First Stage Theatre - Cubamor, a New Musical
I had a new theater experience last night. It was new in several ways. The show was at the First Stage Theatre in Issaquah. That building has been referred to in many different ways over the years. The original building at 120 Front Street was opened to the movie-going public in 1914. It showed silent movies and also hosted vaudeville performers. Eventually, the facility was used for live theater for the Village Threatre company, which launched its first subscription series in April of 1980. The new theater company was able to purchase the building the next year. Early on, Village Theatre set goals of becoming a regional theater, with an emphasis on training and education, as well as producing new musicals that might achieve national exposure. By the end of the 1990-91 season, the theater company had 6,400 subscribers and needed a larger facility. They opened the new Francis J. Gaudette Theatre on November 8, 1994, at 303 Front Street, leaving the original building available for redevelopment. The New First Stage Theater opened in April, 2011. Since First Stage has a very active children's theater program, it is often referred to as Kidstage. Because it also serves as a testing ground for new musicals, the publicity for the shows in development reads: VillageTheatre, Village Originals, The Beta Series. These new shows are performed at First Stage Theatre, 120 Front Street in Issaquah, a facility with seats for fewer than 100 audience members.
After carefully watching the weather forecasts to make sure we wouldn't be snowed in after traveling to Issaquah to see Cubamor, we headed off in plenty of time to pick up our tickets at the box office. We arrived early with time to look around, but there wasn't a lot to see, since the lobby is very small. However, there was a photo display on the wall explaining the history of the theater, which caught our attention during the wait for the show to start. I really wanted to see Cubamor because of my trip to Cuba in March, the recent news about changes in Cuba, and the conflicting impressions in the media about what life is like in that country and what the future might hold. I was curious how the country and its people would be presented in a musical.
Cubamor is the story of two Americans participating in a study-abroad program who arrive in Havana determined to meet local people and participate in the local culture, while apparently also participating in studies which seem to be hidden in the background. Each very soon becomes entangled in romances, while also enjoying music, dance and spiritual rituals within the culture. I enjoyed the show from the standpoint of entertaining music and dance and the presentation of a different view of life than we see in the US and different than much of what I saw during my visit. I wondered about the accuracy of a few lines of the script, but since my own knowledge of Cuba is limited, my questions will remain. Also, the show is still under development, so the few items I wondered about might not even be there when it is next performed. Meanwhile, the show is entertaining and I was happy to have seen it, to learn about the Beta Series of shows under development, and to see the inside of the First Stage Theatre for the first time.
Cubamor is playing through December 18, 2016, and tickets should still be available. Since the theater is so small, all seats are good. The show is based on the film Cubamor by Joshua Bee Alafia. Book and Lyrics are by James D. Sasser. Music and Lyrics are by Charles Vincent Burwell. The show is directed by Kent Nicholson.