Champagne Paeans, Choreographed High-Fives, and the Actual Trey Parker
Seattle Opera at McCaw Hall
Through Jan 28.
Die Fledermaus would be musical comedy if the music were a little worse and the comedy a little better. Strauss's bubbly operetta about parties, mistaken identities, cuckolds, and booze was written to amuse, and Seattle Opera has thrown in some jazz hands and a monorail joke to make sure we get it.
A complicated revenge tale, Die Fledermaus ("the bat") concerns a Viennese gentleman—once tricked into walking drunkenly across town one Sunday morning while wearing his bat costume from the night before—who gets his at a party thrown by mad Prince Orlofsky. The comedy and music peak at the ball, in the second of three acts, with famous waltzes, reversals of fortune, and paeans to champagne.
The singers do not make great comedians, but Nancy Maultsby is funny as the wealthy and chronically bored Russian Prince Orlofsky. (And, as my date pointed out, his/her high voice, opulence, and eccentricity hilariously resemble a 19th-century Michael Jackson). Sarah Coburn, in her Seattle debut as the chambermaid Adele, is also a capable actor and dynamite singer.
This Fledermaus is performed in English (presumably because there is so much spoken dialogue), a treat for us monolinguals. Dependent on supertitles, we don't often get the chance to hear which words get the big or little notes. Light, ephemeral, and bubbly—Die Fledermaus, like the champagne it celebrates, won't penetrate your soul, but it goes down easy. BRENDAN KILEY
Cannibal! The Musical
Through Feb 4.
You know when you like something soooo much that you want the whole world to know about it? And you think there's no better tribute than to reimagine your #1 favorite thing as gay cabaret dinner theater? We've all been there, but please. Don't do it.
Cannibal! The Musical, Trey Parker's 1996 camp creation, follows a troupe of grizzled prospectors heading from Utah to Colorado territory. Everyone is killed and eaten except for one Alferd Packer, the titular cannibal. The movie is gross and silly and kind of sweet, a rougher version of the retarded-but-brilliant comedy that Parker and funny-partner Matt Stone perfected a few years later with South Park.
At Thumper's, Cannibal! is all gayed up and almost completely de-funnied. You can't fault Knockout Productions for trying—they obviously love the material—but the brand-new gay jokes are easy, gratuitous, and, somehow, not that gay. The more-than-friends bond between Packer and his horse, Liane (here changed to Leon, for added gayness), merely implied in the movie, is escalated about infinity points past necessary. A couple of male characters are now lesbians. A Frenchman wears a codpiece.
The singing isn't bad, though, and it's hard to suck the funny out of Parker's songs.
The most surprising, insane, and ultimately tragic thing about Cannibal! The Musical was the actual presence, in the actual audience, of the actual Trey Parker. Quiet, cordial, and extremely focused on whatever he was eating, Parker spent most of the evening not laughing, not smiling, and somehow not openly weeping.
But aside from the codpiece and the lesbians, what makes this gay play gay? Is a man making love to a male horse gayer than a man making love to a female horse? Is something about man-horse love inherently gay? After much discussion, my companion and I agreed that no, horsefucking just equals horsefucking. So what is it? Does a Frenchman plus leather pants plus the Book of Mormon plus hot dogs equal gay?
"I'm not sure," my friend said, "but it definitely does not equal funny." LINDY WEST
Left Field Dance at the Chamber Theater
Through Jan 21.
As the Magnetic Fields song that played during intermission observes: "There'll be time enough for talk in the nursing home. Tonight I think I'd rather just go dancing." That's how Left Field dances—with an unpretentious dance-for-dance's-sake abandon that isn't shy about contemporary high-mindedness nor afraid to chuck the rarefied stuff out the window just for fun.
Dancey Dance opens with a Fosse homage/lampoon to the cheesy strains of "Bye Bye Blackbird" and closes with a playful groove and swagger to "Hollaback Girl" by Gwen Stefani.
In between, Left Field experiments and fools around through seven other short dances and films. The company splices contemporary dance's usual gestures (run, freeze midstep, roll, sneak, undulate, repetitive arm fling) with choreographed high-fives and other moves from playgrounds, pop music, and sports.
The short film Stella Alone is particularly good, featuring Heather Budd wandering through a house, pulling piles of clothing out of the refrigerator, and sliding out a window to dance perilously on the roof. "FishBowl Suites" is another highlight, with Left Field members taking solos in a central pool of light (compliments to lighting designer Ben Zamora) while the ensemble shimmies gently in the shadows like a school of fish before bursting energetically into the bright center.
Dancey Dance has a few rough edges—the pauses between acts were momentum killers—and the dancing isn't always top-notch, but it is mostly a pleasure to watch. BRENDAN KILEY