An Industry Insider’s Visit to New York City

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By Jill Big Eagle, Major and Planned Giving Manager

Let me start by saying that there are few places in the world as wonderful in October as New York City. The temperature is crisp, but not too cold; school has started, so Manhattan isn’t packed with people; and the leaves in Central Park are absolutely stunning. The city is teeming with life, beauty, and best of all, incredible, ground-breaking theater.

Therefore, I feel very lucky to have spent late October with 5th Avenue Theatre supporters on our Director’s Circle trip to New York, where the National Alliance for Musical Theatre (NAMT) hosts its yearly Festival of New Musicals.

Incredible presentations of the highest caliber for industry insiders make NAMT well worth a trip across the country. That little show called Come From Away that opened our 2018/19 season? The show’s Broadway producers discovered it at this festival, which also has to its credit Children of Eden, The Drowsy Chaperone, and Princesses (part of The 5th’s 2005/06 season).

As a 5th Avenue Theatre contingent, we enjoyed amazing seats to the best performances. And while we were there, the whole group snuck away from new musicals for a day to see two current Broadway smash hits—Hadestown and Moulin Rouge!

But, my friends, our Director’s Circle trip isn’t just about seeing shows. We also got to meet artists and creative teams who gave us special insight into their process for creating brand new musicals.

Mara Issacs, the lead producer for Hadestown, joined us for dinner on our first night and shared the story of Hadestown’s 10-year journey to Broadway. After the performance, Hadestown investors Ken Willman (a 5th Avenue Theatre Board Member) and his wife Rosemary arranged an exclusive discussion with cast members. In our post-show excitement, it was THRILLING to ask questions of nearly half of the cast, hear how each of them got involved with the show, and learn what their favorite scenes were to perform.

Hadestown Talkback
Director’s Circle Members at the Hadestown talk-back.

The next day, members of the creative team of Bliss (our 23rd new musical playing January 31 – February 23) joined us for lunch the next day: Director Sheryl Kaller, Choreographer Josh Prince, Producer Susan Edelstein, and Writers/Composers Emma Lively and Tyler Beattie.

For dinner, we enjoyed the company of our former 5th Avenue Theatre Resident Music Supervisor and Alhadeff Family Director of New Works Ian Eisendrath and Moulin Rouge cast member Aaron C. Finley (last seen on The 5th Avenue Theatre stage in RENT and Hairspray: In Concert). The two Seattle-to-New-York transplants talked about the ups and downs of family life when you’re in the Broadway biz, and Finley was able to share a few Moulin Rouge insider secrets that prepped our group to see the show later that night.

And see it we did! The show is everything you could want in a mega musical hit, and when Aaron Finley recognized our entire group from the stage in character during the pre-show extravaganza… It. Was. Amazing. Finley came back out after the performance to say good night to us before catching the subway home.

Group with Aaron Finley
Stage door greeting with Aaron C. Finley outside Moulin Rouge.

Our last day was sweetened by lunch with two members of the Mrs. Doubtfire creative team: John O’Farrell, who is writing the book, and Wayne Kirkpatrick, who—together with his brother Karey—is writing themusic and lyrics. John and Wayne described adaptations they are making to update the 1993 movie for contemporary audiences. They also shared how much they learned from writing their very first musical, Something Rotten! This time, they won’t be throwing out as many songs!

The Palm 1
Lunch with the creative geniuses behind Mrs. Doubtfire and Something Rotten! at The Palm.

It was a wonderful trip with wonderful company—and I can hardly wait for next October!

For more information on joining The 5th Avenue Theatre Director’s Circle, please contact Christine Johnson at or Jill Big Eagle at

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