Shotwell (soprano), Karen Early Evans (soprano), James Walters (tenor) and John B. Cooper (bass) take a vocal tour through favorites like “The Mikado,” “The Merry Widow,” “Die Fledermaus” and more. 7 p.m. May 28. $25. TMP, 7116 6th Ave., Tacoma. 253-565-5857,

Tacoma Little Theatre says “Bye Bye Birdie”

The famous 1960s musical of a rock and roll singer, his adoring Midwestern fans and his farewell as he’s drafted into the army features retro songs like “Put on a happy face” and “A lot of livin’ to do.” 7:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, 2 p.m. Sundays through June 1. $25. Tacoma Little Theatre, 210 N. I St., Tacoma. 253-272-2281,

Fulcrum Gallery

Now up at Fulcrum: “Constellation, an overture to the zodiac” features mixed media work by dozens of national and international artists inspired by astrological traditions from Babylon to contemporary America. Noon-6 p.m. Wednesday and Friday through June 13. Free. Fulcrum Gallery, 1308 Martin Luther King Jr. Way, Tacoma.

David Mamet play at Working Class Theater NW

Published May 21st, 2014 - 5:55AM

Every year the American Art Co. in downtown Tacoma plays host to the Northwest Watercolor Society’s international show, and every year there’s a lot of what you’d expect from watercolorists: soft-petalled gardens, nostalgic portraits with blurry shadows, women chatting in pools of sunshine, bright tropical flowers with fuzzy backgrounds. And yes, there’s some of that in this year’s show, the society’s 74th. But there’s also quite a lot of exploration in pushing the boundaries of this medium in style, technique and composition.

Winning second place, Carla O’Connor does a woman with flowers, but in a Klimt-ian way, offering a side-profile with stern nose and dark hair, flowing down into a jungle of teal, lilac and white, a collage of shapes and objects jumbled and flattened into a two-dimensional quilt. In third place, Ted Nuttall does a portrait (self-portrait?) of a bare-chested man in a plain-walled room in front of what turns out to be an easel – but the simplicity is stripped away by the flecks of red paint spattering his face, skin and pants like blood, and the resigned, disillusioned look in the eyes and tilt of the head.

Liz Walker and Anne Baletic both do portraits, but use striking, highly-saturated hues: an aqua dress, vermillion hair, fuschia legs, confronting the reader with an alternate reality.

There are the usual array of watercolor landscapes – fishing boats, beaches – but a number of artists have taken the time to reimagine the world as defined by watery pigment, not the other way around. Birgit O’Connor explores a delicate light texture of gray stones nestled under an overhang, while Sherri Bails gives a beach scene a print-like quality. Award-winner Peggi Habets creates a dream-like, child-like illustration – a woman tiredly sweeping gold-dusted cobblestones, surrounded by a magical, rainbow-hued city of stone.

Iain Stewart paints the “Queensboro Bridge” in sepia tones, with marvelous detail on car headlamps and smog; Woon Lam Ng paints a street food scene in – where? Asia? Africa? – by hinting at faces, conversations and bright canopies with clever, minimal brushstrokes.

Finally, juror Donna Zagotta also shows a work: “That way,” a New York street scene detailed with thick wodges and streaky textures, looking more like an acrylic, with a highly mid-century feel to the perspective.

Published May 20th, 2014 - 8:40AM

History can be a hard sell for young kids. There’s the enormous concept of time, for starters, and then the “what’s this got to do with me?” issue. Objects are untouchable behind glass, labels are too high to read. Grown-ups tell you to be quiet.

But what if a kid could become part of the picture and step into time through magic and sheer curiosity? Now that’s instantly more fun.

Which is exactly the premise of “Ernest Oglby Punkweiler and the Fabulous-Miraculous Time Intrusionator.” Just opened at the Washington State History Museum, the exhibit is based on a short story by museum education director Stephanie Lile, and curated by her to bring to life the tale of a sweetly geeky young boy and the fantastical journeys his curiosity takes him on. Enticed by exactly the kinds of things that fascinate Ernest – bizarre objects, moving pictures, a talking snake – kids will be drawn into history at their own level with touchable artifacts and history scenes you can play in.

At least, that’s the intention. And it works, for some ages and to some extent – but could do with some more details.

The story itself (publishing in “Soundings” magazine this year and soon to become a picture book, with illustrations by Mike Cressy) is on view in the gallery entrance, but it’s easier to just go right into the first room, where Lile’s voice reads the story aloud through speakers. The room’s a steampunker’s heaven: Set up to be the inside of the “teapot gas station” where Ernest, walking home from school one day, discovers the knack of time-traveling by jumping into photographs. Dark and mysterious, the roped-off half is filled with antique furniture, a dressmaker’s mannequin, a trunk and shelves full of Victorian curiosities. In Lucite cases are small totem poles, whimsical papier-mache monsters (including the very handy Moosealosaurus, who turns memories into chocolate bars) and old cameras similar to the Polaroid Ernest uses to snap himself back in time.

The exhibit then opens up into half-a-dozen “rooms” with enormous backdrop murals of moments in Washington history: wagons on a prairie, a tossing sea, a totem pole, a 1960s garbage dump. Kids can stick their faces into holes in the painting or pose in front of it for a photo, playing with objects from the time and place that tell the rest of the story. The art (by locals like Mike Cressy, Jo Gershman, Craig Orback and more) is beautiful, and it’s a lot of fun, enticing parents to reminisce about old metal toys and circular-dial phones. But if you’re older than six, you’ll want more information than the wall texts – cleverly disguised as letters from Ernest, now the Keeper of Time – offer. How bizarre to find out that folks in Port Townsend last century thought they saw a sea-serpent – but what happened then? Can we see a map? A newspaper article? And wall-texts at adult height don’t help curious kids.

The museum is in the process of installing scannable QR codes, which will take your (or your child’s) mobile device to an app, STQRY, that will reveal more back-stories. There will also be storytimes and other programs planned for the show, which runs through next spring.

But for now, the learning feels limited. And while it’s marvelous to make a child realize that all they need to be an “Intrusionator” (aka historian) is curiosity, and that museums are magical places, the magic needs more detail for those who, like Ernest Oglby Punkweiler, are truly curious. 

Published May 17th, 2014 - 11:11PM

Brahms’ “Ein Deutsches Requiem” is a hefty work for a community choir and orchestra – which makes Saturday night’s performance at Pacific Lutheran University’s Lagerquist Hall such an impressive feat by the Northwest Repertory Singers and Rainier Symphony. A one-off collaboration crowd-funded to the tune of $8,250 on, the 80-minute work filled the hall with dense, warm sound and a rolling architecture, held back only by diction issues in the choir and a few non-conducted orchestra moments.

Much of the success of the performance (which repeats tomorrow at Foster High School, Tukwila) was due to the Rainier Symphony, whose members played with excellent ensemble and beautiful solo moments throughout the work. After a pulsing opening (“Selig sind”) with well-blended lower strings, the choir came in sounding like they needed more warming up: a thin tone, not quite reaching to the back of the hall (a longer one than they’re used to in Mason United Methodist) and with sopranos a little hedgy on the upper notes. Things improved with Part II: the dramatic “Denn alles Fleisch” funeral march, first hushed and haunting, then thundering. Yet real energy was missing from some of the instrumental entrances – an unfortunate by-product of having a choral director (Northwest Repertory Singers’ founding director Paul Schulz) conduct an orchestra. Despite this, and a few messy sections later on, the Rainer Symphony adroitly kept a tight ensemble.

The other issue with this “Requiem” was the choir diction. Brahms can and does go on and on – part of his romantic charm, but also a potential trap into dullness. Messy sibilants and a general lack of consonants between words made the choral lines peaceful rather than powerful, removing the urgency that underlies much of the text about the shortness of this life and the revelation of the next one.

That said, the NWRS’ “Requiem” was well-sung. Robust basses and clear, strong brass marked “Die Erlöseten des Herrn,” with fine tone-painting for the fierce “Weg” (“Away”) at the end. Baritone soloist Charles Robert Stephens sang his warning passages (“Herr, lehre doch mich”) with rich, focused tone, stern yet penitent. Soprano Jeananne Houston gave her “sorrow” solos a sparkling tone and long, expressive phrasing, though perhaps an overkill of vibrato.

Other highlights were a shining violin section in “Wie lieblich,” an angelic wind chord to end “Ich will euch trösten,” suspenseful pizzicato and smooth altos in “Denn wir haben” and thrilling choral contrast in “Siehe, ich sage euch ein Geheimnis” (“Behold, I tell you a mystery,”) which Brahms, unlike Handel, makes truly mysterious.

The rollicking fugue of “Herr, du bist würdig” ended with sopranos finally warmed-up and hitting high notes with purity, before the repeat of “Selig sind” featuring a truly lovely oboe solo over a soft cushion of strings and an emotional ending that held the Lagerquist audience in a spellbound moment of total silence.

Northwest Repertory Singers and Rainier Symphony perform Brahms’ “Ein Deutsches Requiem” again at 3 p.m. May 18. $18 adult/$15 senior, student, military/free for 12 and under. Foster High School, 4242 S. 144th St., Tukwila. 253-265-3042,

Published May 16th, 2014 - 12:05AM
Published May 16th, 2014 - 12:05AM
Published May 16th, 2014 - 12:05AM
Published May 16th, 2014 - 12:05AM
Published May 15th, 2014 - 5:31AM

WSMTA student solo recitals

There’s nothing quite like getting to play a solo with an orchestra, and thanks to local members of the Washington State Music Teachers’ Association, Tacoma music students will get that chance this week, playing concertos and even pieces custom-written by teachers from the Tacoma chapter. 7:30 p.m. May 19-22 at Schneebeck Hall, University of Puget Sound, 1501 N. Union Ave., Tacoma. 7:30 p.m. May 24 at Tacoma Community College theater, 6501 S. Mildred St., Tacoma. All free.,

Beatrice Hermann winners’ recital

Winners of the annual Beatrice Herrman Young Artist competition (a legacy of the Tacoma Philharmonic) will perform in recital this Saturday at the Broadway Center. Among them are junior division winner Millicent McFall (piano), senior winner Sarah Hall (violin) and Young Artist winner Faithlina Chan (cello). 1 p.m. May 17. Free (suggested donation $5-$8). Theatre on the Square, 915 Broadway, Tacoma. 253-591-5894,

Pianist-physicist Una Hwang for Christ Episcopal Third Friday recital

Una Hwang, organist, pianist and choir director at Tacoma’s First Lutheran and a former NASA astrophysicist, will be the piano soloist at Christ Episcopal’s monthly Third Fridays at Noon recital this week. Hwang, who worked at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland before moving to Tacoma in 2012, will play Schubert, Chopin, Debussy and Albeniz. 12:10 p.m. May 16. Free. Christ Episcopal Church, 310 North K Street, Tacoma. 253-383-1569, 

Two-for-One on Museum Day

Published May 14th, 2014 - 4:38PM

The Jazz Live at Marine View series continues to present high-quality jazz from around the country. Coming up this weekend is three-time Grammy nominated pianist Jovino Santos Neto, fronting his quintet for a sound that straddles Latin, jazz and contemporary improvisation.

Born in Brazil and now based in Seattle, Santos Neto composes music rooted in Brazilian styles like samba, choro and xote while moving easily around adventurous new harmonic language. He’s recorded multiple CDs with his quintet, including several nominated for Latin Grammy awards.

Published May 13th, 2014 - 5:28AM

Two very different premieres from Seattle and Taiwan will finish up the Northwest Sinfonietta’s season this weekend, as well as a performance of Beethoven’s Violin Concerto by Brittany Boulding, the ensemble’s concertmaster. The shows in Seattle, Tacoma and Puyallup will feature a new symphony by Seattle opera composer Thomas Pastieri, plus “Remembrance” by Taiwanese composer Gordon Chin.

One of Taiwan’s most prolific and popular composers, Gordon Chin has a doctorate from the Eastman School of Music, and writes large-scale dramatic classical music. His new work “Remembrance,” a fantasy commissioned by the orchestra with the support of the local Taiwanese community, is based on a folk song of the same name which the composer heard over and over again on the train he took to piano lessons as a child. The tune’s theme of yearning and homesickness struck him even more when he left home to study music at 13, says Chin in his program notes, and for this composition he has infused the melody with even more sadness, “like seabirds crying while flying low under a gloomy sky, or like an ancient wind disturbing the shadow of trees on a window in the cold night…”

The composer was also influenced by the governmental crackdown on students during the Sunflower protests against trade agreements with China this spring, which he witnessed personally.

The other composition is the third symphony written by Thomas Pasatieri, a well-known Seattle opera composer who was a child prodigy pianist, studied with renowned Paris teacher Nadia Boulanger and was the Juilliard School’s first doctoral degree recipient. The symphony is another commission by the Sinfonietta and, like the Chin work, will see its world premiere this weekend in the orchestra’s three concerts.

Published May 12th, 2014 - 12:26PM

Is Brahms’ “Deutsches Requiem” popular in Tacoma? You’d better believe it, because the Northwest Repertory Singers just raised $8,525 – via crowdfunding platform – to pay for their performances of the Romantic choral masterpiece in Tacoma and Tukwila this weekend.

“I was very skeptical (initially),” said director Paul Schultz, of the online funding campaign. “But it’s done well. Something right is happening!”

The choir, made up of volunteers and usually performing at Mason United Methodist church, needed $12,000 in extra funds for the Brahms concert to pay for the Rainier Symphony, soloists Jeananne Houston and Charles Robert Stephens, and the two larger halls (Lagerquist at Pacific Lutheran University and Foster High School hall in Tukwila) that would fit all the extra performers. Some of the money was raised offline, but in two months the choir topped their $8,000 goal on Indiegogo, the crowdfunding website that’s becoming more popular for arts groups around the region, as well as personal projects as it takes less of a commission than its competitor

For Schulz, it’s the realization of a childhood dream, when he wept on hearing the work for the first time.

I remember telling my mother that I would give anything to be in that place and hear that music one day,” said the director in a choir newsletter.

Breaking the pattern of requiem mass settings that followed the traditional Latin of the Catholic mass for the dead, Brahms assembled his own libretto from the German bible in what Schulz calls “an extraordinary marriage of music and text,” pointing out that while the traditional mass mourns the dead, Brahms’ text focuses on the living, and on their comfort and sympathy. He finished the work in 1868, three years after his mother died.

Coincidentally, another regional choir is also presenting the “Deutsches Requiem” this weekend: Seattle Pro Musica, with soprano Alexandra Picard and baritone Charles Robert Austin.

Says director Karen Thomas: “We are presenting Brahms’ great masterwork with full orchestra in a cathedral setting, which was his intent for the first performance. “Ein deutsches Requiem” premiered in 1868 in the Bremen Cathedral – a building similar in size and acoustic to Seattle’s St James Cathedral. Hearing this magnificent work in the architectural and spiritual setting that Brahms intended it for is a revelatory experience.”


Northwest Repertory Singers: 7:30 p.m. May 17 at Lagerquist Hall, Pacific Lutheran University, 12180 Park Ave. S., Tacoma; 3 p.m. May 18 at Foster High School Performing Arts Center, 4242 S. 144th St., Tukwila. 253-265-3042,

Published May 9th, 2014 - 12:05AM
When Portland artist Marie Watt began making sculptures with blankets 10 years ago, she made a startling discovery. For every blanket she found at thrift stores, a friend would remark how they used to have one just like it, and launch into a story.
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