Writer debuts original play in return to stage

January 12, 2009

By David Hayes

Actors give a reading of ‘The Gypsy King’ at the Village Originals Annual Festival of New Musicals in August 2008. By Sam FreemanActors give a reading of ‘The Gypsy King’ at the Village Originals Annual Festival of New Musicals in August 2008. By Sam Freeman

In the 1980s, there seemingly wasn’t a regional theater Randy Rogel hadn’t worked at, including the Seattle Repertoire Theatre, The Empty Space, 5th Avenue and the Seattle Children’s Theatre.

But as the theater veteran currently pays the bills writing songs for the likes of Steven Spielberg-animated projects, he realized there was one theater he longed to be a part of — Issaquah’s Village Theatre. There are even old acquaintances he shared the stage with in the ’80s who now roam the halls of Village Theatre, including Executive Producer Rob Hunt and Artistic Director Steve Thomkins.

The Emmy and Peabody award-winning writer believes he’s got the perfect project — “The Gypsy King” — to bring to Village Theatre’s Originals program, where unfinished works are brought to further work out the kinks.

“‘Gypsy King’ is less like ‘Rent’ and ‘Miss Saigon’ than it’s more like the old school productions of ‘Guys and Dolls’ and ‘The Music Man,’” Rogel explained.Hunt invited Rogel to first bring the play to Village Theatre’s Festival of New Musicals last August.

“Rob saw the show in New York at the National Theatre and thought it would be perfect for Issaquah’s audiences,” Rogel said.

Rogel has compiled quite a résumé with his writing credits. He has won three Emmy awards for writing and composing in television and has received nine Emmy nominations. He is the recipient of a rare and prestigious Peabody Award and has also won two Annie Awards for his work in animation.

While’s he’s contributed to musical theater before, this is Rogel’s first venture into penning a full musical comedy.

In all, he’s worked on the “The Gypsy King” script on and off for the past four years. But he admits that when you add it up, he’s probably put in a total of a couple months on the project.

The play has had readings so far in Chicago, Akron (Ohio), New York and London. But he’s looking forward to the workshop setting at the First Stage, to finally put down the books and work on other elements of the play.

Rogel said “The Gypsy King” is reminiscent of his days as the lead in “Singing in the Days.” There will be laughs, singing and lots of dancing. Writing the play has proven to be as taxing as the physicality of his early roles.

“The funny thing is many of my roles were physical. But the writing is more cerebral,” he said.

The play is a simple tale of Leo and Frederick, a father-son acting duo, seriously down on their luck, with Frederick wishing only for a place to belong. But when he falls for a princess disguised as a peasant girl, and is then captured by the royal guard, Frederick very quickly gets a lot more than he bargained for.

Meanwhile, the prince Alfonse, who bears a curious resemblance to Frederick, hears of an assassination plot against him. Alfonse’s scheming right-hand man Sergei suggests the prisoner Frederick take the prince’s dangerous position — and with Frederick at the helm, chaos ensues for all.

One of the challenges Rogel said he looks forward to working on is one actor plays a dual role, and by the end literally has a sword fight with himself.

“The target audience for ‘The Gypsy King’ is anyone who loves great music and loves to laugh,” he said. “It’s a real family show.”

He added he looks forward to returning some day with the completed project to be a part of a future Village Theatre season.

If you go

‘The Gypsy King’

Jan. 30 – Feb. 1

120 Front Street N.

$10 – $12 (or free with Village Originals membership)

392-2202

Reach Reporter David Hayes at 392-6434, ext. 237 or dhayes@isspress.com. Comment on this story at www.issaquahpress.com.

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