This Week in Arts: Weekly Roundup (11/23)

A big wave of openings awaits this week, with some new works and a whole bunch of Christmas shows (from Olympia to Marysville).  

Ticketing links for most shows can be found on the Performance Calendar page here.  


New Works  

ArtsWest: We’ve Battled Monsters Before

A new musical by Justin Huertas
Preview tomorrow, 11/24; opening 11/26, closing 12/26. In West Seattle.

Justin Huertas and Rheanna Atendido star in ‘We’ve Battled Monsters Before’ at ArtsWest. Photo by John Mclellan.

It almost feels like a return to normal now that Justin Huertas has a new musical going up, in the Seattle mythical creatures genre for which he is known.

This one is a two-hander featuring Huertas and Rheanna Atendido, an actor-singer who’s also known to write the occasional new musical (see preview of ‘Breakup Bench’ here). Atendido moved from Seattle to New York recently, but before that was seen frequently on Seattle stages; at ArtsWest, she showed off her powerful pipes as Philoclea in the stage-packing spectacle that is Head Over Heels, The Go-Go’s musical. Huertas’s work was last seen at ArtsWest in the new musical The Last World Octopus Wrestling Champion (2019), followed by a new mini-musical (shown virtually), A Very Merry Kraken Tea Party (2020).

In We’ve Battled Monsters Before, the youngest sibling in a family of secret warriors — who have protected Seattle from monsters and demons for generations — must decide what she would sacrifice to save them. Loosely adapted from the 16th century Filipino epic poem Ibong Adarna.

Tickets are $15-120 (sliding scale available to all), here. A streaming option will also be made available later in the run.

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18th & Union: Peter Antoniou: Work in Progress  (this Saturday, 11/27 only). Fresh off his success as an America’s Got Talent semi-finalist, psychic comedian Peter Antoniou explains what it’s like being a psychic, the various ways he’s used his skills to pay the bills, and what his powers can reveal about you. In Seattle (Central District), or online.

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New works in film & more: 

Book-It Repertory Theatre: The Three Musketeers  (streaming now). Lamar Legend adapts the classic Dumas tale in an audio play. Online; info here. Also available for streaming is Zen and the Art of an Android Beatdown; info here.

High Dive: Always Naked album release show for I’m the Man  (Saturday, 11/27 only). The Seattle-based rock band created their most recent music video with local theatre artists (see NWT’s feature here), and releases their next album this weekend. In Seattle (Fremont); info here.

Sound Theatre Company: Changer: A Hand Telling  (streaming now). Released last year as a radio play, renowned Deaf storyteller Howie Seago worked with original adapters Fern Naomi Renville and Roger Fernandes to create this first-of-its-kind, signed film featuring two Deaf Native storytellers. This film takes the original audio and augments it with gorgeous Lower Elwha S’Klallam landscapes and visual-storytelling created for the screen. Online; info here.

Three Dollar Bill Cinema: Virtual Indigenous Showcase  (streaming thru 11/29). Seattle’s queer cinema company celebrates Indigenous voices with a collection of features, short films, and panels. Online; info here.


‘Tis the Season   

Pacific Northwest Ballet: George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker

A cheerful explosion of dance, design, and music
Opening 11/26, closing 12/28. At the Seattle Center.

There are few spectacles that feel Christmasier than The Nutcracker at Pacific Northwest Ballet. The whole place comes alive with a festive feel; the massive stage is decked out in technicolor candy glee; and the Tchaikovsky score practically demands Christmas fairies. It’s the sort of uplift we could probably all use right now. Read NWT’s review of the 2019 (most recent) production here.

This year, the classic also gets a new character: the Green Tea Cricket. According to PNB:

George Balanchine’s ‘The Nutcracker’ returns to Pacific Northwest Ballet. Photo by Angela Sterling.

“When Balanchine choreographed The Nutcracker in 1954, he sought to showcase a global array of cultures, some of which can now be viewed as cultural appropriation. With permission from the George Balanchine Trust, PNB has sought to revise the Chinese divertissement: Elements of racial stereotyping were removed prior to PNB’s 2015 premiere and now, working closely with Phil Chan (co-founder of Final Bow for Yellowface), PNB will be introducing the Green Tea Cricket in Act II.”


Not ready to brave the crowds? PNB may still be your best bet later in the season, when The Nutcracker becomes available for streaming beginning December 20. Throughout the pandemic, PNB has had by far the best streaming quality I’ve seen (locally or otherwise), in digital productions throughout last year and the recent Beyond Ballet. From stage-spanning zoom-outs to incredible close-ups, the visuals are rich, clear, and detailed; and the audio quality makes you feel like you’re right there in McCaw Hall with the orchestra in session.

Tickets for the in-person show start at $27, available here. A streaming option will be available December 20-28, with tickets $49.


Seattle Public Theater: Christmastown

An annual holiday noir
Opening 11/26, closing 12/24. In Seattle at Green Lake.

A few shows of recent vintage have made it possible to adopt a holiday tradition without resorting to the classics, and the lovable detective story in Christmastown is one of them. This season features a new director (Rachel Delmar) and a mostly-new cast (Angela DiMarco, Jasmine Joshua, and Michael Wu join show veteran Pilar O’Connell), making for a new experience even for yearly show-goers, while the story (by Wayne Rawley) remains the same.

Tickets are $5-50 (sliding scale available to all), here.


Harlequin Productions: A Christmas Carol 

A ghostly take on the Dickens classic
Opening 11/26, closing 12/31. In downtown Olympia.

Harlequin’s ‘A Christmas Carol’ leans into the ghost story. Photo by Shanna Paxton.

Oh goody, it’s another Christmas Carol. Should I really go see this? Well, yes, if you’re asking my opinion. The first reason is because Harlequin’s productions have been really good. (You can read my reviews of most of their last several here.) The second is because Artistic Director Aaron Lamb, who also adapted and directs the show, promises this will be a different take — one that delves into the ghosts, leans into both the darkness of the tale and Scrooge’s redemption, and adds a character. You can decide for yourself how different it is from what you’ve seen before; but expect a strong production in any event.

Tickets are $49, available here. Pay-what-you-choose performances on 12/11 (matinee), 12/15, and 12/23 (info here), and rush tickets also available.

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More holiday fare: 

Lakewood Playhouse: A Christmas Carol … More or Less  (opening 11/26, closing 12/19). A couple on the verge of breaking up discovers their entire cast and crew are snowed out, and they’re snowed in. They undertake to perform the entire thing themselves; and as the show goes on, their personal story invades the Dickens tale and informs it with dual levels of meaning. In Lakewood (south of Tacoma).

Phoenix Theatre: Inspecting Carol (opening 11/26, closing 12/19). Behind the scenes of a struggling theatre’s annual clumsy production of A Christmas Carol, this laugh-out-loud spoof makes for a night at the theatre that is anything but show business as usual. In Edmonds.

Red Curtain Community Theatre’s ‘The Farndale Avenue …’ opens November 26 in Marysville. Photo by Kenny Randall.

Red Curtain Foundation for the Arts: The Farndale Avenue Housing Estate Townswomen’s Guild Dramatic Society’s production of ‘A Christmas Carol’  (opening 11/26, closing 12/19). A small theatre troupe tries to get through a production of A Christmas Carol, and it’s disaster-prone from the start — from broken-down transportation to collapsing scenery, line mix-ups to infighting. But they carry on, having a jolly good time along the way and bringing the audience along with them, with improvisational audience participation throughout. In Marysville.

Taproot Theatre: Babette’s Feast  (opened 11/12, closing 12/30). Babette finds safety in a tiny mountain village, but petty squabbles and personal slights render the pious villagers as frigid and unforgiving as their surroundings. On one snowy December night, in an act of radical generosity, Babette prepares a feast so lavish that it awakens and transforms the brittle hearts in the village. In Seattle (Greenwood).

Village Theatre: Welcome Home: A Holiday Concert  (opened 11/19 in Everett; moves to Issaquah following 12/5 performance). Vocalists Andi Alhadeff, Kyle Nicholas Anderson, Jordon Bolden, Kataka Corn, and Shaunyce Omar sing Christmas songs and selections from musicals with a four-piece band. In Everett and Issaquah.

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Family-friendly shows not holiday-specific: 

Centerstage Theatre: Puss in Boots (opening 11/27, closing 12/19). In this holiday pantomime, a fantastical mix-up brings a little luck, a little magic, and a very clever cat. In Federal Way (Dash Point).

Tacoma Musical Playhouse: Cinderella – Enchanted Edition  (opening 11/26, closing 12/19). Inspired by the acclaimed 1997 teleplay starring Brandy and Whitney Houston, this version of the magical fairy tale is reborn with the Rodgers & Hammerstein hallmarks of originality, charm, and elegance. In Tacoma (west side/6th Ave.).


Continuing Runs & Closing Soon 

Harlequin Productions, Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar and Grill  (closing 11/27). A Billie Holiday biography, told through a concert shortly preceding the legendary singer’s death. Read NWT’s review here. In Olympia.

Harlequin Productions, Until the Flood  (closing 12/4). A documentary-style play based on interviews following the shooting of Michael Brown and protests in Ferguson. Read NWT’s review here. In Olympia.

Cafe Nordo, Curiouser and Curiouser: Down the Rabbit Hole and Feast of the Queens  (closing 12/19). Two separate shows form a food-centric theatrical experience, inspired by Alice in Wonderland. In Seattle (Pioneer Square).

Want to plan your show schedule further out? See NWT’s Performance Calendar, which aims to list just about every theatre show in town.

Chase D. Anderson is Editor & Producer of NWTheatre.org.