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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‘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

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‘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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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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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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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

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‘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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Theater marks 30th season with new musical

September 15, 2009

Tanesha Ross (left) stars as Nicolette and Matthew Kacergis is Aucassin in the Village Theatre production of ‘Chasing Nicolette.’ By John Pai / Property of Village Theatre

Tanesha Ross (left) stars as Nicolette and Matthew Kacergis is Aucassin in the Village Theatre production of ‘Chasing Nicolette.’ By John Pai / Property of Village Theatre

Village Theatre’s new musical, “Chasing Nicolette,” debuts Sept. 16 and promises to light up the stage as summer comes to a close.

“It is particularly exciting for me to open our 30th anniversary season with a wonderful new musical,” said Robb Hunt, executive director of Village Theatre. “Since I’ve been here all 30 years, I can say that it feels like quite an accomplishment to be established nationally as one of the few organizations which develops and nurtures new musicals that achieve national exposure. It is a key part of our mission and after 30 years, we are really doing it with two new musicals in the season.”

The year is 1224. War, hatred and prejudice fill the lands between Europe and the Middle East, but despite these obstacles, two young lovers — Christian nobleman Aucassin, played by Matthew John Kacergis, and a Muslim princess, played by Tanesha Ross — find a place for love. Read more

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Artists create lasting memories of community icons

September 1, 2009

Artist Ashley Weiss paid tribute to set designer Alex Berry with this sculpture in last year’s Collective Memory project. File

Artist Ashley Weiss paid tribute to set designer Alex Berry with this sculpture in last year’s Collective Memory project. File

Alex Berry was left with such a lasting impression after being honored in the 2008 artEAST Collective Memory Project, that he decided to return the favor for someone this year.

The Collective Memory project began in 2007 when 18 artEAST artists partnered with local community members — from well known to obscure, quiet to colorful — who helped shape the community. The artists honored these citizens by telling their life stories through original works of art.

Berry, 43, a native of Issaquah, had his story told of working 30 years at Village Theatre as everything from director to set designer, in the form of a sculpture by artist Ashley Weiss.

“It was absolutely fabulous,” he said. “I was so impressed by all the quality of work produced.”

So impressed, he asked to be involved this year as an artist. Karen Abel, executive director of artEAST, paired him with Greg Spranger, the man behind many DownTown Issaquah Association projects.

“I had heard of Greg long before I actually met him,” Berry said. “A couple years ago, he called me and wanted me and my father to come down and paint oversized wooden Christmas ornaments for the Hailstone Feed Store project.” Read more

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