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Seattle by David-Edward Hughes

A ... My Name Will Always Be Alice
Delights at Redwood Theatre

The musical revue A ... My Name Will Always Be Alice is a "best of" version of two prior Off-Broadway revues, A ... My Name Is Aliceand A ... My Name Is Still Alice, favoring the material originally used in the first show (conceived by Joan Micklin Silver and Julianne Boyd). Unlike many topical revues, Alice remains appealing and relatively relevant, and, most importantly, director Art Anderson and musical director Kimberly Dare have found a talented all-girl cast headed by several stand-out talents to put across its winning tunes, light humor and poignant reflections on life.

For a show with songs and sketches by so many varied talents (and considering further that this Alice is a compendium of the two earlier shows), the production flows smoothly and is perfectly paced by director Anderson, whose musical staging is attractive and comfortably within the grasp of its actor/singers. It is fun to note names of composers and lyricists, many of whom achieved latter day Broadway success, the most notable being David (City of Angels) Zippel, Lucy (The Secret Garden) Simon, Susan (Jelly's Last Jam) Birkenhead, Winnie (Wicked) Holtzman, Michael John (The Wild Party) LaChiusa and Amanda (The Rose) McBroom.

Among the talents showcased to great effect in the cast, top honors go to Loretta Deranleau Howard who gets great comic mileage out of recurring bits as a pretentious poetess who specializes in verse "For Women Only," and then breaks your heart with the lifecycle song "Wheels" which she turns into a real tour-de-force. Deranleau Howard shares a charming duet "At My Age" with young, vocally astounding Alison Monda, playing respectively a woman re-entering the dating scene in mid-life and a teen going on her first date. The remarkably mature Ms. Monda also does strong work on the featured monologue "Non-Bridaled Passion" about a single gal wanting to sign up at a bridal registry. Silken and sultry voiced Antonia Darlene caresses the tender "I Sure Like the Boys," robustly enacts that woman on the bus we all steer clear from as "Ida Mae Coles," and packs a comic wallop as a woman trying to rid herself of referring to sexual acts euphemistically as "Honeypot." Iris Elton shows off her powerful vocal chops and range with "Once and Only Thing" and aces her dramatic monologue "Demigod." Watching her age, subtly and convincingly, in the duet "Friends" with Amber Cutlip was particularly memorable.

One of the show's funniest numbers and monologues, "French," is delivered with brio by Erin Sprow as a faux French chanteuse whose song is nothing more than a string of cliché French phrases strung together. Amber Cutlip is a convincing scold as an overbearing kindergarten teacher in "Welcome to Kindergarten Mrs. Johnson," and Kelley Faulkner finds just the right tone dramatically for the plaintive song "The Portrait," as a woman missing her late mother. From the opening "All Girl Band" to the closing "Lifelines," the company, under Kimberly Dare's expert musical direction, deliver their vocal goods impressively, and shine in various groupings on such other engaging pieces as "Watching the Pretty Young Men" (set at a male stripper show) and "Bluer Than You." Musical director Dare's small but saucy band sounds sharp, and only occasionally overpowers a vocalist.

The attractive array of costumes were designed by Stacey Breyfogel Derk, and Mark Chenovick's set design is just enough to suggest the various locales and moods of the show, though it was hard to judge Larry Goodhind's lighting design at the matinee performance, with outdoor light spilling into the auditorium.

Redwood Theatre, as with their delightful Illyria last season, shows they can compete with the big Puget Sound theatres, simply by hiring such talented artists for their shows. Bravo!

A ... My Name Will Always Be Alice runs through May 8, 2010 at the Fred W. Meitzer Theater, 8703 160th Avenue NE, Redmond, Washington. Tickets are $15-20. For further information call 426-522-3730, or go to www.redwoodtheatre.org/.

See the list of this season's theatre offerings in the Seattle area.



- David Edward Hughes



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