Friday, August 24, 2012


If the idea of seeing a cat walk while balanced on a ball makes you giddy, I highly recommend the Acro-cats show now playing at Stone Soup Theatre. What about a cat standing on its hind legs, holding up one paw next to a sign that says "Who's Number One?" Yep, these are the kind of insanely cute tricks performed by owner Samantha Martin's troupe of cats, ranging from adoptable kittens to old hands.

Samantha is a cat-lover turned trainer, and if you're all up in arms about cats being forced to perform, you should know that she rescues and fosters cats, and finds "forever" homes for them. She uses the clicker/treat reward system of training, and the "tricks" are based on normal cat behaviors. The Stone Soup Theater is quite small, so it really does feel like you're watching the show in Samantha's living room. (In fact, she told the audience that all the props and gear in the show are actually her living room furnishings.) Anyway, it's pretty hard to get a cat to do anything it doesn't want to do, so I didn't feel bad at all for them--and I hate zoos and circuses that keep animals in captivity. These domestic cats seem happy.

Back to the show: Along with the cats, there are a few rats, a couple of chickens, and a groundhog(?!) who rides in a wagon pulled by an RC car. There's also a cacophonous music segment, with cats playing guitar, keyboard, drums, chimes, cowbell, and a chicken playing tambourine and cymbals. The show's in Seattle until September 1, so go see it! A couple of insider tips: You can buy tickets at at the door no problem (at least last night), but I recommend getting there early so you can get a front-row, center seat AND so you can listen to the cat-themed music before the show ("Stray Cat Strut" by The Stray Cats, "Year of the Cat" by Al Stewart, and so on). Also, this is one place you won't be out of place wearing that cat sweatshirt your grandma gave you, or your Halloween cat ears (but if you forget them, you can buy some at the show!)

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Outdoor concerts--Trombone Shorty

Last year I went to a couple of outdoor music festivals in my neighborhood, where I saw some local bands I never heard of. This year I went to a better-publicized ZooTunes concert: Trombone Shorty and Orleans Avenue. It was sold out, and the lawn at the Woodland Park Zoo was packed with picnic blankets and folding chairs. You can bring a kid, free, with each paid ticket, and it's an early show (doors open at 5; concert starts at 6), so it's very family-friendly, if not job-friendly.

I love the sound of horns, so I was excited to listen to Trombone Shorty. Since they're from New Orleans, I was expecting more of a New Orleans jazz sound, but they had a much more modern vibe; there was even a Nirvana song in their set (in honor of Seattle, maybe?). Since I was sitting in the back with friends and kids, it was much more like being at a picnic than at a concert, but it was fun nonetheless! We brought food, but there are also concessions, and the carousel is running to entertain the kiddies. Parking is an issue, though, so be forewarned. We had a three-block walk back to the car, which might be an issue if you're carrying a toddler, chair, and picnic basket.

ZooTunes has some great concerts--I would have loved to have seen Pink Martini, which played two shows earlier this summer. But there's still one show left this season: Rosanne Cash on August 29. As of today, there are still tickets!

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Outdoor movies

After months of rainy weather, Seattleites don't like to waste a minute of summer weather. So all summer long there are movies playing at outdoor venues all over town--today's version of drive-in movies. This past weekend, we finally checked one out--and brought an elaborate picnic of fried chicken, watermelon, bean salad, grilled green beans, and sangria, as well as blankets and chairs. The movie I chose was "It Happened at the World's Fair" because of its retro aspect. I was hoping to see old footage of the 1962 World's Fair, which took place here in Seattle!

The movie's plot was pretty amazing from a 21st-century parent's point of view. The guardian of a little girl leaves her in the care of two broke, homeless guys that he just met. Elvis, the lecherous one, takes the girl to the World's Fair, and feeds her so much junk food that she gets a stomach ache. He then immediately falls for a nurse he meets in the health clinic there.

Movie quality aside, it was cool to see the Space Needle in the movie alongside the actual Space Needle! Our venue was Lake Union Park (on the lawn in front of the Museum of History and Industry). It's a lovely setting, but there's limited parking on site, and beware of goose poo on the lawn! Also, it gets nippy after sunset, so bundle up if you go.

There's still time to catch an outdoor movie before summer ends. Here's a list of stuff playing in Seattle; there are also movies in outlying cities including Redmond, Woodinville, and Edmonds.

Fremont Outdoor Movies

Saturday-night movies, most of them preceded by afternoon festivities, Fremont Studios, 3501 Phinney Ave. N., Seattle; $5 suggested donation (

Aug. 25: "The Big Lebowski" (R)

MOHAI's Movies at Lake Union Park

Movies begin 30 minutes after sunset (approximately 8:30 p.m.) Lake Union Park, 860 Terry Ave. N., Seattle (206-342-1126 or

Aug. 25: "Sleepless in Seattle" (PG)

Movies at the Mural

9 p.m. Mural Amphitheatre, Seattle Center, Seattle; free (206-684-7200 or; cancellation information/updates, call or visit website after 2 p.m. day of show).

Aug. 25: "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1" (PG-13)

Aug. 26: "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2" (PG-13)

Outdoor Movies at Magnuson Park

Thursdays, admission at 7 p.m., followed by circus acts, food trucks, costume contests and film at dusk, Magnuson Park, athletic fields, 7400 Sand Point Way N.E., Seattle; $5 (

Aug. 23: "Monty Python & the Holy Grail" (PG)

Aug. 30: "The Goonies" (PG)

West Seattle Outdoor Movies

Saturday nights, 4410 California Ave. S.W. (the courtyard by Hotwire Online Coffee House), Seattle.

Aug. 25: "Top Gun" (PG)

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Cinderella at Snoqualmie Falls Forest Theater

It's almost shocking to me--SHOCKING!--that Rodgers and Hammerstein's Cinderella is so little known. I saw the 1965 movie starring Lesley Ann Warren and ultra-handsome Stuart Damon on TV when I was a kid and loved it. I think I only got to see it once or twice, but one of those times I tape-recorded it (yes, on cassette tape) so I got to listen to the music repeatedly. Why this movie wasn't in more frequent rotation is a mystery to me, because it's got great music and lyrics and wonderful comedic twists to make it more entertaining than sappy. Just check out this clip of the stepsisters on YouTube! (This movie was remade with Whitney Houston and Brandy in 1997, but I never saw that one.)

I got to relive this childhood memory yesterday with my nearly 4-year-old friend and princess-lover Isla yesterday (and her mom!) at Snoqualmie Falls Forest Theater. Like the Kitsap Forest Theater, it's a tiny outdoor amphitheater--which stayed a perfectly comfortable temperature on a sweltering day yesterday. It has a nice intimate feel, and holds only about 275 people. This is great for kids since it's not as overwhelming as a large theater can be, and the actors can interact with the audience. When the prince and his pages were looking for the owner of the glass slipper, they tried it on some audience members before they found Cinderella's home!

I loved the updated stepsister banter and the perfectly lovely Cinderella, played by Justine Stillwell. The fairy godmother is played by Buddy Todd in drag, who I also loved, but at least one little girl found it confusing. She yelled, "That's a clown!" during his performance--and I could certainly see her point. This godmother had overly rouged cheeks, pink hair, and spoke like a Jewish grandmother. I'm not sure if it's part of the original script, but this godmother encourages Cinderella to make "impossible" things happen for herself. It's a small way to update the girl-needing-rescuing theme, but I like it.

All in all, I think this an ideal production to bring very young children to, even though it's a long time for them to sit still. Cinderella and the prince came out after the performance so you could get your picture with them, and there's a play structure conveniently located at the top of the path to the theater, so kids can burn off pent-up energy. Cushions and bug spray are available for patrons, but if you have a high-quality stadium cushion of your own, I recommend bringing it. Isla found the bathrooms kind of scary: The stalls have curtains rather than doors, but there are flush toilets and real sinks.

This little theater is quite similar to the Kitsap Forest Theater, but it's much more convenient to Seattle. The path to the theater through the woods is much shorter, the hike to the waterfall view is a tiny 100 yards as opposed to the strenuous hike to the giant tree in Kitsap. Overall, it feels much more cozy. There's a covered area with large picnic tables where dinner is served by reservation only: salmon, steak, chicken, vegetarian lasagna, hot dogs, salad bar, etc. We didn't eat there, but it smelled great.

Anyway, Cinderella's playing through August 26, Saturdays at 2 and 7 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m. Tickets are $18 for adults, $16 for students and seniors. Kids under 5 are free! Don't miss the fleeting season for outdoor theater!