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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Electric run continues for Issaquah’s Brian Yorkey

June 8, 2010

Not long before the Pulitzer Prize board announced the awards in early April, the team behind the musical “Next to Normal” — including Issaquah native Brian Yorkey, the writer and lyricist — heard the show might be under consideration for the drama prize.

Columbia University President Lee Bollinger (left) stands alongside Pulitzer Prize for Drama honorees Tom Kitt (center) and Issaquah native Brian Yorkey. By Eileen Barroso

Like he had before the musical picked up three Tony Awards last spring, Yorkey attempted to shut out the chatter.

Until he received a call from “Next to Normal” producer David Stone on April 12, the day the Pulitzer board announced the honorees.

“Is this Pulitzer Prize winner Brian Yorkey?” he asked.

The creative team dashed through a dozen media interviews, and then joined the cast to celebrate during “one more amazing night in a series of amazing nights,” Yorkey said.

The prize marked the latest milestone for a rock musical about a suburban family strained by bipolar disorder. “Next to Normal” originated at Village Theatre in downtown Issaquah eight years ago as “Feeling Electric.”

“It’s an unusual show,” Yorkey said. “It feels dark in some ways, it feels small in some ways. It doesn’t feel like a blockbuster, award-winning musical.”

The production became the eighth musical to be honored since the prizes added a drama category 92 years ago, and the first musical since “Rent” in 1996. Sober plays — such as “Doubt” and “August: Osage County” — dominated the category during the past decade.

“One of the things I’ve learned about ‘Next to Normal’ is that it has a group of fans in the theater world who are very dedicated, but it also touches people who may not like musicals,” Yorkey said.

The prize jury had submitted three finalists — “The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity,” by Kristoffer Diaz, “Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo,” by Rajiv Joseph and “In the Next Room, or the vibrator play,” by Sarah Ruhl — but the Pulitzer board eschewed the selections and picked the musical instead. (The jury included three theater critics, a playwright and a member of academia.)

The board praised “Next to Normal” as “a powerful rock musical” and a groundbreaking piece. The prize goes to the playwright, although the Pulitzer judges factor the performance into the decision.

Only the public service honoree receives the iconic Pulitzer medal. Everyone else takes home a $10,000 prize, a crystal paperweight and a certificate in a light blue folder — Columbia blue, because Columbia University administers the prizes. Read more

Village Theatre musical ‘Stunt Girl’ makes Big Apple debut

June 8, 2010

“Stunt Girl” — a musical account of groundbreaking journalist Nellie Bly — has become the latest Village Theatre production to make the journey from Issaquah to the Big Apple.

The musical received a reading at the Manhattan Theatre Club on June 7. “Stunt Girl” premiered at Village Theatre last March.

Issaquah native Brian Yorkey — the Tony Award- and Pulitzer Prize-winning writer and lyricist behind another Village Theatre original musical, “Next to Normal” — directed the “Stunt Girl” reading.

The presentation featured other Village Theatre alumni.

R.J. Tancioco, music director for the Village Theatre production, filled the same role for the Big Apple piece. John Patrick Lowrie played newspaper publisher and prize namesake Joseph Pulitzer, a role he originated in Issaquah. “Next to Normal” cast member Louis Hobson portrayed reporter Arthur Brisbane. Hobson originated the role in the Festival of New Musicals reading presented by Village Theatre in 2005.

“Stunt Girl” followed “Next to Normal” and “Million Dollar Quartet” from Issaquah to New York City.

Disney composer David Friedman conceived “Stunt Girl” and Tony Award nominee Peter Kellogg wrote the book and lyrics.

Village Theatre musical ‘Stunt Girl’ readies for Big Apple debut

June 2, 2010

NEW — 1:35 p.m. June 2, 2010

“Stunt Girl” — a musical account of groundbreaking journalist Nellie Bly — will become the latest Village Theatre production to make the journey from Issaquah to New York City.

The musical will receive a reading at the Manhattan Theatre Club on Monday. “Stunt Girl” premiered at Village Theatre last March.

Issaquah native Brian Yorkey — the Tony Award- and Pulitzer Prize-winning writer and lyricist behind another Village Theatre original musical, “Next to Normal” — will direct the “Stunt Girl” reading.

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Village Theatre musical earns Tony nominations

May 11, 2010

“Million Dollar Quartet” — a musical about the dawn of rock ‘n’ roll and developed at Village Theatre — has been nominated for three Tony Awards, including Best Musical.

“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.

Eager for the attention the impromptu jam session could attract, Sun Records owner Sam Phillips contacted local journalists to document the occasion. The subsequent newspaper account referred to the assembled performers as a “million dollar quartet.”

The production also received nods for Best Book of a Musical — for the spoken storyline of the production — and Best Performance by a Featured Actor in a Musical for Levi Kreis, the actor who portrays Lewis. Kreis originated the role in Issaquah.

The nominations from the American Theatre Wing on May 4 marked another milestone for the musical.

“Million Dollar Quartet” opened on Broadway last month to solid reviews and enthusiastic audiences.

Village Theatre Executive Producer Robb Hunt attended the opening. He said the creative team amped up the glitz for Broadway, but “Million Dollar Quartet” in the Big Apple remains “very much the same show people saw in Issaquah and Everett.”

Besides Kreis, the Broadway production includes performers from the Issaquah run: Lance Guest as Cash, Rob Lyons as Perkins and bassist Corey Kaiser.

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Musical developed in Issaquah earns three Tony nominations

May 4, 2010

NEW — 9:52 a.m. May 4, 2010

“Million Dollar Quartet” — a musical about the dawn of rock ‘n’ roll and developed at Village Theatre — has been nominated for three Tony Awards, including Best Musical.

The musical 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, Tenn.

“Million Dollar Quartet” also received nods for Best Book of a Musical — for the spoken-word storyline of the production — and Best Performance by a Featured Actor in a Musical for Levi Kreis, the actor who portrays Lewis. Kreis originated the role in Issaquah.

The musical opened at Village Theatre in September 2007. The theater extended the run to 10 weeks to meet demand. Writers Colin Escott and Floyd Mutrux developed the show as part of the Village Originals program to foster musicals at the Issaquah theater.

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Issaquah playwright Brian Yorkey wins Pulitzer Prize

April 13, 2010

Brian Yorkey

The musical “Next to Normal” — a daring look into bipolar disorder penned by Issaquah native Brian Yorkey and nurtured at Village Theatre — has won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama. Read more

‘Next to Normal’ wins Pulitzer Prize for Drama

April 12, 2010

UPDATED — 3:20 p.m. April 12, 2010

The musical “Next to Normal” — a daring look into bipolar disorder penned by Issaquah native Brian Yorkey and nurtured at Village Theatre — has won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama.

The prize jury lauded the edgy, dysfunctional-family-drama as “a powerful rock musical that grapples with mental illness in a suburban family and expands the scope of subject matter for musicals.” The jury announced the award Monday.

Yorkey — a former Village Theatre associate artistic director and Issaquah High School alumnus — will share the honor with writing partner Tom Kitt. Yorkey wrote the lyrics; Kitt wrote the music. The duo will share a $10,000 prize.

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Top 10 news stories of 2009

December 29, 2009

flood weather GF 0108a

Sisters Jennifer Davies, Julianne Long and Mindy Heintz (from left) retrieve belongings Jan. 8 from the toppled guesthouse at the home of their parents, Jack and Karen Brooks, beside Issaquah Creek in the 23300 block of Southeast May Valley Road. — By Greg Farrar

Growth slowed and the economy cooled throughout 2009. The watershed moments in Issaquah hinged on expansion and recession. Leaders broke ground for a major new employer, even while other businesses left town for good.

Issaquah began the first decade of a new century as a fast-growing city, a title the city held for years. As 2009 reached a close, however, officials pared the size of government to face the new economic reality.

From January floods to record July heat and brutal December cold, 2009 was jam-packed, but the year was never dull.

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