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"Chasing Nicolette" catches a rave

cn_mainYou Eastsiders are lucky: Some of the best musical theater around is being performed in your backyard, in a charmingly low-key community theater (with the lower prices to match). In fact, Issaquah's Village Theatre has been drawing raves - and a devoted following - for putting on the kind of involving, entertaining, technically polished - and downright fun! - theater that keeps me and my kids coming back for more.

It's the kind of night we look forward to: logistically simple, comfortably laid-back, and never less than fabulously entertaining. And the theatre's smallish size means my kids can actually see the faces of the players.

So we were more than game for VT's big season kick-off last week: the new Medieval farce "Chasing Nicolette." Here's a comedy musical with the promising premise of a doomed love between a Muslim princess and a Christian count. We loved it! The storyline is properly fraught, with trouble building gradually to ridiculous heights (a la Gilbert & Sullivan); the music is out of this world.

In fact, the music is so infectious, you'd swear it smacks of Disney - and you'd be right. Chasing Nicolette's composer also worked on the animated musicals Beatuy and the Beast, Pocohontas, and Hunchback of Notre Dame, among others. The tunes are memorable - darn near unshakable, actually; I left the theater singing "You Have to Lie" ("Honesty is dumb, lying shows you care....[lying takes] great artistic flair...").

The liar in question? The very put-upon - and very adept - servant Valere, played by Nick DeSantis, whose mobile face and expert comedic timing more than once made the show for me. Valere is charged with protecting the prince, played by Seattle-born Matthew John Kacergis (who was deemed "dreamy" and "very Prince Charming" by my young companion); Nicolette is beautiful bell-clear soprano Tanesha Ross (a 5th Avenue and SCT regular).

The set is a marvel; a rotating 3-sided castle of sorts, complete with dungeoun and turret (and what kid doesn't like that?). At times, the set rotates as the actors chase each other around it, swords drawn and teeth gnashing (with parries punctuated by nose "boops").

I'd see it again. I told all my friends. And then today, I took my kids to see "Wicked" at the Paramount. Same ticket price (about $40, which put us way up high, in the third tier far right). Hey - "Wicked" doesn't need my rave. That show was sold out. But next time you're shelling out $40 for cheap seats at a huge show, spare a thought for Village Theatre.

By the way, my kids liked "Chasing Nicolette" better than "Wicked." Cause of the swordfighting, natch.

"Chasing Nicolette" runs through Oct. 25 at the Village Theater, and then from Oct. 30-Nov. 22 at the Everett Performing Arts Center.

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