Whole lotta shakin’ goin’ on as ‘Million Dollar Quartet’ returns

May 8, 2012

Jukebox musical revives classic rock ‘n’ roll

The cast of the national tour of the jukebox musical ‘Million Dollar Quartet’ performs a song in the Tony Award-winning show. By Jeremy Daniel

“Million Dollar Quartet” is a multimillion-dollar phenomenon.

The rock ‘n’ roll musical about the “million dollar quartet” — Elvis Presley, Carl Perkins, Johnny Cash and Jerry Lee Lewis — collaborating for one night at the storefront Sun Records studio led to successful runs at Village Theatre in Issaquah and Everett, and then in Chicago, New York City and London.

The inaugural national tour of “Million Dollar Quartet” reaches the Paramount Theatre in Seattle on May 15 — a homecoming of sorts for a musical shaped a half-dozen years ago at Village Theatre.

The musical is based on a seminal jam session at the Sun Records studio in December 1956.

In the touring production, Christopher Ryan Grant plays rock ‘n’ roll impresario Sam Phillips, the Memphis mogul and Sun Records founder responsible for the “million dollar quartet.”

“You listen to these songs today and they seem simple, but maybe that’s part of the appeal,” Grant said in a phone interview from a stop in Costa Mesa, Calif. “There’s not a whole lot of messy production behind them that you get these days with synthesizers and canned beats.”

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Village Theatre receives $25,000 grant

March 20, 2012

Village Theatre received a $25,000 grant from the city and Puget Sound Energy to maintain and upgrade Issaquah facilities, officials announced Feb. 23.

Bellevue-based PSE awarded the grant to the city and requested the funds benefit a local nonprofit organization. In the process to craft a 2012 budget, City Council members selected Village Theatre as the grant recipient.

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Village Theatre blazes ‘Trails’ for next season

March 13, 2012

The musical “Trails” — a tale about childhood friends embarking on a journey along the Appalachian Trail — is poised for a premiere in the trailhead city, Issaquah.

“Trails” is the original offering in a lineup of classics Village Theatre plans to present during the 2012-13 season. The downtown Issaquah theater announced the lineup March 7.

The musicals “Big River” — “Huckleberry Finn” retold in musical form — and “Chicago” bracket the season. “Fiddler on the Roof” and “The Mousetrap” complete the upcoming season.

“For years, we have listened to the feedback of our audience and our artists when selecting shows — this coming year is no exception and we think our patrons will be very pleased with this diverse lineup,” Executive Producer Robb Hunt said.

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Village Theatre receives $25,000 grant from city, Puget Sound Energy

February 23, 2012

NEW — 1:50 p.m. Feb. 23, 2012

Village Theatre received a $25,000 grant from the city and Puget Sound Energy to maintain and upgrade Issaquah facilities, officials announced Thursday.

Bellevue-based PSE awarded the grant to the city and requested for the funds to benefit a local nonprofit organization. In the process to craft a 2012 budget, City Council members selected Village Theatre as the grant recipient.

“By supporting the arts in Issaquah, this grant will benefit our local customers, their families and the greater community,” Andy Wappler, vice president of PSE Corporate Affairs, said in a statement. “We are very pleased to help Village Theatre continue its artistic excellence.”

The downtown Issaquah theater attracts more than 150,000 visits to the city each year. The theater’s classes, camps and productions for children and teenagers include more than 2,000 students.

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‘The Odd Couple’ is fresh, funny at Village Theatre

January 24, 2012

Felix Ungar (Chris Ensweiler, front) receives a massage from mismatched roommate Oscar Madison (Charles Leggett) in Village Theatre’s ‘The Odd Couple.’ By John Pai/Village Theatre

Neil Simon is a regular at Village Theatre.

The playwright — gilded in Tony Awards aplenty and a Pulitzer Prize for Drama — often offers rich material to Village Theatre producers. In the past decade, the downtown Issaquah theater presented “Barefoot in the Park” and “Lost in Yonkers” to audiences. The latest Simon offering on stage is “The Odd Couple” — perhaps the most recognizable piece in the playwright’s oeuvre.

“The Odd Couple” — re-imagined on stage and screen more often than Felix Ungar scrapes up crumbs — is a solid choice as the selection for the play in a Village Theatre season defined by musicals.

The play is a charming anachronism, 47 years after “The Odd Couple” debuted on Broadway. The boozing and smoking recall a looser era before political correctness. Still, the dialogue and the mismatched-roommate premise remain universal almost a half-century after Simon introduced audiences to uptight Felix and untidy Oscar Madison.

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Milestones from the year 2011 reflect changes

December 27, 2011

Renewal defined the year, as the community paused after a population boom and economic bust — and positioned Issaquah for the decades ahead.

Milestones from the last 12 months offer contrasts.

Leaders opened showcases for “green” design and concluded a milestone effort to preserve Tiger Mountain forestland. Tragedy left indelible impressions, too, as a gunman menaced downtown pedestrians on a September morning and turned a school campus into a crime scene.

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Issaquah businesses target tourists for attractions, events

October 25, 2011

Issaquah leaders often describe local qualities as treasures — a quaint downtown, mountain panoramas, historic buildings and more.

Local businesspeople describe such attractions as “tourism assets” all set for out-of-town guests to enjoy and, in the process, spend dollars in hotels and restaurants.

Issaquah Chamber of Commerce officials gathered representatives from local “tourism assets” Oct. 18 to discuss successes and opportunities to lure more tourists to the area.

Leaders from artEAST, Cougar Mountain Zoo, Village Theatre, and other Issaquah attractions and events, said attendance is strong, but sometimes people overlook local offerings.

“Tastin’ N Racin’ — unfortunately — is Issaquah’s best-kept secret,” event organizer Craig Cooke said. “Nationally, it’s not. There are events in 13 other states that have all called and patterned their event on what goes on on land and what goes on in water.”

Tastin’ N Racin’ attracts 20,000 people — and sometimes up to 50,000 — to Lake Sammamish State Park each June for hydroplane races and onshore offerings.

Other long-established attractions face a similar challenge in luring potential tourists.

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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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High school students win 5th Avenue Theatre best acting awards

June 14, 2011

Tucker Goodman, a Liberty High School junior, accepts his award for Outstanding Performance by an Actor in a leading Role at the 5th Avenue Theatre’s annual awards June 6 honoring high school musical theater. By Sam Freeman/nwtnews

Two students from Liberty and Eastside Catholic high schools — junior Tucker Goodman and senior John Winslow — have landed the most prestigious acting awards of their young careers.

Liberty High School’s Goodman won Outstanding Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role at The 5th Avenue Theatre’s annual awards honoring high school musical theater on June 6.

For the winning role, he played the Chairman of the Board for the Patriot Players’ performance of “The Mystery of Edwin Drood,” a musical based on an unfinished novel written by Charles Dickens.

This isn’t Goodman’s first nomination, although it is his first award from The 5th Avenue. In 2010, Goodman received a nomination for Outstanding Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role for his performance as Cinderella’s prince in “Into the Woods”

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