About a half-hour into Seattle Vice, the new musical that premiered at ACT last weekend, there’s tittering not only from the bare-breasted dancers but from the crowd as a man enters the subterranean Bullitt Cabaret stage through the audience.
He is nude from head to head, well-endowed and not by money. Which was the point.
When he orders a drink, the bartender refuses to serve him.
“What? Just because I’m naked?”
“No,” says the bartender. “Because I know you don’t have any money on you.”
It gets a robust laugh from the sold-out opening-night crowd. But if they haven’t read the book I wrote that inspired ACT’s comedic and musical romp into the boozy, unclothed world of late Seattle mobster and stripper king Frank Colacurcio, they probably think someone made it up.
I don’t know the naked guy’s name. But the bartender it happened to—at Frank’s sister’s place, Ciro’s Rickshaw Room on Pine Street—was Tommy Atkins.
As Tommy later told me, “If he had money on him, I still woulda refused. Who knows where he was keeping it?”
It is a great joy to see this episode come to life again on a dim, cavernous stage. The Bullitt is a place seemingly built for the play, down to the fact that you can access the theater through a back door, encountering a bar perched on the balcony level and a theater spread out below where the play, written by Mark Siano and Opal Peachey, unfolds. The two are also part of the ensemble cast and live band: Siano as lounge singer Gil Conte and Peachey as Madam Washington, a character based on Seattle beauty-queen-turned-prostitute Rose Williams, whose Rolodex of cops, civic leaders, and politicians was somehow misplaced during her last arrest.
As Seattle Weekly’s Brian Miller wrote last week, the stage version of Seattle Vice is “all about melody and comedy; it’s not meant to be serious history.” But the musical exaggeration generates the larger truth of Colacurcio’s dance evolution from topless to full frontal. The city had lungs back then—exposed and breathing heavily, from the cops-on-the-take ’60s through the scandalous ’03 Strippergate payoffs until Frank’s final federal indictment, which he beat by dying in 2010.
“I love this fucking town!” says Frank, played with believable gold-chain swagger by Michael Cimino. And Colacurcio did, as Siano and Peachey obviously do. Hear, hear. In a company town renowned for software, retailing, and, good Lord, coffee, there is a place to see what actual fun looks like. After April 19, you’re on your own.
Rick Anderson writes about sex, crime, money, and politics, which tend to be the same thing.