Now playing at Seattle's 5th Avenue Theatre, Secondhand Lions is a real crowd pleaser. Every musical number is bombastic and every actor has a big Broadway voice — even the children. There is comedy, melodrama, a little pathos, adventure, special effects and more comedy. The production is rock-solid and it's an enjoyable night at the theater for the whole family.
Based on the 2003 film starring Michael Caine and Robert Duvall, the musical tells the tale of a boy whose mother abandons him with his two great uncles, who live in Texas. As they get to know each other Uncle Garth begins to tell the boy stories of their youth fighting in the French Foreign Legion in Morocco. Uncle Hub was quite the hero and battled a local Sultan for the princess they both loved.
The stories of past and present both play out on stage and occasionally cross over. Some of the best comic moments come when the boy and the actors playing the elderly uncles break the wall into the past and interact with the Sultan and young Hub.
I have a soft spot for melodrama and the scenes of the past play out with moustache-twirling élan. The costumes are lavish and the Sultan, played by Jason Danieley, is a commanding and hilarious presence. The children also stand out. Johnny Rabe as the boy, Walter, and Sophia Anne Caruso as his friend Jane are so confident and self-assured that the audience was cheering them enthusiastically.
The only drawback of the show to me was the knowledge that the musical was based on a film. Though I hadn't seen the movie, I found myself wondering about the performances of Michael Caine and Robert Duvall compared to the actors on stage. Ultimately, I don't think it was fair to Gregg Edelman who was warm and charming in the role of Uncle Garth and, like the entire cast, no doubt has a much better singing voice than Michael Caine.
If you're looking for an evening of singing, dancing, adventure, and fun skip the movie and see Secondhand Lions at the 5th Avenue instead.
This is the 15th original musical produced by the 5th Avenue Theatre. Previous original 5th Avenue productions have gone on to Broadway including First Date, which was created by the songwriting team of Alan Zachary and Michael Weiner, who also produced the musical numbers for Secondhand Lions.
If you go ...
When/where: Secondhand Lions plays at the 5th Avenue Theatre through Oct.6; there are matinees on October 3, 5 and 6.
Ages: Appropriate for ages 8 and up. There is nothing objectionable as far as language or content but younger children may have some difficulty following thematic elements of the story. Running time is 2.5 hours including intermission so the 8 p.m. shows make it a late night for kids.
Tickets: $29 and up. Buy online.
About the author: John Kubalak is a writer, teacher, volunteer coordinator, raconteur, and scalawag. He does not publish science fiction under the pseudonym Jonathan Black but he does publish a monograph on fatherhood, The Eclectic Dad. He has a son, a daughter, a beautiful wife (and a little dog too!) who are adorable, maddening, zany, and brilliant all at the same time.