“Steppin’ Out of the Shadows:” An Interview with Murder for Two’s Kellen Blair

By KWAPI VENGESAYI, 5th Avenue Community Engagement Specialist

Murder for Two is a hilarious musical comedy to die for. It received rave reviews during a record-breaking run at Chicago Shakespeare Theater prior to a critically-acclaimed run Off-Broadway at Second Stage Uptown. Called “Ingenious” by The New York Times, it is the perfect blend of murder, music and mayhem! In an interview with lyricist and co-writer Kellen Blair we get a little bit more insight into the show’s creation and success.

Joe Kinosian (left) and Kellen Blair (right)

Do you have any prior connections to The 5th and/or ACT?
I grew up in Seattle and most of my family still lives here (all proud subscribers at 5th Avenue, thank you very much). And interestingly enough, my very first theater experience was at ACT. I was two years old and my parents took me to see A Christmas Carol. It was a terrible idea because the sight of Jacob Marley had me screaming my head off and made everybody hate us, I’m sure. But I’ve been back every year since (and the screaming has definitely mellowed since then). So you can imagine, having my show here, the first theater I set foot in, is extremely meaningful to me. It’s also meaningful to my mom, who has been waiting for this day since our first reading seven years ago. Actually, when I found out Murder for Two was going to New York, I told my mom, and her response was, “Does that mean it’ll be coming to Seattle anytime soon?”

Continue reading ““Steppin’ Out of the Shadows:” An Interview with Murder for Two’s Kellen Blair”

Spotlight on Bob Fosse

By JORDAN LUSINK, Communications Coordinator

The Pajama Game is touted as THE show that catapulted Bob Fosse to stardom. It was his first solo choreography credit, and he won his first Tony Award© for Best Choreography for the original production in 1954; however, his legacy as a choreographer extends before and far after his involvement with The Pajama Game. Continue reading “Spotlight on Bob Fosse”

An Introduction to The 5th Avenue Theatre’s Writers’ Group

By MAKAELA POLLOCK

Often when I mention that I work with the Writers’ Group at The 5th, I get the response, “Cool!—So what do you guys actually DO?” The answer is both simple and huge. On the simple level, we write scenes and songs that add up to a whole musical, we give feedback to each other, we discuss what it means to create musical theater, and most importantly, we commit to being in the room with each other every other week in order to make that happen. Continue reading “An Introduction to The 5th Avenue Theatre’s Writers’ Group”

Q & A with The Pajama Game’s Trina Mills

pg_trina-mills-web

In this Q & A with the multi-talented Trina Mills, she tells us about what it takes to balance the three roles she fills in The Pajama Game: ensemble member, Associate Choreographer, and dance captain. Continue reading “Q & A with The Pajama Game’s Trina Mills”

Our Mission: One-of-a-Kind Collaborations

Did you know that The 5th Avenue Theatre and ACT Theatre share an artistic collaboration unlike any other in the country? For the past seven years, our two cornerstones of Seattle’s cultural landscape have partnered to co-produce one musical each year, including First Date which went straight to Broadway. Continue reading “Our Mission: One-of-a-Kind Collaborations”

Meet the Factory: Sid and Babe

As we ramp up to the sexy, steamy production of The Pajama Game, we’re taking this opportunity to introduce you to the members of our fantastic cast. Or, as we’ve come to know them, the workers at the Sleep Tite Pajama Factory. Today we’re introducing you to the last two members of the assembly line: Sid Sorokin and Katherine “Babe” Williams.


pg_josh-davis-webJosh Davis (Sid)

Josh is making his 5th Avenue debut with our production of The Pajama Game! Most recently, Josh was seen on Broadway as an original cast member in Beautiful: The Carole King Musical. Off-Broadway, Josh has graced the stage in White’s Lies and My First Time. Regional credits include Bella: An American Tall Tale, Les Miserables, Guys and Dolls and Beauty and the Beast. Josh has been seen on TV and in film in Law & OrderAs The World Turns and The Graduates. He also has an extensive voice over career with clients that include Papa John’s, Chase Sapphire, Hulu, Vizio Smart Cast, 3M, Royal Canine and Shark Week. You can find out more about Josh by following him on social media, on Twitter and on Instagram.

pg_billie-wildrick-webBillie Wildrick (Babe)

Billie Wildrick is a fan favorite here at The 5th, having graced our stage numerous times in the past. Audiences may have seen her previously at The 5th in Carousel, Guys and Dolls, Sunday in the Park with George, Pirates of Penzance, Candide, Wonderful Town, Into the Woods, Hair and Company. She has been seen on Broadway in Scandalous. You may also recognize her from her other appearances on stages around Seattle, including Vanities, First Date and Das Barbecu at ACT; and Cabaret, Lizzie Borden, Man of La Mancha and Hello, Dolly! at Village. Other regional credits include The Sound of Music and A Christmas Story at the Ordway, and The Secret Garden at Shakespeare Theatre Company. Billie has a vibrant career as a director in addition to being an actor, and for her many roles both on and off stage she has received three nominations, a Gregory and three Footlight Awards. Find out more about Billie at her website.

Check out this sneak peek at the show of Josh and Billie singing “There Once Was a Man” at our Spotlight Night for The Pajama Game.


The Pajama Game is directed by our own Producing Artistic Director Bill Berry, and runs February 10 through March 5. To find out more and to purchase tickets, click here.

Meet the Factory: Hines, Gladys and Prez

As we ramp up to the sexy, steamy production of The Pajama Game, we’re taking this opportunity to introduce you to the members of our fantastic cast. Or, as we’ve come to know them, the workers at the Sleep-Tite Pajama Factory.

Stay tuned over the coming weeks to learn more about each worker in our factory.


pg_greg-allen-webGreg McCormick Allen (Hines)

Portraying tap dancing, Time Study company man Hines is Greg McCormick Allen. Most recently, you saw him tapping away in Singin’ in the Rain and Billy Elliotat Village Theatre. Most recently at The 5th, Greg was part of the numerous cast members who graced our stage in last season’s How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying. His favorite shows include White Christmas (Phil), Mary Poppins (Bert), Billy Elliot (Mr. Braithwaite) and Cinderella (Lionel, the Herald). His upcoming projects include Fire Station 7 at Seattle Children’s Theatre.

pg_sarah-rose-davis-webSarah Rose Davis (Gladys)

Sarah is no stranger to The 5th: she starred last season as Rosemary Pilkington in, you guessed it, How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying! This is her 22nd show with The 5th, and some of her favorite credits include: Paint Your Wagon (Lotta), A Chorus Line (Maggie), Grease (Frenchy), RENT (Mark’s Mom), A Christmas Story (Mrs. Schwartz), CarouselJasper in Deadland (Hel) and many more! She also starred as Fanny Brice in Village Theatre’s production of Funny Girl. For more information about Sarah, visit her website.

pg_kyle-robert-carter-webKyle Robert Carter (Prez)

Kyle is stepping into the shoes of union president “Prez.” Rounding out the trifecta, Kyle was also in our production of How to Succeed… last season. Or perhaps you saw him even later last season in our revisal production of Paint Your Wagon as Wesley. Other 5th Avenue credits include Grease (Teen Angel) and Jasper in Deadland. Kyle played Benny in the National Tour of In the Heights, as well as playing the role regionally. Other regional credits include Cubamor (Renato) and Sister Act (Eddie Souther). Off-Broadway, Kyle portrayed Butch “Cobra” Brown” in Storyville. Find out more about Kyle at his website.


The Pajama Game is directed by our own Producing Artistic Director Bill Berry, and runs February 10 through March 5. To find out more and to purchase tickets, click here.

Alder & Ross: The New Boys in Town

adler-and-rossOf all the great songwriting teams that have flourished on Broadway, none appeared so unexpectedly, burned so brightly and vanished so quickly as that of Richard Adler and Jerry Ross.

Adler and Ross had only two big hits—but, to be fair, they wrote only two shows: The Pajama Game and Damn Yankees. Their initial success was due to the support of one of the most prominent men of mid-century Broadway—composer-lyricist Frank Loesser, a great songwriter and a shrewd businessman.

After his triumphant 1950 musical Guys and Dolls, Loesser decided to build his personal publishing house, Frank Music, into a real competitor to the established firms that dominated the music business. But to do that he would need product, not just his own songs but those of up-and-coming, unaffiliated writers—talented youngsters he could put under contract, then publish and promote their songs.

In the early 1950s, aspiring tunesmiths peddled their wares in the Brill Building, the hub of the songwriting trade. They would spend their days taking their songs from office to office, floor to floor, looking for a receptive ear. When they needed a smoke they hung out on the sidewalk at Broadway and 49th Street—what they called The Beach— where they would swap stories and gripe about the music racket.

That’s where Richard Adler met Jerry Ross.

They were both young, they liked each other on sight and decided to try collaborating. They both wrote words and music, although all Adler could play was a toy xylophone.

One of their early efforts was a novelty about the hissing and clanging of a steam radiator:

steam-heat

Well, they knew this was a masterpiece, so they shopped it to Mitch Miller, the song chief for Columbia Records. He listened patiently and said, “Boys, save it for a show.”

That was Miller’s way of saying, “It’s crap.”  But, unintentionally, Miller was partly right. Adler and Ross’s songs were theatrical, more situation-specific than the usual Tin Pan Alley product.

And that stage instinct was what caught the attention of Frank Loesser—that and the chart success of their first solid record hit: Tony Bennett’s “Rags to Riches,” which sold over two million copies.

Loesser wasted no time. He “collected” the boys for his stable of writers and soon placed a couple of their songs in a now-forgotten Broadway revue. Their work was dismissed as “routine,” but Loesser believed in their talent and continued to mentor them in the art of theatrical song writing. After a few months Frank called them into his office and said “I think you’re ready to write a real show.”

He brought in director George Abbott, the veteran hitmaker whose motto was “LOUDER, FASTER, FUNNIER!”  Abbott said, “Boys, I have a property I’m going to direct. It’s about a strike in a pajama factory. I know it doesn’t sound like Rodgers and Hammerstein, which is why they’re not writing the score.”

The show was The Pajama Game, and “the boys” finished the songs in five weeks.

And it wasn’t a Rodgers & Hammerstein show, it was a musical comedy. But it was a rational musical comedy, in the new “musical play” style, with a few elements thrown in “just because”—for example, an irrelevant novelty (their old trunk song “Steam Heat”) which became a legendary showstopper.

The Pajama Game was a show about real, everyday people, the kind of folks you’d meet on the job or at the ball game. Audiences saw themselves on stage, and responded with gusto. It had a pop score; the songs sounded like current jukebox hits, which many of them became: “Hey There,” “Hernando’s Hideaway,” even “Steam Heat.” The Pajama Game established Adler and Ross as 1954’s most promising new team, and they delivered on that promise one year later with Damn Yankees, the Faust legend translated into the world of pro baseball.

Like The Pajama Game, Damn Yankees won the Tony for Best Musical. It gave the Broadway Songbook a few more standards: “Whatever Lola Wants, Lola Gets,” the locker room anthem “Heart” and the slithery duet “Two Lost Souls.”

It’s hard to imagine Adler and Ross adapting their Hit Parade style to a period show, or adjusting to the new sound that would take over the record charts in 1956: rock ’n’ roll.

But we’ll never know. Jerry Ross suddenly died in November 1955 from a lung disease that had been dormant since childhood. Richard Adler continued to write musicals and pop songs, but he never found a partner to reignite his writing talent and ended his career as a successful producer and director.

By ALBERT EVANS, Artistic Associate

Enter the Steam Heat Coloring Contest

Check out all of the pieces of our Steam Heat Coloring Contest with The Seattle Times! Print and color the pieces yourself, and be sure to submit your entires by 6 PM on Tuesday, January 31 for your chance to win a fantastic prize pack (including treats from our partners at Inn At The Market and Purple Cafe and Wine Bar)!

Click on the pieces to be linked to a printable version.

babes-pajama-top

babes-pajama-bottoms

sids-pajama-top

sids-pajama-bottoms

1617_pj_-seattletimes_entrysheet