I felt like I was a part of history being made last night. You know that feeling? When so many amazing people show up to witness a great event. Live! From The Last Night Of My Life was so much more than an incredible piece of theatre, but it is surely a cultural icon that this city will speak of for at least a generation. We had the distinct privilege of joining the most die hard fans, supporters and lovers of this show on Opening Night for the remount of this production. Originally premiering in 2011, it is evident this show is the dream conjuring of a beloved piece of work carried out by ardent lovers of the cause. One thing is for sure – Live! is spot on.
The way Live! was conceived, top to bottom, is marvelous. The Super Slurp convenience store was not only beautifully authentic as a set, but was even affirmed through the storyline why the audience would have their perspective on it. Michael Mowery does a fantastic job creating stunning set design from what I’ve seen in other T22 shows, and the ways this stage breathed was enviably smart. It was the convenience store that hosted a lifetime of tumbling memories up to the very last night of Doug Sample’s life. Transforming the stage into a skate deck or a school dance was no problem for this team of designers. With such cohesion in the lighting, sound design, choreography, dancing and fights, the physical tapestry of the show had us cheering at moments, and crying horrified at others.
The power of this show is in the story. Rawley has delivered a piece of theatre that is as beautiful in its tragedy as it is heartwarming in its comedy. You realize through the course of Doug’s decisions how easy it is to find reason in the chaos of life. For better or worse, it’s still up to each individual soul on this planet to make sense out of life the best way they can, and Live! offers a perfect view on how important perspective is.
With deliveries of some of the best performances I have seen in Seattle, the entire original cast made a comeback for this remount. There is no doubt that each actor deeply loves this play. You can feel it coming off of them – that this is one of the most significant things they have ever done in their lives. I am astounded by that. I get that feeling from every angle in this production. As Doug Sample, Ryan Higgins performed the hell out of his role. I don’t quite know how else to put it. The journey of getting to know the character, laughing with him and feeling his insecurities, was the reason you wanted to cheer at the high points but also why it was so horrifying in the depths.
The ensemble was scattered with unbelievable performances. Each actor played a number of characters, yet each one was so rich in their distinction. Ashley Bagwell was amazing in his range of extraverted and introverted roles. Alyson Bedford managed a full plate and had a hilarious performance of Doug’s mom. Samie Spring Detzer delivered a stand out best friend and a wonderfully pragmatic psychic. Katie Driscoll opened up the show for good reason because her ability to become so many clear characters was incredibly fun to watch – especially with those faces, amazing. Heather Gautschi accomplished so many roles throughout the show, most memorable as Doug’s former girlfriend. Corey D. McDaniel, I have got to say you floored me with your Circle K guy and Redneck Zen characters – you are so unbelievably funny! Jason Sharp was phenomenal in a pair of roller-skates and as Danny Zuko in the last moments. James Weidman was nothing short of stellar playing Doug’s father and a score of ensemble roles cementing the comedy forever in my mind of, “WHAT PUMP?!” Though I do have to give honorable mention to Corey McDaniel again. As an actor, you are incredible. But as a Producer at large, it is clear this production was a labour of love for you and I commend the driving force that brought this show back to the stage. Not only that, but Dance Captain too? I am very impressed.
All I gotta say is, John Travolta baby. This production is an opportunity to see the best of what Seattle theatre has to offer. It makes you want to be a part of it. My sincerest congratulations to the entire cast and crew. I had a wonderful night out at the theatre.