Brian Yorkey: No Foreigner to the Village Theatre

From the Great White Way in New York City to Front Street in Issaquah, Brian Yorkey returns to Village Theatre to direct The Foreigner

Yorkey, who was raised in Issaquah, started his affiliation with Village Theatre as a KidStage student. Years later he would become associate artistic director, a post he held for six years. He wrote five musicals during his tenure at Village Theatre including Funny Pages, Making Tracks, The Wedding Banquet, Play It By Heart and A Perfect Fall

Then he wrote Next to Normal and his life became anything but. Inspired by electroconvulsive therapy, Next to Normal is a rock musical that grapples with mental illness in a suburban family. It won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama in 2010. It also won the 2009 Tony Award for Best Original Score. He’s been busy on Broadway ever since. His new musical If/Then, written with his Next to Normal collaborator Tom Kitt, opens on Broadway in March. The Lost Ship, with a score by rock legend Sting, will have an out-of-town tryout in Chicago this June before a planned Broadway opening in the fall of 2014.

As his career has skyrocketed, Yorkey has always returned to the theatre he called home. He’s directed twelve shows and counting at Village Theatre; most recently, he helmed the company’s 2011 production of Jesus Christ Superstar. The Foreigner will be his thirteenth directorial effort. The show, a comedic farce, opened to rave reviews in New York City in 1984 and has been revived countless times across the country (including at the Village Theatre in 1992). The show is about a shy man who goes to a fishing lodge in Georgia looking for peace and quiet. To avoid conversation, he masquerades as a foreigner who can’t speak English. He soon discovers how much strangers share when they think no one can understand them. 

The Foreigner will run in Issaquah from Jan. 23 to March 2 and in Everett from March 7-20.  

Next Up at 5th Avenue’s Tech Tuesdays: ‘Spamalot’

The 5th Avenue Theatre’s Tech Tuesday program returns on January 28, with the company’s current production of Spamalot. These workshops, especially designed for high schoolers with an interest in technical theatre, give these students a first-hand look at the technical side of a professional theatre production. Participating students have the opportunity to tour backstage, observe during technical rehearsals, and meet working theatre professionals and technicians. 

Spamalot is a musical that was “lovingly ripped off from” the 1975 film Monty Python and the Holy Grail by some of the film’s original creators. This particular retelling of the legend of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table features beautiful show girls, cows, killer rabbits, rude French people and cancelled witch burnings (too expensive). This version, self-produced at the 5th Avenue, will feature a cast of local comic talent.

Tech Tuesdays workshops are open to high school students, ages 14-18. Also included in the $25 registration fee are a pizza party and a ticket to a preview performance of the next mainstage production. Interested students can click here to register.  

Is the Soul of American Musical Theater in Seoul?

Korea seems to love American-born Broadway musicals, it seems. In fact, ticket sales to American and European musicals, according to a recent story by Patrick Healy in the New York Times, have grown from $9 million in 2000 to an estimated $300 million this year.

Wicked is huge; Mamma Mia! too. Grease is popular. Guys and Dolls, a New York musical through-and-through, is a big ticket seller in Seoul. Those are all well-known and beloved musicals, of course. But the financial disasters, the critical duds, they’re big, too. Bonnie & Clyde the musical, which ran for less than two months on Broadway in 2011, is a huge South Korean success. Ghost the Musical, a stage adaptation of the Patrick Swayze/Demi Moore tearjerker that didn’t last long on Broadway, is faring similarly well.

As Judy Craymer, the lead producer of Mamma Mia! told Healy, “Seoul has become incredibly important in the lives of many musicals, something none of us would’ve said or predicted a decade ago.” 

Why Seoul? Why now? Broadway musicals tap into an audience of young Korean women, “raised on the bombast of Korean pop and the histrionics of television soap operas,” Healy writes. The typical audience member is a young woman in her 20s or 30s (though musicals are popular with Korean men, as well) who has a good salary and is still living with her parents (they’re not living with a significant other until marriage). This leaves them with a disposable income, which they spend on show tickets that cost roughly the same as tickets in New York City.

Some worry that the musical bubble will burst, as Korean producers scramble to acquire production rights to American musicals faster and faster, and the market becomes more and more saturated. “There is a bubble right now – too many musicals, and people don’t know what to see,” Korean producer Seol Doyun told Healy. “The interesting thing is, in Korea most bubbles don’t really burst.” So for the time being, there is no end in sight to the South Korean appetite for American musicals of all stripes, meaning that no matter how well a show fares (or doesn’t) in the states, it could very well have an enthusiastic audience waiting elsewhere in the world.

So the bubble grows and grows. Perhaps someone will write a musical about staging an American musical in Korea. Young Koreans will flood the booth for tickets.

‘First Date’ Sets Broadway Closing Date

Broadway musical First Date, which began as a co-production between the 5th Avenue Theatre and ACT Theatre in 2012, will end its six-month rialto run on January 5, according to Broadway.com. The show will have played 34 previews and 174 regular performances at the time of its closing.

First Date tells the story of tightly wound Aaron (Zachary Levi), who is set up with serial-dater Casey (Krysta Rodriguez). The pair’s eventful first date, which unfolds in real time, is an evening fraught with Google background checks, fake emergency phone calls, supportive best friends, manipulative exes and protective parents, who sing and dance them through ice-breakers, appetizers and potential conversational land mines.

Kelly Karbacz originated the role of Casey in the Seattle production, while Eric Ankrim originated the role of Aaron. Seattle stage favorite Ankrim went on to understudy the role of Aaron on Broadway. 

First Date was directed by 5th Avenue’s producing director Bill Berry, and features a book by Austin Winsberg, with music and lyrics by Alan Zachary and Michael Weiner, who also composed 5th Avenue’s recent world premiere musical, Secondhand Lions.

Despite its earlier-than-hoped-for shuttering, First Date still has plenty to celebrate. An original cast recording of the musical hit stores in October, and the cast will soon perform in the beloved Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.