People who meet the von Trapps via The Sound of Music may be surprised that the repertoire of the real-life Trapp Family Singers was unlike the jolly musical theater songs that Rodgers & Hammerstein created. The real von Trapps sang mostly art music—madrigals, religious pieces and classically-arranged folk music. In a 1998 interview, one of Georg and Maria’s sons said, “We were about good taste, culture, and all those wonderful upperclass standards that people make fun of in movies.”
Anne Allgood is a beloved and exceptionally talented actress in Seattle’s vibrant and thriving theater scene. The 5th Avenue Theatre has been lucky enough to count her as one of our favorite performers to work with, and anyone who has ever heard her sing and perform can understand why; Allgood brings a depth and richness to every character she brings to life onstage, and her vocal power is second to none. Allgood has appeared in three of our recent Rodgers & Hammerstein productions – as Aunt Eller in Oklahoma!, as Nettie in Carousel, and now as Mother Abbess in Rodgers & Hammerstein’s The Sound of Music. We recently had the opportunity to catch up with Allgood about these fantastic female characters.
The 5th Avenue Theatre was built in 1926 as a vaudeville and silent movie theater. With its spectacular Chinese-inspired design and graceful proportions The 5th immediately established itself as the most beautiful jewel in the vibrant crown of Seattle’s bustling Downtown theater scene.
Any staff member with a question about what is going on onstage, in the rehearsal halls, in the alley behind the theater, or anywhere else in the building knows that there is only one person has the answer: Mo Chapman. Mo, who was one of our regular stage managers in the late nineties and early aughts, has been the production logistics coordinator since 2006 and is the keeper of the calendars at The 5th. Quick with a joke and a smile, Mo is a fixture of The 5th Avenue staff, loved by everyone she works with.
Your first gig at The 5th was in 1999 as a child wrangler on Oliver!—what was that like?
This was back in the Frank Young days, and I come in and meet these kids, and there were only 8 or 9 of them, not like our recent production. I realized that they need to be taken care of in a way that they didn’t feel like they were being babysat. So I brought in puzzles—and the adults would come over and sit and do puzzles with the kids! There were live chickens on that show for the “Who Will Buy” number and I remember thinking “Well at least I’m not in charge of the chickens because I’d much rather deal with the kids!”
The Rising Star Project production of How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying goes up in March, but this season’s student team is already gearing up for the challenge! The second annual Rising Star Project Leadership Workshop took place the theater last Saturday. It was an opportunity for this season’s students to meet, begin building skills for the future, and talk leadership with Les Biller—local philanthropist and member of The 5th Avenue Theatre Board of Directors.
Here are a few highlights:
The 2015/16 Rising Star Project team will be composed of over 90 students from all over Washington State—future leaders in their respective communities.
RICHARD RODGERS composed his first songs at a summer camp, then wrote music for shows at Columbia University. A friend introduced him to a smart young lyric writer, Larry Hart, who shared his ambitious artistic goals. The two wrote several clever scores, but they attracted little attention and Rodgers seriously considered an offer to quit and sell children’s underwear.
They finally got their big break in 1925 with a small benefit show that won raves from the critics. For the next fifteen years Rodgers & Hart were one of the top teams on Broadway, writing 28 stage musicals and over 500 songs.
OSCAR HAMMERSTEIN II was born into a show business family. His grandfather built theaters and opera houses, and his father managed the biggest vaudeville palace in Manhattan. The family wanted him to become a lawyer, but show business was in his blood and he quit law school to write lyrics for Broadway musicals.
Hammerstein had a huge hit with the groundbreaking 1927 musical Show Boat, with music by Jerome Kern. But for years he wasn’t able to follow Show Boat with another hit, and by 1940, Hammerstein wondered if his time had passed.
At the end of the 2014/15 season, we asked our subscribers to vote on the highlights of the year, from Outstanding Actor and Actress to Outstanding Lighting Design and Best Musical Moment, in our annual Subscriber Choice Awards. The non-profit 5th Avenue Theatre has over 25,000 subscribers, one of the largest theater subscription bases in the country, and many eagerly participated in the voting. We tallied the votes, and are pleased to announce the recipients of the 2014/15 Subscriber Choice Awards:
The Sound of Music is iconic. It is without a doubt one of the most beloved and well known musicals. For over 50 years it has enthralled audiences across generations, cultures, and borders, from Europe to Asia, South America to Africa—a global fascination that stands as a testament to its universal appeal. Certainly, the amazing score and the heartwarming story are important reasons audiences flock to it. However, one key to its enduring appeal for contemporary audiences lies in its gallery of brave, strong, self-directed women: Maria—rebellious, independent, and adventurous; The Mother Abbess—wise, intuitive, and the moral compass, and Elsa, the Baroness—accomplished, driven, sophisticated, and intelligent.
“I’m just in love with the city of Seattle and the artists that create here,” says Eric Ankrim, star of The 5th’s upcoming production of How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying. And it’s no wonder. The talented theater artist is one of the most in-demand professionals in the area. At The 5th, audiences love Ankrim not only for his incredible stage presence (Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Oklahoma!, First Date), but for his talent in the director’s chair (Grease, ELF – The Musical).
Taking center stage as J. Pierrepont Finch is coming full circle for Ankrim. “This show is actually the first show I ever auditioned for and performed in, back in my sophomore year of high school. In many ways that experience was the reason I pursued theater moving forward.”
The collaboration of Richard Maltby, Jr. and David Shire is one of the longest-running “acts” in show business, outlasting the partnerships of Gilbert & Sullivan, Rodgers & Hammerstein, Lerner & Loewe and—well, just about any other team you could name. That fact speaks to the deep artistic affinity between the two men, who began writing theater scores at Yale in the late 1950s and now, more than a half century later, are unveiling their latest creation, Waterfall.