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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, November 9, 2012 - Volume 40 Issue 45
All hail the 'King'
Arts & Entertainment
ALL STORIES
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All hail the 'King'

SCT's latest show helps children learn about poverty

by Milton W. Hamlin - SGN A&E Writer

DANNY, KING OF THE BASEMENT SEATTLE CHILDREN'S THEATRE Through November 18

Seattle Children's Theatre broke box office records with its recent frazzle-dazzle production of Dr. Seuss' immortal The Cat In The Hat. The company's second show of the fall season is the perfect contrast: Danny, King of the Basement scores strongly in the timely arena - literally roped from the headlines and/or from the cheerful Real Change vendor and her bright-eyed son standing on the corner outside SCT with dreams of better days in their eyes.

As usual this season, this scribe and the Terrific Trio (minus one) tackled the show.

Miss V, now-famous granddaughter and 5th grader, and Miss A, the oh-so-sleek-and-sophisticated 7th grader, arrived to find the welcoming SCT lobby overflowing. It was the last day of The Cat in the Hat, and there was a standing room-only sign in the ticket window, bespeaking that production's great success.

A school chum of Miss A asked, logically, 'Are you here for Cat - do you have an extra ticket?' Miss A, in her Grace Kelly mode, smiled and revealed, 'Oh, no, we saw that weeks ago - we're here for this new play, Danny, King of the Basement. We had a terrible time getting a copy to read ahead of time - V's grandfather is a tyrant about being prepared,' she smiled. 'Maybe you read our comments in his review.' Well, that earned a lot of points for the now (temporarily) Dubious Duo.

Danny, thankfully, exceeded expectations. The award-winning new script without the presold lure of Cat in the Hat opened to modest audiences in SCT's smaller, intimate theatre. But a top-notch script, an intelligent set and costume design, on-target direction, and out-and-out brilliant performances by the super-talented cast made the 60-minute production one of the most emotionally charged theatrical events currently on stage in Seattle.

FANTASY AND REALITY
The story of a seriously dysfunctional mother/son family only one food-bank trip away from living under a bridge in a contemporary Canadian city, Danny pushes all the emotional buttons. Danny's mother is loving and caring but simply unable to cope with the challenges of being a single, out-of-work parent. Danny loves fantasy - why deal with the reality of poverty and boots that don't fit when you can secretly be a superhero who doesn't need a winter coat or good winter shoes? He keeps the little money they have and doles it out in small change. 'Don't buy cigarettes or give it away to really poor people,' he instructs his emotionally fragile mother. 'And bring me the change.' The child/woman mother agrees, only to fail in that simple assignment.

She does find a small basement apartment in a nice house owned by a recently rich woman now living on all-too-late child support. Danny - now 'King' of the tiny apartment - encounters two neighboring children: a tubby boy who wants to be a Canadian hockey superstar but has yet to score a goal, and the rich girl upstairs who is so popular and so busy with ballet classes, art lessons, piano recitals, and endless shopping sprees that she honestly needs 'two phones to keep in touch with all my friends.' Yeah, and denial is a river in Egypt (or so reads a friend's needlepoint pillow).

The story is written for children - all three of the Terrific Trio were glued to the script, reading and rereading it & and sharing it with friends. Because Miss V #2 had a family emergency and could not go, both of the Duo want to know if they can see it again with her. 'She can't miss it,' they pleaded in harmony, 'it's so good.' This writer, moved to tears in the play's final moments, has agreed to attend a second performance with them - a rare scheduling event for a busy Seattle theater reporter.

Tickets and reservations are available at www.sct.org. As usual with SCT's two theaters, productions overlap. The next show is (drum roll, please) a welcome revival of The Wizard of Oz, November 15 to December 6. Mark your calendars and order Oz tickets now.

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