What is the Festival of New Musicals?

August 9, 2011

The summertime Festival of New Musicals at Village Theatre is a laboratory to test original musicals before audiences.

Often, selections from the festival re-emerge later at the Francis J. Gaudette Theatre, or Mainstage, and sometimes on Broadway.

The festival introduced audiences to “Next to Normal” precursor “Feeling Electric” and “Million Dollar Quartet” before the musicals carted off Tony Awards on Broadway. “Next to Normal” also garnered the Pulitzer Prize for Drama, a rarity for musicals.

The recent Mainstage productions “Anne of Green Gables” and “Iron Curtain” debuted to Issaquah audiences at the festival. So, too, did “Take Me America” and “It Shoulda Been You” — Mainstage offerings in the 2011-12 theater season.

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20 reasons to ♥ Issaquah

July 2, 2011

The spectacular landscape is a reason to love Issaquah. By Connor Lee

Discover 20 reasons to love Issaquah, from the highest Tiger Mountain peak to the Lake Sammamish shoreline, and much more in between. The community includes icons and traits not found anywhere else, all in a postcard-perfect setting. The unique qualities — Issa-qualities? — start at the city’s name and extend into every nook and neighborhood. (The lineup is not arranged in a particular order, because ranking the city’s pre-eminent qualities seems so unfair.)

Salmon Days

The annual salmon-centric celebration is stitched into the city’s fabric. Salmon Days serves as a last hurrah before autumn, a touchstone for old-timers and a magnet for tourists. The street fair consistently ranks among the top destinations in the Evergreen State and, for a time last year, as the best festival on earth — in the $250,000-to-$749,000 budget category, anyway.

Issaquah Alps

The majestic title for the forested peaks surrounding the city, the Issaquah Alps, is a catchall term for Cougar, Squak and Tiger mountains. (Credit the late mountaineer and conservationist Harvey Manning for the sobriquet.) The setting is a playground for outdoors enthusiasts. Trails — some official and others less so — for hikers, bikers and equestrians crisscross the mountains, like haphazard tic-tac-toe patterns.

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Rebuilt First Stage Theatre readies for debut

April 5, 2011

Village Theatre plans additional offerings at downtown venue

Robb Hunt (above) shows off the finished interior of the rebuilt First Stage Theatre on March 29, as actors rehearse on the boards. By Greg Farrar

The curtain rises soon on the rebuilt First Stage Theatre in downtown Issaquah.

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‘Million Dollar Quartet’ tours to Seattle

March 29, 2011

“Million Dollar Quartet” — the Tony Award-winning musical about a famous jam session — reaches Seattle next spring after originating at Village Theatre in Issaquah and achieving success on Broadway.

The national tour of the musical is scheduled for a run at the Paramount Theatre from May 15-20, 2012. Find ticket information at the Seattle Theatre Group website, www.stgpresents.org.

“Million Dollar Quartet” tells the true story of a chance meeting in December 1956 of Elvis Presley, Carl Perkins, Johnny Cash and Jerry Lee Lewis. The legendary entertainers jammed together at the Sun Records studio in Memphis.

The rockabilly musical debuted at Village Theatre in September 2007 and then on Broadway in April 2010. Actor Levi Kreis originated the Lewis role in Issaquah and continues to perform in the Broadway production.

“Million Dollar Quartet” garnered multiple Tony nods and a statuette for Kreis.

Broadway beckons Village Theatre musicals

February 15, 2011

Musicals nurtured at Issaquah theater charm audiences and rack up awards in the Big Apple

Tony Award-winning actress Alice Ripley (center, seated) leads the ‘Next to Normal’ cast in a performance at the Arena Stage, the musical’s last stop before debuting on Broadway. By Joan Marcus

The brick-and-glass theater along a fashionable street in Oslo, Norway, seems like a strange place to re-create Yankee suburbia.

Onstage, “Next to Normal” — a rock musical fostered in Issaquah — is about to be performed. The story about a suburban — and quite American — family straining against mental illness has been translated into Norwegian for the international premiere.

The debut last September marked a milestone for the musical. “Next to Normal” had already stormed Broadway — earning Tony Awards and the 2010 Pulitzer Prize for Drama in the process.

Before the accolades and Oslo, “Next to Normal” emerged in a Village Theatre program designed to foster original musicals.

The long-running program has cemented the reputation of the downtown Issaquah playhouse as a cradle for Broadway.

Village Theatre cultivated “Next to Normal” and the jukebox musical “Million Dollar Quartet” from unpolished ideas to splashy Broadway musicals in recent years.

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Off the Press

February 15, 2011

How to succeed in show business

Warren Kagarise Press Reporter

In hindsight, “How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying” seems like a prescient choice for a fledgling theater in a then-distant Seattle suburb.

The musical debuted at the just-christened Village Theatre in April 1979 — decades before the downtown Issaquah playhouse received a shout out during a Tony Awards telecast and credit for sending acclaimed musicals to face the toughest audiences in theater.

Only, unlike the title of the inaugural musical, Village Theatre tried again and again.

The playhouse has churned out hits — including “Next to Normal” and “Million Dollar Quartet,” the Village Theatre-nurtured duo responsible for hauling in the Tonys — and some duds, too, in almost 32 years.

For a piece in the wintertime Issaquah Living magazine, I set out to chronicle the long — and often arduous — journey from the Festival of New Musicals or the Mainstage to Broadway. (Readers can find the magazine tucked amid the sales circulars in the B section.)

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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

‘Anne of Green Gables’ could exceed Village Theatre sales record

December 14, 2010

The musical “Anne of Green Gables” is on track to beat the Village Theatre sales record for original musicals, the Issaquah theater announced Dec. 9.

The stage adaptation of the classic novel could beat the sales record “Million Dollar Quartet” set at the theater in 2007. “Million Dollar Quartet” debuted in September 2007, and then opened in Chicago a year later and on Broadway in April 2010.

“Anne of Green Gables” had sold more than 24,800 tickets — including season tickets — by Dec. 6, less than a month after the production premiered. The show runs in Issaquah through Jan. 2 and then in Everett from Jan. 7-30.

The projected total for tickets sold is 29,500 — including season tickets — and $1.125 million in sales. Read more

‘Anne of Green Gables’ is in line to exceed Village Theatre sales record

December 9, 2010

NEW — 3:15 p.m. Dec. 9, 2010

The musical “Anne of Green Gables” is on track to beat the Village Theatre sales record for original musicals, the Issaquah theater announced Thursday.

The stage adaptation of the classic novel could beat the sales record “Million Dollar Quartet” set at the theater in 2007. “Million Dollar Quartet” debuted in September 2007, and then opened in Chicago a year later and on Broadway in April 2010.

“Anne of Green Gables” had sold more than 24,800 tickets — including season tickets — by Monday, less than a month after the production premiered. The show runs in Issaquah through Jan. 2 and then in Everett from Jan. 7-30.

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First Stage reconstruction starts soon

June 29, 2010

The effort to replace the original Village Theatre — the frontier-era relic known as First Stage Theatre — inched ahead last week.

Crews closed the sidewalk in front of the historic building, and detoured pedestrians through wooden scaffolding built adjacent to the street. The sidewalk closure runs through March 2011.

Plans call for the existing structure to be razed in coming weeks, and for a modern theater to replace the almost century-old building at 120 Front St. N.

A rendering shows how the completed First Stage will appear. Contributed

Traffic passes the temporary sidewalk June 28 in front of the Village Theatre First Stage building at 120 Front Street N., as extensive renovations begin. By Greg Farrar

Crews from contractor Foushée & Associates, a Bellevue builder, started to disassemble the building last week. Construction should start on the new theater in July, theater spokeswoman Michelle Sanders said.

The builder intends to incorporate wood and other components, such as the iconic sign, from the historic theater into the planned building. Executives intend for the First Stage building to be LEED certified.

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