Meet the Director: David Armstrong – The Secret Garden

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David Armstrong will be directing our spring production of The Secret Garden, which is a co-production with D.C.’s Shakespeare Theatre Company being performed there this fall. He recently directed our revisal production of Lerner & Loewe’s Paint Your Wagon.

What has been your favorite directorial experience?
Every show is my favorite when I am doing it but looking back I would say that our 5th Avenue production of Candide was one of my favorite experiences. The musicals that are very open to interpretation are usually the most rewarding.

Why this show? What is intriguing or interesting about it to you?
There are very few plays or musicals that I have directed more than once over the course of my career, but this will be my fourth time directing The Secret Garden (although I have not directed it since 1999). Everything about this show draws me in—the moving story, the incredible music and lyrics and most important the effect it has on the audience. To make people both laugh and cry in the same show is very satisfying. The musical expands several of the narrative threads and minor characters, and amplifies the Gothic mystery aspects of the novel. Like most stories, in that genre, our heroine Mary Lennox is brought to a big, dark, gloomy mansion—where secrets hide behind every door—and is thrust into a complicated relationship with a moody, tortured, romantic hero.

Our amazing team of designers are creating an atmospheric visual world that will transport Mary Lennox and the audience from Colonial India to the mysterious Misselthwaite Manor on the Yorkshire moors—and of course the magical secret garden itself. Our goal is to have the audience experience the world of the story through Mary’s young eyes.

Dream show to direct?
We have been developing a new musical based on Ann Rice’s novel Cry To Heaven. I would love to direct a full production of that in the near future.

What’s your favorite thing about Seattle?
I love Seattle’s unusual mix of big city culture and natural beauty. Very few cities have both, and hardly any have the quality of both that we have here.


DAVID ARMSTRONG is the Executive Producer and Artistic Director at The 5th Avenue TheatreSince his appointment in 2000, Armstrong has guided The 5th Avenue to a position as one of the nation’s leading musical theater companies, acclaimed for both its development and production of new works and its innovative stagings of classic musicals. As a director, he has created memorable 5th Avenue productions of Jacques Brel is Alive and Well & Living in Paris, A Room with a View; Oliver!; Candide; Hello, Dolly!; Sweeney Todd; White Christmas; Hair; Mame; A Little Night Music; The Secret Garden; Anything Goes; Company; The Rocky Horror Show; Pippin; Vanities; Yankee Doodle Dandy!; and Saving Aimee, which made its Broadway debut as Scandalous under Armstrong’s direction in November 2012. Prior to The 5th, he spent nearly 20 years as a freelance director, choreographer, and librettist. His work has been seen in New York, Los Angeles and at many leading regional theaters including The Kennedy Center, Ordway Center, Ford’s Theatre, Cincinnati Playhouse, and New Jersey’s Paper Mill Playhouse. From 1990 through 1995, he served as artistic director of Cohoes Music Hall in upstate NY. Armstrong has also written the books for the musicals The Wonder Years (winner of seven Drama-Logue Awards), Gold Rush, and Yankee Doodle Dandy!


If you loved Lerner & Loewe’s Paint Your Wagon this spring, don’t miss The Secret Garden in our 2016/17 season. It will run April 14-May 6, 2017. Subscriptions are available now, and single tickets will be available October 4, 2016 at 10AM. Click here to find out more!

Some parts of this interview courtesy Shakespeare Theatre Company

Author: The 5th Avenue Theatre

The Nation's Leading Musical Theater

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