‘This Is Halloween’ Is a Glammed Up and Hammed Up Delight

The super fun This Is Halloween, produced by the Can Can Culinary Cabaret and performed at The Triple Door (through 10/31), is a hot and tasty tradition for annual show-goers and first-timers alike. But The Triple Door’s howlingly inconsistent food is a definite downside.  

 

Fans of spooky stuff have no shortage of thrills to help get into the Halloween spirit. But aside from the likes of The Great Pumpkin, what welcomes the season for us treat-over-trick seekers?

The Can Can enthusiastically fills the void with the hot and sweet, music- and dance-driven This Is Halloween, its long-running annual take on Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas. Opening last weekend, This Is Halloween stalks right on the heels of the Can Can’s delightfully dark (and also not very spooky) cabaret feature The Hitchcock Hotel, which opened last month and runs through November. (See NWT’s review of ‘The Hitchcock Hotel’ here.) 

Lock, Shock, and Barrel in ‘This Is Halloween’. Photo by Nate Watters.

Through song, dance, and mildly risqué wisecracks (“Look who put out the milk and cookies tonight,” wink wink), the Can Can’s actors play out Pumpkin King Jack Skellington’s euphoric redemption from the monotony of Halloween Town’s single-holiday festivities, as Jack commandeers the traditions of Christmas Town with his own unique twist.

You can tell early on this is no ordinary show when a ghost dog pops up in the audience, looking for scraps, and a costumed marching band comes parading through the dining room, all the way down the zig-zagging aisles.

Nor is it simply a reenactment of the cult-classic film. In the Can Can’s version, some key characters (like Jack) are easily recognizable, while others get reimagined — like Oogie Boogie, who becomes a hot and sultry commander of the stage (that’s Jasmine Jean Sim for you) instead of the film’s Michelin Man-looking villain. (Traditionalists will like that she does get classic Oogie Boogie-looking backup dancers when performing “Bad to the Bone.”)

Oogie Boogie (Jasmine Jean Sim) in ‘This Is Halloween’. Photo by Nate Watters.

Most of the film’s leading characters are represented, at least in composite form, by the Can Can’s talented cast. Besides Jack (performed by Tim Keller), his loyal ghost dog Zero (Cesar Pinzon), and super-villain Oogie Boogie (Sim), there’s doe-eyed Sally (Miranda Antoinette), a high-kicking harlequin (Hannah Simmons), the trickster trio of Lock, Shock, and Barrel (Paris Original, Hannah Mooney, and Thomas Phalen), the Mayor of Halloween Town (Tori Spero), and Sandy Claws (Isaiah Rashaad). The same actors also do double- and triple-duty as critters and townsfolk.

Fantasy-driven shows like this tend to stand or fall on whether they can transform the whole environment and bring the audience along with them. This Is Halloween nails that transformation of theatre into a playful Halloween fantasy land. From working the aisles and animating the walls with dancing ghosts, to filling the stage with neon-bedecked dancers and the halls with music, This Is Halloween makes the whole place come alive in the land of the dead.

 

‘This Is Halloween’ runs through 10/31 at The Triple Door in Downtown Seattle. Performs with one intermission, and food and drink service before and during the show. Accessibility notes: main restrooms downstairs are gendered and multi-stall, with gender-neutral, single-stall restroom on the main venue level. Theatre and some common areas are wheelchair accessible. Tickets start at $31.50 to $51.50 (with fees, depending on date), here

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Planning on dining at the venue?

You might want to consider your options. Over several visits in a few years, including well before the pandemic challenges set in, The Triple Door has established itself as the single most inconsistent food quality I’ve experienced, with significantly more negatives than positives.

You can read about one of my experiences here. (Sadly, the two things I was able to recommend from that 2019 visit — the rum punch and the Malay cake — have been removed from The Triple Door’s limited menu, which is a spin-off from the menu at the upstairs Wild Ginger. So has the delicious Thai Passion Tofu entree I had on a subsequent visit. That figures.)

A great dining experience shortly after that 2019 visit signaled they had turned things around, but two return visits in the past month proved that happy trip was more likely a fluke.

Among the recent lowlights:

Malay chicken satay (plate of 6 for $13) had the texture of chewed gumball (my stomach still turns when thinking about it, and that was almost a month ago) and an alleged peanut sauce had the texture of sun-melted gum and spit swirled in a cup

Wagyu beef satay (plate of 6 for $18) my guest described as “gritty,” “like it was ground and pressed back into a shape,” and “not tasty”

Traditional pad thai ($21 for an entree-sized plate) that tasted like salty ketchup and fish sauce, with a strong burn of spicy at the end

Sri Lanka dahl (decent-sized bowl for $9) dishonoring lentils everywhere, a babyfood-looking bowl of oily puree that burned with flavorless heat at the end, and in which the big stems of cilantro draped all over it provided most of the seasoning

If you’re feeling snackish (and who isn’t, in a restaurant theatre?), I’d suggest small plates as the better, lower-stakes approach, even if inconsistency reigns there too. The three current dishes I’ve had the best (though still mixed) results with are:

Chicken potstickers (plate of 4 for $12): These usually (though not always) have yummy filling, though they’re inconsistently cooked — sometimes with a springy but nicely browned, pan-fried shell, and other times like limp boiled dumplings. But the black vinegar dipping sauce is always delicious.

Flourless chocolate torte ($10 for a small slice): Some bits are dry, but overall this usually has a nice rich chocolate flavor and decent-enough texture.

Coconut sago ($7 for a good-sized serving): Although this is made with tapioca pearls, it reminds me of a different favorite dessert: the black sticky rice pudding at Song Phang Kong, near 12th & Jackson in Little Saigon. The mild sweetness of this dish means you can easily order it as either an appetizer or a dessert (or both!). But inconsistency strikes here, too: when I ordered it less than a month ago, it was perfectly soft and creamy; but this past time, it appeared over-chilled, coming out in a hardened slab squished into a bowl. It got better after I let it sit around for half of the show. This lends further credence to my (presently unconfirmed) theory that there are no chefs in the Triple Door kitchen, just people with varying levels of skill in defrosting and reheating things, and no one running point on quality control.

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Here’s hoping that knowing this ahead of time won’t let dining disappointment take away from the joy of the show, as it did at my prior visit to This Is Halloween (where I found myself “torn between the hopeful glow of the show and the grinch of the dining experience”).

The Triple Door is a lovely venue, and it works so well for this show. But we all deserve better than what’s coming out of The Triple Door’s kitchen — and so does the Can Can’s exuberant performance.

 


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