The Can Can, an established Seattle cabaret tucked away under the Pike Place Market, brings a fun and festive show just up the street to The Triple Door. The dining service is much less successful than the stagecraft.
With dinner theatre, it’s just as much about the food as the show. Bring them together right, and there’s potential for double the magically good time. And sometimes … well, it just doesn’t work.
At the Can Can’s 10th annual Halloween production at The Triple Door, the dining service got horrified laughs alongside the otherwise funny and enjoyable performance. Luckily, the food and drinks are a la carte, so you can control your destiny on that part.
Bucking the adage “save the best for last,” I’ll start with the show.
This Is Halloween is the Can Can Culinary Cabaret’s slightly campy, not-really-very-spooky, and a li’l bit slinky version of The Nightmare Before Christmas. Basically, it’s a stage version of the film, with a good band, some fun actors, and some bare asses. It has performed every year for the past 10 seasons, and its polish shows.
The story looks at the characters of Halloween Town and their leader, the Pumpkin King Jack Skellington, who grows bored with the town’s perpetual holiday and stumbles upon a new one in Christmas Town — which he tries, unsuccessfully, to merge into his own town’s characteristically spooky culture. It turns out that festively wrapped boxes of bones still aren’t all that appealing to children, even if Santa drops them off.
In the stage version, the story and character development are, shall we say, bare-bones. What’s left? Here, it’s all in the antics and the stagecraft, and both make for an enjoyable show.
Under an ever-present green glow, great big beaming moon and glittering stars, and a constant wash of darkness, the stage comes alive. The frequent (and seamless) set changes and dazzling festive costumes are a show unto themselves. Oscillating between the two holidays, the stage holds natural Halloween creepiness and horrible interpretations of Christmas — resulting in a festive, whimsical spookiness, laughable in its attempts to mimic the season of giving, from creepy bones-in-a-box presents to a skeletal “Sandy Claws”.
Tim Keller reprises the role of Jack Skellington, which he’s played throughout the 10 years. Keller performs a spirited and lightly creepy Jack, characterized by his unreasonably long, claw-like fingers and a magnetic curiosity. Seattle-area musical theatre standouts Jasmine Jean Sim and Nik Hagen, each nominated for Gregory Awards this year, are delightful here, too: Sim as the saucy and not-so-scary villain (Oogie Boogie), showing much less skin than in her prior Can Can appearance (The Legend of El Dorado) but still pulling off a glamorous allure, even as the bad-creature; and Hagen in his element of endearing, exaggerated comedy as loyal and dopey ghost dog/reindeer Zero, an easy audience favorite.
The show pulls from The Nightmare Before Christmas, obviously; but it often feels a lot like How the Grinch Stole Christmas, too: the holiday draws a grinchy figure awkwardly out of his shell, supported by a lovable, over-eager dog who savors his own hope while sticking by his grinch.
It’s a lively and festive show for a touch of holiday spirit without all the spookiness — a great grown-up alternative (or supplement) to the haunted houses and horror movies.
The dining service at The Triple Door, meanwhile, was the scary part — chiefly the mystifying inconsistencies coming out of the kitchen, and unexplained delays throughout. It could have been pure comedy, but for the price tag.
For those unfamiliar with the setup, The Triple Door doesn’t run its own kitchen, exactly. Instead they get food by arrangement with their sibling Wild Ginger right upstairs, which also provides happy hour snacks and full-dinner plates in The Triple Door’s “MQ Lounge” bar, just outside the door to the stage venue. (Layout-wise, think something like the Showbox and Kerns Music Shop.) Both the stage and the bar serve the same menu, which is a streamlined and vastly slimmed-down version of the family-style Thai food menu offered upstairs at Wild Ginger. The Triple Door serves the no-fuss staples, and usually does a good job of it, at least in the bar.
Either this was a horribly off night, or that no longer holds true in the venue.
Our food orders were intentionally simple, so we could focus on the show:
Food: Chicken satay (two to a plate, $9), dumplings (five, $14), pot stickers (five, $14), Malay cake (hunk, $7)
Drinks: two of the apple cider specialty cocktail, Lock Shock & Barrel ($14 each); and two glasses of Adriane’s Rum Punch ($10 each)
And yet we spent half the show wondering what was up with the food. Mine (pot stickers and dessert) arrived quickly, and at the same time (unusual) — no bother, I shoved the cake to the side to eat later. Our drinks were nowhere in sight, until my second-round drink order (the rum punch) arrived. It was delicious.
My guest still didn’t have food, and was eating my pot stickers. I turned my focus to dessert, grateful it had shown up too early after all, and happily devoured it — but even it had an issue, with none of the promised “fresh berries” in sight. Our first drinks arrived, which were fine but uninteresting (except for the cinnamon-sugar rim, which was tasty but stuck on like concrete), and no one wants a faintly-sweet cider drink after a fabulously-sweet rum punch.
Eventually my guest’s food arrived — or part of it anyway. They had run out of dumplings and so, halfway through the show, all she got of it was a snack-sized plate of (pretty good) chicken satay with a perennially cute little brick of rice. The waiter was nice. She brought some complimentary pot stickers instead of the dumplings. Though since my guest had already had some of mine, she really didn’t want another plate of them.
The cherry on top for my guest was the lack of one: seeing my delightful rum punch come out, with its fun summery hue and whimsical garnishes, she ordered one as well. Out came a tall boring glass of the same (tasty) drink, minus all the whimsy: no oversized straw, no fruit slices, no cherry. It was a fitting end. But she turned out to have dodged a bullet: my maraschino cherry was near-frozen, hard, had absorbed none of the cocktail (the whole point of eating the thing), and for some reason tasted like Bazooka bubble gum.
But the best (worst) part of all was the mystifying lack of quality control on their basic, stalwart, practically signature small plate: the chicken pot stickers. I’ve been eating them for over a decade. They’re no-fail. Except, of course, they were fails that night.
My plate of five had four perfect-looking pot stickers and one burnt one. I actually like a good sear, so I was OK with that until I reached for it. The burnt one was ice cold. So there were four hot, consistent pot stickers and one cold, burnt one. On the same plate. What the hell happened here?
I’m forgiving with dinner theatre service (it’s no easy job), but that was inedible so I sent the one icy pot sticker back and received two hot ones in its place (again, thank you waiter). One of them contained a nearly whole, uncut clove of garlic. (And again, what the hell happened here?)
If you’re counting, we’re now up to 12 pot stickers from an order of five, and we collectively still only ate half of them.
Our “dinner” was, essentially, death by 1,000 paper cuts, of which the final one came in the bill: $100 for four cocktails, a couple edible snacks, and a parade of sloppy misfires.
In the end, like Zero the reindeer-dog, I’m torn between the hopeful glow of the show and the grinch of the dining experience.
My advice to the theatre-goer? Eat somewhere else first, and go enjoy a Halloween treat of a fun show, a sweet rum punch, and a slab of not-so-sweet Malay cake. They’re delightful.
And to The Triple Door: get some quality control. This meal was a lot more trick than treat.
Note: for a more traditional Can Can experience in Halloween form, you may also like Zombie Cheerleaders from Hell, which runs through 11/3 at their usual Pike Place location. See show info here.
This Is Halloween runs through 10/31 at The Triple Door. Tickets $29-$49 (depending on section and night), available here. View menu here. For showtimes, visit Calendar page. Accessibility notes: restrooms are gendered and multi-stall. Theatre is wheelchair accessible; recommend contacting venue ahead of time for accessible seating.
Chase D. Anderson is Editor & Producer of NWTheatre.org.