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Updated Friday, November 9, 2012 at 07:31 AM

In the mood for a musical? Here are 4 on local stages

By Misha Berson
Seattle Times theater critic

Musical theater anyone? Before the big rush of Christmas shows, some local companies are offering song-and-dance entertainments with no yuletide tie:

"Return to Paradise"

Teatro ZinZanni's latest dinner-theater confection is yet another nostalgia trip back to the 1962 Seattle World's Fair (complete with a time-machine prop).

The fluffy, entertaining retro show is less about our fair city, however, than it is a return to the sounds and look of the swinging '60s — with a crooning, gold-suited Elvis (Mike Geier) and his bride-to-be, Priscilla (Ukrainian gymnast Elena Gatilova); a mini-clad singer with a Twiggy look and a belting pop voice (Jen Ayers); and a young Jimi Hendrix sound-alike (virtuoso guitar slinger Thaddeus Turner).

Much of the clowning is left in the capable hands of Christine Deaver, whose Mae Westian patter, bawdy shenanigans with audience members and glitzy get-ups (courtesy of ace ZinZanni costumer Louise Dilenge) are a stitch.

There's some Elvis overload, but the skill acts are tops, particularly the dexterous Christopher Phi as a hand-balancing version of Bruce Lee.

Through Jan. 27 at Teatro ZinZanni, Seattle (206-802-0015 or www.dreams.zinzanni.org)

And opening soon:

"Fiddler on the Roof"

Tevye the milkman, his wife, Golde, and their five marriageable daughters return, in the Village Theatre's new production of the Jerry Bock-Sheldon Harnick musical with Russian-Jewish roots and universal appeal.

Directed by frequent Seattle visitor and Arizona Theatre Company artistic director David Ira Goldstein, this version features Village regulars Eric Polani Jensen as Tevye and Bobbi Kotula as Golde, with (yea!) expert funny gal Laura Kenny as Yente the matchmaker.

Through Dec. 30 at Village Theatre, Issaquah; Jan. 4-27 at Everett Performing Arts Center, Everett (425-392-2202 or www.villagetheatre.org).

"Avenue Q"

The Tony Award-winning Broadway show that imagines an irreverent Gen-X version of "Sesame Street," with the fabled avenue as a block of underemployed and hormonally charged young New Yorkers, returns in a local production staged by Eric Ankrim. Yup, as ever, the characters are all puppets — here manipulated by a local cast of talented singing actors.

Runs Nov. 16-Dec. 15 at Erickson Theatre, Seattle (206-329-1050 or www.balagantheatre.org).

"The Wizard of Oz"

Channel-surf, and you'll likely catch this classic Judy Garland flick based on L. Frank Baum's fantastical storybooks on television around Thanksgiving.

Or you can live it up via a live stage production, at Seattle Children's Theatre.

Featuring "Somewhere Over the Rainbow," "Ding Dong the Witch Is Dead," "If I Only Had a Brain" and other delights from the much-loved Harold Arlen-E.Y. Harburg score, the theatrical version (created initially for the Royal Shakespeare Festival) is faithful to the movie musical and a reliable crowd-pleaser for SCT.

Kasey Nusbickel plays Dorothy (a part she also took at SCT in 2008), in a cast that also includes Julie Briskman, Todd Jefferson Moore and other local lights.

Nov. 15-Jan. 6 at Seattle Children's Theatre, Seattle Center (206-441-3322 or www.sct.org).

Misha Berson: mberson@seattletimes.com


WILLIAM ANTHONY
Bruce Lee (Christopher Phi) takes his moves to the air in Teatro ZinZanni's "Return to Paradise."




MICHAEL HIPPLE
Eric Polani Jensen is Tevye in Village Theatre's production of "Fiddler on the Roof."




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