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‘Dreamgirls’ delights at Village Theatre

{ { ‘Dreamgirls’ tells the story of a group of young AfricanAmerican singers trying to make a name for themselves in the 1960s and 1970s. Photo contributed by Village Theatre

Motown-filled musical playing in Issaquah through July 2 by Nicole Jennings

The world of show business is not a perfect one, and the path to becoming famous is not covered in roses. That is what audience members can learn from Village Theatre’s new musical “Dreamgirls.” Based on the rise of groups such as Diana Ross and the Supremes, “Dreamgirls” tells the story of a group of young African-American singers trying to make a name for themselves in the world of 1960s Motown. When girl group the Dreamettes — comprised of Deena Jones (Lauren Du Pree), Lorrell Robinson (Alexandria Henderson) and lead singer Effie White (Angela Birchett) — meet Curtis Taylor, Jr. (John Devereaux) at a talent contest, they get their big break. Curtis promises to make the Dreamettes stars, and gives them a gig as backup singers for R&B singer Jimmy “Thunder” Early ‘DREAMGIRLS’ CONTINUED ON PG 9

The Don’t Miss List By Carrie Rodriguez

LISTEN | NOAM VAZANA SEPHARDIC JAZZ TRIO

Hailing from Amsterdam and a recent appearance at the Montreal Jazz Festival, Vazana’s trio combines the ancient Ladino language with relevant electronic and jazz influences, creating a co-existence of past and present. For more information, visit sjcc.org/cultural-arts/music/ WHEN: 7-9 p.m., June 11 WHERE: Stroum Jewish Community Center, 3801 E Mercer Way, Mercer Island

WATCH | ISSAQUAH SINGERS

Issaquah Singers will present a free concert for all ages, “How Does Your Garden Grow?,” featuring songs about things found in the garden. Concert goers will hear: “Everything’s Coming Up Roses,” “Plant a Radish,” “Honeysuckle Rose,” “Warm Kitty,” “His Eye is on the Sparrow” and more. Admission is free and donations are appreciated. For more information, visit www.issaquahsingers.com. WHEN: 2 p.m., June 3 WHERE: The Sammamish Presbyterian Church, 22522 NE Inglewood Hill Road, Sammamish

INDULGE | DOWNTOWN ISSAQUAH WINE WALK

Sip and stroll as you experience live music, art happenings, some snacks and local boutique wines poured in various tasting locations up and down Front Street. Tickets are $25 in advance or $30 at the event if not sold out. For more information, visit www.downtownissaquah.com. WHEN: Check-in starts at 6 p.m. at the historic Shell Station, 232 Front St. N., Issaquah


‘DREAMGIRLS’ CONTINUED FROM PG 8

(Nathaniel Tenenbaum). As the Dreamettes gain fame, fortune and romance, tensions also rise. Curtis, who is dating Effie, makes Deena the new lead singer, and eventually kicks Effie out of the group altogether, replacing her with a new singer, Michelle Morris (Joelle Weil). As the years pass, Effie strikes out on her own, but her former flame Curtis works to bring her down so that the Dreams, as they are now called, will beat her in the charts. In the meantime, Deena realizes that Curtis, who is now her husband, is not the man she thought he was. Whether the Dreams can reconcile with one another and come together as a group again or not is the big question. One of the main themes of the musical is the way music artists must conform to a standard to succeed. Often times, it is meeting this standard that can matter more than the amount of talent one has. This is true for Effie, who is the best singer of the Dreamettes, but finds herself replaced because she is plus-sized. “There’s a very specific way that people think beauty is,” Du Pree said. “There’s this one image of what beauty is in the media … and a lot of pop stars don’t make it unless they fit that look.” Du Pree herself has run into this in the modern era. Because she has eczema, she has lost out on roles due to the way that her hands look. The need to con-

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form stretches not only to looks, but to style of music in an era when racial issues and music style were closely intertwined. Although race isn’t the main plot driver of “Dreamgirls,” it would be difficult for skin color to play no role in a show set in the Civil Rights era. Because the Dreamettes/Dreams want to sell records to all Americans and not just the AfricanAmerican community, they have to alter their sound to be less Motown and more pop so as to attract white listeners. “It’s the whole idea of coming up with a commercial sound to cross over the pop charts,” Du Pree said. “Curtis’ goal is to make them more accepted by a white audience.” The simplicity of the set is brilliant — with most of the show set either on a stage or backstage, the set hardly needs to be different from Village Theatre’s own stage, with a couple of extra rows of stage lights. And the simplistic set is all the better to show off the hundreds of dazzling costumes used in the show. Of the 483 costumes created by the Village costume department for the 2016-17 season, 235 went to “Dreamgirls.” The rainbow of shimmering gowns and sequined cocktail dresses are a real treat for the eyes and a definite highlight of the show. Deena, Effie and Lorrell never wear the same thing twice, appearing in different costumes every scene they are onstage — and sometimes wearing two differ-

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Photos contributed by Village Theatre

“Dreamgirls” is now playing Wednesdays through Sundays and select Tuesdays through July 2 at the Francis J. Gaudette Theatre, located at 303 Front St. N. in Issaquah, before moving to Everett. Costumes play a big role in telling the “Dreamgirls” story. As the Dreamettes — comprised of Deena Jones (Lauren Du Pree), Lorrell Robinson (Alexandria Henderson) and lead singer Effie White (Angela Birchett) rise in fame, their look changes from demure (as pictured above) to dazzling (pictured left).

ent costumes in the same scene, thanks to the ingenious work of costume designer Karen Ann Ledger and fast helpers backstage. “It’s the most sparkle I’ve ever put onstage … But you get a lot of mileage out of sparkle in telling the story,” Ledger said. The abundance of different outfits helps to show the passage of time; the women are performing different shows around the country every night for years, so it makes sense to show them in a lot of different looks. Additionally, the over-the-top glitz

plays an important role in race relations of the era. “Glamour was a new thing,” Ledger said. “People of color were not on TV. They had to glamorize their look to

become accepted.”

More information

“Dreamgirls” plays Wednesdays through Sundays and select Tuesdays through July 2 at the Francis J.

Gaudette Theatre, located at 303 Front St. N. in Issaquah, before moving to Everett. For tickets, call the box office at 425-392-2202 or go to www.villagetheatre.org/issaquah/ dreamgirls.php.

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Firenze Ristorante Italiano celebrates 25 years of offering patrons a personal experience By Nicole Jennings

Deep in the hustle and bustle of the Crossroads area of Bellevue, surrounded by cookiecutter, big-box stores, lies one business that is a bit different. Upon walking in the door, one leaves the world of American strip malls and enters a little piece of the city that was the birthplace of the Renaissance — Florence, Italy. This year marks Nicole Jennings/staff photo At Firenze Ristorante, everyone is a family. From left, cook Jose Alvarez, Sal, his daughter 25 years that Firenze Valentina, cook Francis Vidal and server David Soto. Ristorante Italiano — named for the Italian ence grace the walls rant. authentic pieces of name for Florence and the rich tenor of Along the back wall Italy. — has provided an Andrea Bocelli plays is an impressive selec“We bake the bread old-world oasis to the over the loudspeaker, tion of Italian wines, every morning, with modern, nonstop subsoftly setting the scene including Le Mura, a recipe from Sicily,” urban outdoors. of the restaurant. A a Sangiovese/MerSal explains, gesturing Proprietor Salvatore glass chandelier and lot blend made from at a basket of warm, “Sal” Lembo takes mango gelato-colored grapes grown on Sal’s aromatic bread next to great pride in filling Fiwalls create the illusion own property outside bottles of olive oil and renze Ristorante — as of eating in the botof Florence. well as his other eatery, balsamic vinegar. tom floor of a Roman But it is not only the Paintings of the Marianna in Renton palazzo-turned-restauauthentic environment Ponte Vecchio in Flor— with only the most

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Nicole Jennings/staff photo

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of the restaurant that has kept customers from across the Eastside coming back for a quarter of a century. A trip to Firenze Ristorante is an extremely personal experience. This is not the kind of business where the owner hides away in a back office, letting his underlings do all of the work; Sal is out front every night greeting his customers and engaging them in conversation. Whenever people ask him what he recommends they order, he never picks the priciest items on the menu,

but instead chooses his personal preferences. “People ask, ‘What’s your favorite?’” he said. “I don’t go for what’s expensive, I go for what’s my favorite.” Sal can regularly be seen dining in the restaurant himself, speaking a mix of English and Italian at a long table filled with his family and friends. Often times, he will go beyond just conversing with his patrons, and will ask them to join his table. On the day of his interview, Sal was en‘FIRENZE’ CONTINUED ON PG 12

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‘FIRENZE’ CONTINUED FROM PG 11

joying the post-lunchtime lull with a table full of friends from Italy, family members and a brand-new friend who had just come into the restaurant for the first time that day on his lunch break. “I ask my customers, ‘Would you like to join my table?’ It’s kind of my payback,” Sal described. “I enjoy it, I’m eating, I’m having fun.” Even the names of Sal’s restaurants convey a personal touch; Firenze, or Florence, is Lembo’s hometown, and Marianna is the name of his mother, who still lives in Italy. It’s that warm, family aspect of Firenze Ristorante that keeps not only the clientele, but also the employees around. “The family environment is different than everywhere else I have worked,” said David Soto, who has been a

Nicole Jennings/staff photo

The restaurant gives off the feel of a Florentine palazzo.

server at Firenze for five years. Sal, in turn, is thankful to be surrounded by so many wonderful people. It is his Firenze Ristorante family that has made the business a wonderful experience, even through tough times such as the 2008 economic recession. “You have no idea how lucky I am … eight to 10 years ago, after the recession, I got hurt. It hurts me,” Sal said. “But I meet friends, I’m proud of my food, I love it.” Sal’s 25-year-old daughter Valentina Lembo, who works as

VILLAGE THEATRE

a server at Firenze, said that she has spent so much time in her dad’s restaurant growing up that she “might as well have been born here.” “I was here all the time — after school, before school, during school,” Valentina laughed. “I’ve literally spent five days a week here for 25 years.” She added that when she’s not working, she often comes to the restaurant to spend time with her Firenze family. “Even on my days off it’s a piece of me,” she said. “I enjoy having lots of friends I meet here, even if they’re just

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friends for a day or for 20 years.” And aficionados of true Italian cuisine and European flair travel from across the Eastside and the Seattle area for the Firenze Ristorante experience. Sal said that some of his best regular customers come from Issaquah, Sammamish, Redmond, Kirkland and Renton. “This is one of the best places to eat on the Eastside. There is no better Italian restaurant,” said Ilija Orlovic, who has been coming to Firenze since 2005 and was seated at Sal’s table of family and friends on the day of the interview. “It has a more European feel. It’s more work to live than live to work.” Firenze Ristorante is located at 15600 NE Eighth St., Bellevue. For more information or to make a reservation, call 425-957-1077.

FRIDAY, MAY 26, 2017

Summer trends By Jaime Cao Intern

Summer is quickly approaching us, and with that comes warmer weather. The upcoming season is the perfect time to explore bright and unconventional pieces that you wouldn’t normally pick out for your wardrobe. While most of us have our go-to pair of shades, swimsuit and shoes, below are pieces that will encourage you to step out of your style comfort zone. Look out for trendy, innovative and most importantly, fun pieces. Protect your eyes from the summer sun in style. Try these sunglasses that will make for a trendy summer: • Cat eye frames - A continuous top trend in the eyewear industry. • Circle frames - Geometric shapes in general, but most commonly circles, have been a popular trend. • Colored lenses - An easy way to add color to your look, anywhere from blue to yellow tinted lenses. • White frames - Bright, simple, classy. If you’re planning to spend time in the water this summer, here are some alternatives to your classic swimsuit: • One piece - The swimsuit that we once wore as kids may be perhaps the biggest swimwear comeback trend. • High neck - Think a waterproof, cropped halter top. • Off the shoulder - A noticeable trend that has been in the street-style scene meets swimsuit. • High waisted - The cut is flattering on a wide variety of body types. • Lace-up - Previously most commonly seen in tops, the trend is seen in both one and two pieces. Refresh your summer wardrobe with shoes that will stand out among the rest. More than your average flipflop, yet still practical for whatever your plans may be: • Espadrilles - A summer staple that has been going on for years. • Lace-up ballet flats - The ballet flats that you know, combined with the lace-up trend and taken to the next level.


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