Meet the many faces of Tony-winning ‘Next to Normal’ actress Alice Ripley

February 15, 2011

Alice Ripley as Diana Goodman

Actress Alice Ripley cries a monsoon in each “Next to Normal” performance as suburban mom Diana Goodman.

The lead character suffers from bipolar disorder, but electroshock therapy and pills, pills, pills cannot quiet the illness. Ripley has occupied the challenging role since “Next to Normal” debuted Off Broadway in early 2008 and earned a Tony Award for Best Actress in a Musical for the Broadway staging the following year.

“I see ‘Next to Normal’ as a story about every family that has experienced loss and grief, because that is what ‘Next to Normal’ is about, in my view,” she said.

Ripley and the national “Next to Normal” tour reach The 5th Avenue Theatre in Seattle on Feb. 22.

“Alice did what you always hope an actor does with such a vital role in a new show,” Issaquah native and “Next to Normal” author-lyricist Brian Yorkey said. “You want an actor to come into the rehearsal room and pick up the script and say, ‘OK, this part’s mine. I am this person.’”

Alice Ripley as Diana Goodman

Yorkey and composer Tom Kitt kept Ripley in mind as “Next to Normal” and the precursor “Feeling Electric” ricocheted from workshop to workshop.

“Initially, I am drawn to raw material. Then, I saturate myself with facts from the world I am entering — her story,” Ripley said. “After that, anything goes. Actors must use their imaginations to fill in the gaps of information.”

“Next to Normal” demands a nonstop stream of combustible emotions from Ripley in each performance. The actress has left a long-lasting imprimatur after hundreds of outings as Diana.

“Since Diana lives in me and I am an ever-changing human, it stands to reason that we have both grown and changed in the four years that I have known her,” Ripley said.

Emma Hunton portrays troubled daughter Natalie in the national tour. The role puts mother and daughter at loggerheads.

“It’s like watching a master class, because Alice is one of those actors who will challenge you onstage,” Hunton said.

The unfiltered look at mental illness — and the anguish the Goodman family endures — has imparted lessons to Ripley’s “Next to Normal” costars.

“With Alice, it’s sort of unexpected. You never know what you’re going to get, which keeps you on your toes and makes the show really fresh,” Hunton said. “If I’ve learned anything from her, it’s never to do the same thing twice.”

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Annie again: Issaquah girl’s latest acting gig is voice for ‘Magic Tree House’

February 8, 2011

Emily Rudolph records the voice for Annie, a character from the ‘Magic Tree House’ book series. By Cricket Moon Media

Jack and Annie climbed into their magic tree house and pointed at a book. As in all of the “Magic Tree House” stories, the book they chose sped them through time and space.

Random House Children’s Books brought the series to life with its Magic Tree House website, where a spunky Annie and eager Jack quiz readers about their historical, out-of-this-world adventures.

Issaquah Middle School sixth-grader Emily Rudolph knows the website well — she does the voice for Annie, guiding participants through games on the website.

“I’ve been reading ‘Magic Tree House’ since second grade,” she said. “I feel like I can relate to Annie.”

Emily has already recorded twice at Cricket Moon Media in Seattle, and Producer Laura Nash said she looked forward to more sessions with the pint-sized star.

“She just has a really great reading voice,” Nash said. “She is unusually peppy and friendly. She sounds like an all-American kid without trying, which is really hard to do.”

Though new to voice recording, Emily is familiar with show business. In 2007-08, she and her older brother Josh Rudolph played two of the King of Siam’s children in “The King and I” at Village Theatre.

The acting bug bit her. Onstage she could sing, dance and transform herself into another person.

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County leaders celebrate Martin Luther King Jr. Day

January 16, 2011

King County Executive Dow Constantine (left) and County Councilman Larry Gossett honor Martin Luther King Jr. at a Jan. 13 celebration. Contributed

NEW — 10 a.m. Jan. 16, 2011

King County leaders honored Martin Luther King Jr. and highlighted local efforts to eliminate inequality at a jubilant celebration Jan. 13.

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King County leaders honor civil rights hero Thursday

January 12, 2011

NEW — 8 p.m. Jan. 12, 2011

King County leaders pause Thursday to celebrate the legacy of slain civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr.

The county celebration at The 5th Avenue Theatre in downtown Seattle features musicians, poets and a keynote address from Dr. Camara Phyllis Jones, a research director at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The festivities start at noon Thursday. The event is free and open to the public. The 5th Avenue Theatre is located at 1308 Fifth Ave.

(The federal holiday to honor King is Monday.)

The county Civil Rights Commission has also recognized three eighth-grade students in a yearly essay contest to recognize King. The contest encourages students to think about King’s legacy of peace and justice.

The county celebration includes a presentation of the top essays.

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Brian Yorkey answers questions Monday about ‘Next to Normal’

January 8, 2011

NEW — 2 p.m. Jan. 8, 2011

Brian Yorkey takes to the stage Monday to discuss the Pulitzer Prize-winning musical “Next to Normal” — weeks before the national tour reaches Seattle.

Yorkey, a former Village Theatre associate artistic director and Issaquah High School alumnus, is scheduled to participate in Spotlight Night at The 5th Avenue Theatre.

David Armstrong, 5th Avenue Theatre executive producer and artistic director, hosts the Q&A session.

Yorkey appears at the Seattle theater to discuss the rock musical “Next to Normal” — a dysfunctional-family-drama about a bipolar-disorder-afflicted housewife.

The piece earned Yorkey and composer Tom Kitt the Pulitzer Prize for Drama — a rarity reserved for only a handful of musicals — early last year.

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Issaquah tragedies, triumphs define a tumultuous year

December 28, 2010

Traffic lines up on state Route 900 at Northwest Talus Drive in February. State Department of Transportation crews completed the long-running project in 2010. By Greg Farrar

The economy lurched from the recession, population growth all but stalled and Issaquah — after cutbacks and setbacks in 2009 — defied the odds to reach major milestones throughout 2010.

Momentum returned in 2010 after a year spent in a holding pattern. Set against the backdrop of a fragile recovery, leaders cut the ribbon on businesses and roads, laid the foundation for preservation and construction, and marked tragedies and successes. Read more

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Local actor channels the bully in ‘A Christmas Story’

December 7, 2010

Scut Farkus (Ashton Herrild, center) and Grover Dill (Keenan Barr, right) confront Ralphie (Clarke Hallum, left) and Randy (Matthew Lewis, lying center) in ‘A Christmas Story, The Musical!’ By Chris Bennion

All 9-year-old Ralphie Parker wants for Christmas is “an official Red Ryder carbine-action 200-shot range model air rifle with a compass in the stock, and this thing which tells time.”

While he impatiently waits for Santa Claus to bring him the BB gun for the holidays, the star of the new 5th Avenue Theatre musical production of “A Christmas Story, The Musical!” has to deal with a foil his own age: bully Scut Farkus, played by Newcastle 13-year-old Ashton Herrild.

In addition to bullying Parker at school, Farkus bullies him in his daydream fantasies that pop up in The 5th Avenue Theatre’s musical, playing a shark, a pirate and even a creature that looks like the evil monkey from “The Wizard of Oz.”

“I’m pretty much the main antagonist,” Ashton said.

The hit 1983 movie, based on real and fictional stories by Jean Shepherd, follows the Parker family through a Christmas season in the 1940s. But Ashton advised patrons to see the musical first and the movie later, so “they won’t say, ‘That’s not the same as the movie,’” when they watch the show, he said.

Ashton has acted since age 4, when he took acting classes at Mercer Island’s Youth Theatre Northwest.

His mother, Beth Herrild, remembered how her son used to wake her and her husband David up in the morning, dressed to the nines in a costume of his own making.

“I was always that kid who was loud in class and wasn’t really embarrassed,” about it, Ashton said.

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Brian Yorkey returns to direct ‘Jesus Christ Superstar’

July 27, 2010

Pulitzer Prize and Tony Award-winning Issaquah High School alumnus Brian Yorkey returns to Village Theatre in May to direct the blockbuster “Jesus Christ Superstar.”

The rock musical about the last days of Jesus Christ runs in Issaquah from May 11 to July 3, and then opens for a monthlong run in Everett.

Before he headed to Broadway, Yorkey served as associate artistic director for Village Theatre. He started at the theater as a pioneering force in the popular youth education program, KIDSTAGE.

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Village Theatre musical actor wins a Tony

June 15, 2010

Levi Kreis

“Million Dollar Quartet” actor Levi Kreis — who originated the high-energy, piano-thumping portrayal of rock ‘n’ roller Jerry Lee Lewis at Issaquah’s Village Theatre — has won a Tony Award for playing the role on Broadway.

Kreis picked up the statuette for Best Featured Actor in a Musical for his role in the Broadway account of a famous jam session. The based-on-a-true-story musical recounts Elvis Presley, Carl Perkins, Johnny Cash and Lewis collaborating at the Sun Records studio in Memphis in 1956.

“Million Dollar Quartet” debuted at the downtown Issaquah theater in September 2007. The production remains the most successful original musical in Village Theatre history. “Million Dollar Quartet” opened on Broadway in April, and also continues a successful run in Chicago.

“I don’t think an outstanding performance can exist authentically without a team that is working as a whole and as a unit, in harmony, and I owe this to the best, most talented, supportive cast and crew that I’ve ever had the privilege of working with,” Kreis said from the Radio City Music Hall stage after he accepted the award during the June 13 ceremony.

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Village Theatre musical wins Tony Award for acting

June 13, 2010

UPDATED — 1:35 p.m. June 14, 2010

“Million Dollar Quartet” actor Levi Kreis — who originated the high-energy, piano-thumping portrayal of rock ‘n’ roller Jerry Lee Lewis at Issaquah’s Village Theatre — has won a Tony Award for playing the role on Broadway.

Kreis picked up the statuette for Best Featured Actor in a Musical for his role in the Broadway account of a famous jam session. The based-on-a-true-story musical recounts Elvis Presley, Carl Perkins, Johnny Cash and Lewis collaborating at the Sun Records studio in Memphis in 1956.

“Million Dollar Quartet” debuted at the downtown Issaquah theater in September 2007. The production remains the most successful original musical in Village Theatre history. “Million Dollar Quartet” opened on Broadway in April, and also continues a successful run in Chicago.

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