Something Rotten! Will Feature Broadway Stars

Something Rotten! will be making its Northwest Premiere (finally) this fall, and we couldn’t be more pleased to announce three of the stars of the show, all of whom are reprising their roles on tour after portraying these same characters in the Broadway production!

Broadway’s Rob McClure plays older Bottom brother, Nick Bottom. He received Tony, Drama League, Astaire and Outer Critics nominations, and won Theatre World and Clive Barnes awards for the title role in Chaplin: The Musical. He’s been seen on Broadway, including in Something Rotten!, as well as numerous appearances on film and television. (McClure is also taking the stage with his real-life wife, his “right hand man,” Maggie Lakis – he plays her husband in the show!)

Josh Grisetti is playing younger brother Nigel Bottom. His Broadway credits include Something Rotten!It Shoulda Been You and Broadway Bound. His Off-Broadway credits include Enter Laughing, Rent, Peter & the Starcatcher and more. Follow Josh on Twitter and Instagram!

And last but certainly not least, Adam Pascal is stepping into potentially the biggest shoes in the history of theater – those of William Shakespeare. Pascal will be familiar to folks as the original Roger Davis in the Off-Broadway, Broadway and London productions of Rent. (He also reprised his role in the 2005 film.) He was the original Radames in Broadway’s Aida, starred as the Emcee in Roundabout’s Broadway production of Cabaret, Huey Calhoun in Broadway’s Memphis and Billy Flynn in Broadway’s Chicago. Most recently, he was seen as Chad in Broadway’s Disaster.

Check out this video of Adam Pascal as rock star Renaissance man William Shakespeare in “Will Power.”


Find out more about the amazing cast, and purchase tickets, at our website.

In Development: New Works at The 5th

Here at The 5th, you may have seen one or two, or even 17 or 18 new musicals explode onto the scene on our 5th Avenue stage – musicals like Hairspray or Memphis (both winners of the Tony Award for Best Musical!) But for every new musical that appears on our stage in a season, I can promise you that we have at least a half dozen more in various stages of development through our New Works Program. Currently we have eight new musicals actively in development.

About the Writers’ Group

For nearly two decades, we have committed to nurturing the artists in our community, which is something you may notice when you see our many local actors starring in our shows. But we also seek to nurture the writers, composers, librettists and lyricists living right here in Puget Sound. Our current Writers Group has met bi-weekly for the past two years. In these meetings, a group of nine writers led by 5th Ave artistic staff members, meet to present new material from their musicals in development, and the work is very promising! These musicals include Anybody Can Do Anything, Industry, The Rumble Within, Prodigal Song and Promised Land. These five musicals, which will be our second cycle of Writers Group presentations, will be presented in 2018 at The 5th Avenue Theatre’s NextFest: A Festival of New Musicals.

Anybody Can Do Anything, with a book by John Longenbaugh and music by Bruce Monroe, is based on Betty MacDonald’s memoir of the same name. Longenbaugh is a novelist and local writer. His publications have been in Seattle Weekly, City Arts and Seattle Magazine. Monroe often works at The 5th Avenue Theatre as an orchestrator and conductor. He attended NYU for composing and has written scores for many musicals.

Industry, with book, music and lyrics by Naomi Morgan, tells the story of sisters Vivian and Lisa, who work at a strip club in Seattle as they each struggle with a demon of their past. A concert version of the musical opened for Warren G in 2016. Morgan has previously been seen on our stage in Oliver! and RENT. She is also a local producer and her productions appear at casinos and senior centers throughout Washington.

The Rumble Within, with book by Andrew Russell and music by Richard Andriessen, follows the true story of Linda Hazzard, a Washington doctor in the early 20th century, who famously helped patients starve themselves (sometimes to death) to cure illnesses. Russell is the Artistic Director of Intiman Theatre. You may have seen his last project The Fourth Estate, which was also the product of our Writers Group, during our 2016 NextFest. Andriessen (also known as Major Scales) is the co-creator and co-star of The Vaudevillians, which he created with Jinkx Monsoon, and has appeared previously at Seattle Rep.

Prodigal Song, with a book by Keri Healey and music by Anne Eisendrath, is an original story about a convicted felon, released from prison, who finds hope through music. Healey has previously won the M. Elizabeth Osborn Best Emerging Playwright award recognizing her play Torso which had its premiere in Seattle in 2012. Eisendrath has appeared on our stage in productions of Pirates of Penzance, Carousel and The Sound of Music.

The Promised Land, with book, music and lyrics by Orlando Morales, tells the story of Joseph, a young Buffalo soldier who is sent to the Philippines in 1898 and the Filipino villagers who rescue and shelter him, unaware that he has been ordered to subdue their fight for independence. The score takes on a Golden Age-style and the script includes three different languages to depict this war story. Morales’ most recent writing endeavor was with the gospel musical Psalm which he continues to develop. He is also the Director of Education and Outreach at The 5th Avenue Theatre and a skilled pianist.

New Works on New Stages

Part of our New Works program is recognizing the importance of development over destination, meaning that we aim to feed and foster the growth of new musicals even if they ultimately premiere at other theaters. In that vein, we are very excited that the musical version of Jane Austen’s Persuasion, which was written in our first Writers Group, will have its first production at Taproot this summer. Persuasion has a book by Harold Taw and music and lyrics by Chris Jeffries.

Beatsville, a musical by Wendy Wilf and Glenn Slater, has been in development with our program for the last two years. It started in our inaugural NextFest with a 29-hour reading. A 29-hour reading allows the writers to teach the material to a group of actors and have it presented without sets, lights or costumes. In the 29 hours they have allotted, they are able to hear the material read and sung out loud, which allows them to more clearly see necessary edits to their work. Since that initial reading, the team has met many times in Seattle and New York to continue diving into the material. This process resulted in a co-production with Asolo Repertory Theatre where a full production was mounted with our very own Bill Berry at the helm as the director. The production was received very well and work continues to be done on the show before it is mounted again.

And of course, we are very proud that a project that made a development stop at The 5th Avenue Theatre in 2014, Come From Away, is appearing on Broadway this season. Come From Away received 7 Tony Award nominations and won the award for Best Direction of a Musical for Chris Ashley, who you may remember from his work on Memphis here at The 5th. During Come From Away’s time here, Chris Ashley, Kelly Devine and Ian Eisendrath put the show on its feet in our rehearsal room during a 3-week developmental production. It then went on to be seen at Seattle Rep, La Jolla Playhouse in San Diego, Ford’s Theatre in Washington D.C. and the Mirvish Theatre in Toronto before making its Broadway debut.

New Things Still to Come

INTERMISSION! is the exciting new work from the brilliant mind of Jerry Zucker with music and lyrics by Michael Weiner and Alan Zachary, who we were fortunate enough to work with on First Date and Second Hand Lions. The musical will be directed by Zucker and Broadway sensation Chris Gattelli, who will also choreograph. Gattelli is a two-time Tony Award-winning choreographer and is in high demand in New York. Gattelli is committed to a number of new projects, one of which very unexpectedly received the opportunity to open on Broadway during the time when INTERMISSION! was scheduled to be in rehearsals, and in the interest of having the best creative team possible for this exciting new musical, we made the difficult choice to delay the show until our 2018/19 season. However, the team is currently hard at work with a developmental production in New York City at this very minute. This step allows the team to put the musical on its feet in a rehearsal studio to explore staging and choreography for the production. INTERMISSION! has had two 29-hour readings in the last year and we look forward to seeing it on stage!

We also have a very exciting new commission called ’64, which is in collaboration with book writer Cheryl West and composers Douglas Lyons and Ethan Pakchar. Based on a true story of racial discrimination in the fraternity community at Stanford in the ’60’s, this new musical focuses on a battle for integration. The first draft is currently being written with a goal of a 29-hour reading in the next year.

And That’s Just in Active Development…

Over the years, our New Works Program has touched dozens of new musicals, shepherding them from the kernel of an idea to fully-produced productions. While we have many shows in active development, we have even more that we have simmering on the back burner. Maybe we are seeking the right creative partners to help the show along. Maybe we are following writers as they develop concepts into songs, scenes and more.

We continue to be hard at work in our New Works department and hope to continue to bring new musicals to Seattle and beyond. The development of these new pieces is central to our mission here at The 5th Avenue Theatre. Over the past 17 years we have produced 18 new musicals and will continue on with this tradition to bring new musicals into the theater canon.

A Beloved Family Member Retires: Deb Engelbach Departs The 5th After 28 Years

By BRIDGET MORGAN, Senior PR & Communications Manager

Candid shot during the Romy and Michele pre-production photoshoot. PC: Mark and Tracy Photography.

For the last 28 years, any actor who has crossed the stage in a 5th Avenue Theatre production has at some point or other worked closely with Deb Engelbach in our costume shop. Very closely. Deb has a curious specialization in the world of costumes: shoes and underwear. In addition to some more general operational work in the costume shop, Deb is the person who is purchasing and fitting undergarments for performers, purchasing shoes, building and stretching tap shoes, and adjusting shoes for quick changes. In a sense, Deb is responsible for the most basic layer of confidence an actor or actress has when they dance their way onstage.

Continue reading “A Beloved Family Member Retires: Deb Engelbach Departs The 5th After 28 Years”

Things You Learn as a Directing and Artistic Leadership Fellow

By HATTIE CLAIRE ANDRES, 2016/17 Directing and Artistic Leadership Fellow

As I wrap up my year-long fellowship at The 5th Avenue, I look back on my experience assistant directing five shows this season, directing Rising Star Project and shadowing my mentor Bill Berry to gain Artistic Leadership experience and insight.

Planning Is Everything

  • So much of theater administration and leadership is being an expert planner: planning the shows for next season, planning who will work on those shows, planning financial allocation and strategy and planning calendars so that everything that happens in this busy building works in harmony.
  • As a director, you can spend more than a year planning your show before rehearsals even begin: in auditions, deciding how you want to cast the show; in meetings with designers to create the visual life of the story on stage; and in preparation for working with actors to decide how the story will be staged.

Communication Is Key

  • Hattie and Casting Director Kelsey Thorgalsen discuss RSP auditions. PC: Orlando Morales

    Artistic Leaders, such as David and Bill at The 5th, are charged with the job of developing a creative vision for the theater they work for, and communicating that vision to their staff, the artists, the board and the audience. This communication happens in many different ways but one of the most important outcomes it achieves is to have everyone understand the importance of the shows and the stories The 5th is choosing to tell on our stage.

  • As the director of a show, it is essential that you masterfully communicate your vision for the show to everyone working on the production – the choreographer, music director, actors, designers, crew and producers – so that each person feels confident in their ability and inspired to tell a unified story on stage with you. As an assistant director, you are often part of facilitating this process, delivering notes to actors and designers when the director is busy with another aspect of rehearsal.

Relationships Are Crucial

  • “It’s all about who you know” is often said as cliché in the entertainment industry but there is a large element of truth to that statement. Because creating a show together is such a personal experience, highly dependent on the chemistry of everyone in the rehearsal room and their ability to collaborate, it is not only important to be skilled at what you do – be it dancing, designing costumes, or running the sound board – but it is also important that people trust you and find you enjoyable to work with.

    Hattie with Romy and Michele Associate Director MK Lawson (L) and Choreographer Peggy Hickey (R) at opening night party. PC: Duell Fisher
  • As the assistant director, I got to work with five different creative teams this season, most of whom I didn’t know before beginning rehearsal. Each time I started with a new team, I intentionally spent time and energy to get to know each person and build a trusting, working relationship with them. By the end of the season, I had over 20 new collaborators with whom I’d built relationships.

Each Day is Unique

  • One of the most exciting aspects of working at a theater is that monotony is non-existent. When looking at Bill’s calendar to find shadowing opportunities, I saw that he had a completely different schedule every day: from meetings with a wide array of people to attending auditions in New York to directing Beatsville in Florida or The Pajama Game here at The 5th.

    Rising Star Project Students. PC: Jeff Carpenter Photography
  • In my own experience, working on five shows throughout the season, I saw first hand how wildly different each show was – from Man of La Mancha as a reimagined classic to The Little Mermaid as a family-favorite contemporary hit to The Pajama Game which embraced its Golden-Era identity to Rising Star Project with its abundant student energy to The Secret Garden revising its script and score for the revival production to Romy and Michele’s High School Reunion developed from the ground up as a brand new, world premiere musical. No show was the same and each day brought a different set of challenges and exciting revelations.

If You Love The 5th, Vote YES on Prop 1. Access for All!

If you are a resident of King County, in just a few weeks you will have the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to significantly enhance the impact, reach and stability of every one of our region’s remarkable Arts, Science and Heritage organizations including The 5th Avenue Theatre.

By voting YES on Prop 1, you will expand access to arts, science and heritage education for every student in King County, and provide unprecedented access for underserved members of our community.

Over the past decade, public funding for arts, science and heritage programs in our state has been cut in half, despite the fact that every research study demonstrates that exposure to arts and cultural experiences dramatically improves a child’s educational success. The kind of access to arts and culture that many of us experienced and benefited from during our own school years is not happening today.

As public school budgets have been slashed, non-profit organizations have stepped in to provide these important formative educational experiences to our children. It is nearly impossible, however, for non-profit organizations like The 5th to adequately fill this gap without additional funding sources.

Prop 1 will provide stable, dedicated resources to serve children and our community more fully and consistently. Prop 1 will provide the needed funding to bring life-changing arts, science and cultural programs into our schools, as well as funding for schools to offer kids the opportunity to attend our world-class theaters, museums, science institutions and concert halls for free.

Prop 1 will also provide funding so that arts, science and heritage organizations can offer free or reduced-price admissions to the members of our community who are on fixed budgets including seniors, students and low-income and middle class families.

What will this mean for The 5th? Prop 1 will provide us with a rare and crucial resource—funding for education and outreach programs that we can count on and plan around. We have many amazing and acclaimed educational programs, but there is more we can do and there are still too many young people that we are not currently reaching. With Prop 1 funding we can expand our in-school programs by taking more teaching artists into grade school, middle school and high school classrooms; we can provide dozens of free student matinee performances of our productions each season; we can expand participation and reach for our Rising Star Project; we can tour our Adventure Musical Theater productions to more schools throughout our region (including rural and underserved King County communities such as North Bend, Snoqualmie, Black Diamond and Enumclaw); and we can ensure that our statewide 5th Avenue High School Musical Theater Awards will thrive and grow for many years to come.

Prop 1 would also allow us to open our doors to every member of our community who wants to experience world-class musical theater—regardless of their economic circumstances—through free and reduced-price tickets, and to introduce new and diverse audiences to our thrilling art form and amazing historic venue.

As a result of all this increased activity we will also have the privilege of providing increased and consistent employment to our region’s irreplaceable theatrical ecosystem of actors, singers, dancers, musicians, directors, choreographers, designers, technicians and theatrical craftspeople of all kinds. These are your neighbors who live and work here and make King County one of the three great theater centers in America.

And this is just what the The 5th will be able to accomplish. Imagine the increased combined impact of all of our King County arts, science and heritage organizations, small and large, on our community!

A recent study conducted by scientists at the University of Arkansas demonstrated conclusively that “students who are exposed to cultural institutions, like museums and performing arts centers, not only have higher levels of engagement with the arts but display greater tolerance, historical empathy, as well as better educational memory and critical thinking skills.” Whether we personally have children or not, Prop 1 will truly benefit us all.

With just one additional penny for every $10 you spend—$30 a year for the average household—all of this can happen. We can’t afford to not make this investment in our kids and our region. Prop 1 will have a profound and immediate impact that we will all benefit from for generations. Please Vote Yes on Prop 1 and help us create Access For All.

For more information, please visit the Proposition 1 Access for All website.