Chutes and Ladders, Rigoletto, and Kinky Boots

What an eclectic mix, eh?

Chutes and Ladders

This is Benny, my four year old grandson. He recently learned his numbers to 100 and consequently he’s a cracker jack Chutes and Ladders player. Here he is in the process of sorting the playing pieces in preparation for our after school game. Benny won the first one, Opa won the second, but poor MeMe got skunked. Better luck next time, MeMe. You were a very good sport about it. We’ll play again next week.

When Benny’s Dad got home from work Opa and MeMe split for a night out. Our first stop was:


Not the opera – but a trendy new restaurant in the “hot zone” at South Lake Union. SLU is the old warehouse district that Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen began buying up and developing in the 1980’s. The building boom and neighborhood transformation are nothing short of miraculous, and with the influx of new businesses has come a flood of upscale restaurants. SLU is a magnet for biotech, science, and clean technology – everything from startups to UW Medicine. Amazon, in a dramatic turn away from the suburbs, is adding two million square feet of office space in the neighborhood and increasing its downtown workforce from 12,000 to 30,000. Seattle is moving north and thriving.

Rigoletto is thriving too. It’s only been open for three weeks, but it was busy last night. And, instead of a handful of offerings like other restaurants, Rigoletto’s Happy Hour menu includes small portions of half a dozen pastas plus salumi, cheese, and salads. It’s actually possible to have a well balanced small portion dinner instead of just a few bar menu appetizers. Last night we had a salumi platter, veal scaloppini, and shared an insalata mista with two glasses of wine and we were out the door for $36 including tip. We’ll go back but probably not before trying a new Brazilian churrasco restaurant, Tom Douglas’ Brave Horse Tavern, Southwestern cuisine at Cactus or a hamburger at Lunchbox Laboratory – all within the same 3 or 4 block area.

After dinner we picked our way through the traffic construction maze Seattleites refer to as the Mercer Mess and made it to the 5th Avenue Theater. Last night’s show was Kinky Boots, the feel good musical based on the 2005 film about a failing UK shoe manufacturer whose business is saved when he partners with Lola, a transvestite, and her crew of cross-dressing Angels.

Kinky Boots

The musical, which won the 2013 Tony for Best Musical, is on the road with its first touring company, and the crowd at the 5th Avenue really got into the spirit of Cyndi Lauper’s score in the raucous Second Act. By the end of the evening everyone in the theater was standing, shouting, clapping and whistling.

As we were driving home M and I were remembering the incredible Art Deco theaters in downtown Seattle when we were growing up. In addition to the 5th Avenue we had the Orpheum, Paramount, Music Hall, Coliseum, and the Palomar. Like the Pantages and Grauman’s Chinese in Hollywood, these theaters were architectural marvels but in the 1960’s and ‘70’s aggressive developers saw opportunity and began tearing them down to put up high rises like the Westin (Orpheum), Banana Republic (Coliseum), and most egregious of all a parking garage where the Palomar stood. Of these architectural treasures only the the 5th Avenue and the Paramount  survive. The Paramount was plucked from demolition by Microsoftie Ida Cole and a group of friends just as the 5th Avenue had been saved a few years earlier by Ned Skinner, a descendant of Seattle pioneers.  Both theaters now function as homes for touring companies and musical artists.

This is what the 5th Avenue looked like last night. It’s a beauty.

5th Avenue

We echo what Cyndi Lauper says in the title to one of Kinky Boots’ numbers – “Everybody Say Yeah.” It seems fitting doesn’t it?

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