Book-It’s Take on “Howl’s Moving Castle”

Fantasy fiction is not my thing, and I prefer theatre to opera. Given those predilections, it was unlikely that I would be charmed by Book-It’s current offering, “Howl’s Moving Castle,” adapted and directed by Myra Platt, Book-It’s founding Co-artistic Director. This is an “operatic” rendition with music by the very talented Justin Huertas. I use the term “operatic” not to suggest the vocal ranges of the performers, rather to suggest that almost the entire performance is sung.

The production is based on the enormously popular 1986 children’s book by Diana Wynne Jones. This novel has charmed young female readers for years, a readership that does indeed like magical tales and successful young female heroines. So for some audiences this will be a real winner.

The moral of the story is that a girl can achieve what she’s meant to have and to be. Ah yes there will be trials along the way, setbacks, and sometimes miraculous saves, but in the end it will all be good. This story plays out at almost three hours.

What’s really good here are the skillful production values. Andrew D. Smith’s lighting works wonderfully to set mood. His skies are breathtaking. The set by Julia Hayes Welch consists of a series of stone-like risers building up to create a mountain landscape. It’s a setting for all different environments; it’s a platform for action; it’s simple; yet it works so effectively to carry forward the plot.

Adam Quillian’s musicians (strings and keyboard) are in fine form, and the cast is well dressed in Margaret Toomey’s costumes. Sarah Porkalob as the main character Sophie Hatter is most endearing, and Michael Feldman plays her nemesis Howl with panache.

So here’s an overlong, over drawn, stage show with really fine production values within a musical that is, I’m sorry to say, somewhat tedious.

Through December 30 at Center Theatre in the Armory in Seattle Center, 206 216-0833 or Book-It.org.

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