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The 5th Avenue Theatre's Second Annual NextFest: A Festival of New Musicals Launches This Weekend

Some of Seattle's most talented actors will be hard at work in collaboration with writers from around the country in the rehearsal halls of The 5th Avenue Theatre this month as the company's NextFest: A Festival of New Musicals launches its three week intensive development cycle this weekend.

Nationally recognized for its contribution to the contemporary musical theater cannon, The 5th Avenue Theatre is a celebrated incubator for new musicals. Each year, the musical theater titan of the Pacific Northwest connects writers at all stages of development with some of the region's most brilliant performers, giving life to the words on the page and allowing book writers, composers and lyricists to see their work in action. This year's various works are brought to life by Anne Allgood, Hans Altwies, Eric Ankrim, Peter Crook, Frederick Hagreen, Diana Huey, Matthew Kacergis, Agastya Kohli, Connor Toms, Noah Zachary, and many others.

"It is always so exciting to find ourselves at the start of this festival," said program founder and 5th Avenue Producing Artistic Director Bill Berry. "To have such a variety of different shows in all stages of development at The 5th at once is such a thrill. We are proud to support the incredible work of these writers from Seattle, Broadway and beyond."

Taking place in the historic theater's rehearsal halls and studios October 8-22, 2016, NextFest is a celebration of new musicals at various stages of development, ranging from a first read-through of new text and music all the way to three fully staged readings. NextFest will not be open to the general public. However, festival passes are a benefit of donation. To learn more, please call 206-625-1418 and ask for the Circles Office. Special thanks to NextFest Creators Beth and Buzz Porter and Cynthia Stroum for their leadership support. Special thanks to the Alhadeff Family for their ongoing support of the New Works Program.

The Projects of NextFest 2016

Book: Jerry Zucker
Music & Lyrics: Alan Zachary & Michael Weiner
Director: Jerry Zucker

The year is 1911. An auction is being held on the stage of the Paris Opera House. One of the items for sale is a music box with the figure of a mechanical monkey... Wait, no, sorry... that's Phantom of the Opera. I always get them confused. Intermission! is more like the musical theater version of Airplane! It's the story of two dim-witted brothers who make their way to Potku-Potku (a tiny monarchy located somewhere) after receiving an email from someone they don't know claiming that money has been left to them by a relative they never even knew they had. Eventually (of course) they each fall in love, get caught up in a military coup, join a band of non-violent revolutionaries and have to save the country. Don't try to make sense of it; it's not that kind of theater. Just tuck your brains under your seat and enjoy the show!

The Crazy Ones
Book: Alex Pototsky
Music & Lyrics: Zack Zadeck
Director: Sam Buntrock

In 1983, Steve Jobs was in control. His company, Apple Computer, was on top of the world; his products were changing the work and home life of hundreds of thousands of users every day, making him exorbitantly rich. But something sinister was brewing under the surface, both at Apple and in Steve's own mind. Run out of the company he built almost singlehandedly at the peak of his creativity, Steve must confront the demons he never thought he'd have to face-his wild bipolarity, his crippling fear of abandonment and the family he pretended not to have-all to return from the bottom and build the legacy he dreamed of: to make a "dent in the universe" that would change everything.

Complete casting includes Frederick Hagreen, M.J. Sieber, Katherine Strohmaier, and Noah Zachary, with John Coons, Ann Cornelius, Heather Russell, Patrick Shelton, Nicholas Tarabini and Margaret Lamb.

Pump Up the Volume
Music: Jeff Thomson
Book & lyrics: Jeremy Desmon
Director: Bill Berry
Music Supervisor: Ian Eisendrath
Music Director: Chris Ranney

Pump Up the Volume centers on mild-mannered teenager Mark Hunter, who secretly moonlights as shock jock "Hard Harry" on his FM pirate radio station. When Harry exposes corruption and discrimination in his local high school, he becomes a hero to his peers, and invokes the wrath of his principal and the authorities who try to silence him.

Complete casting includes Kody Bringman, Frederick Hagreen, Diana Huey, Michael Krenning, Andy McGinn, Trent Moury, Taylor Niemeyer, Taylor Pearlstein and Sydney Shepherd with Patrick Shelton, Henry Nettleton, Kenny Youch, Andi Alhadeff, Rheanna Atendido and Bethanie Willis.

The Long Game
Book & Lyrics: Andrew Russell
Music & Lyrics: Richard Gray
Director: Kelsey Thorgalsen
Dramaturg: Shirley Fishman
Music Supervisor: Ian Eisendrath
Music Director: Kat Sherrell

The Long Game (formerly The Fourth Estate) is an unconventional new American musical that deals with secrets, whistleblowers and the power of the press by bringing together onstage Dorothy Kilgallen, Jack Ruby, Laura Poitras and Edward Snowden. The Long Game began its development as a part of The 5th Avenue Theatre's inaugural NextFest through the Writer's Group.

Complete casting includes Eric Ankrim, Susannah Mars and Mari Nelson.

Stanford Story
Lyrics: Douglas Lyons
Music: Ethan Pakchar & Douglas Lyons
Book: Cheryl L. West
Director: Bill Berry
Dramaturg: Christine Sumption

Stanford Story is a new musical based on actual events during the 1960s when Stanford University fraternity Sigma Chi inducted an African American student for the first time. After inducting him into their fraternity, the national governing body informed them that their action was forbidden. The fraternity, in turn, stood up to the governing body, going against the established rules and practices. In the process, they created a new organization that valued inclusion over exclusion.

Free Boy
Book & Lyrics: Reginald Andre Jackson
Music: Steven Michael Newby
Director: Valerie Curtis-Newton

Based on the book by Seattle historians Lorraine McConaghy and Judy Bentley, Free Boy tells the tale of Charles Mitchell's harrowing escape from Washington Territory in 1860. Hiding as a stowaway aboard a steamer bound for Victoria, British Columbia, Charles' journey and the obstacles he faced along the way dramatize how Civil War era issues in the United States affected the West Coast. The war's battlefields were far away but the war's problems were right here in the Pacific Northwest. This musical is a 5th Avenue commission for its educational program, Adventure Musical Theatre Touring Company, performing in elementary and junior high schools throughout Washington State.

Complete casting includes Cayman Ilika, Martyn G. Krouse, Johnny Patchamatla, Shaunyce Omar, Jason Sanford, Corey Spruill and Tyler Trerise.

The Rumble Within
Book & Lyrics: Andrew Russell
Music & Lyrics: Richard Andriessen
Director: Marya Sea Kaminski
A product of The 5th Avenue Theatre Writers Group

The Rumble Within is a brand spanking new musical (not even hot off the presses - we are still pressing) based on the life and times of Linda Hazzard, a legendary Seattle health specialist who fasted-to death-dozens of wealthy patrons in the early 1900s. Set and retold from within the first Ivar's seafood restaurant in 1938, this theatrical and over-the-top musical will (when finished) feel like a blend of Sweeney Todd with Jenny Craig, and will explore class, power and America's relationship to food-why we want it, why we go without it and what we'll do for it.

Complete casting includes Anne Allgood, Brad Farwell, Rachel Guyer, Nik Hageb, Russell Hodgkinson, Reginald Andre Jackson, Kate Jaeger, John Patrick Lowrie, Alex Matthews, Ray Tagavilla, Connor Toms and Brenna Wagner.

Anybody Can Do Anything
Book: John Longenbaugh
Music & Lyrics: Bruce Monroe
Director: Larry Sousa
A product of The 5th Avenue Theatre Writers Group

The project is a musical dramatization of Anybody Can Do Anything, Betty MacDonald's best-selling memoir about her life in Seattle during the Great Depression. In 1931, Betty Bard left her marriage with her two young daughters and returned to her family in Seattle. Her family had two invaluable resources: an endless supply of good humor and her formidable older sister Mary.

Through bad dates and frozen nights (partly alleviated by sawing down trees in nearby Ravenna Park), with Saturday night parties and endless Sunday dinners of meatloaf, Anybody is an authentic chronicle of survival in tough times and of families as the ultimate survival systems. It's a slice of little-remembered Seattle history from one of the Northwest's most popular writers, and a reminder that desperate times are best faced not with fear but with laughter and an open heart.

Complete casting includes Eric Ray Anderson, Abi Brittle, Shaye Hodgins, Matthew Kacergis, Frances Leah King, Taylor Niemeyer, Jenny Shotwell and Katherine Strohmaier with Greg McCormick Allen and Angie Louise.

Satellite Love
Book: BrenDan Healy
Music & Lyrics: Orlando G. Morales
Director: Valerie Curtis-Newton
A product of The 5th Avenue Theatre Writers Group

What do an alcoholic hiding in the New Mexico desert, a sheriff's deputy, three scientists in India and a U.N. translator have in common? The improbable answer is a dog and a flea orbiting the Earth in The Remains of a Soviet-era satellite. Satellite Love (Working Title) imagines that Laika, the first earthling in space, is still floating above us today in Sputnik 2, sending messages to those willing to hear her transmission. This musical explores connection, loneliness and love by asking a familiar question in new, unexpected ways: Are we alone out here?

Complete casting includes Andrew Lee Creech, Cayman Ilika, Agastya Kohli, John Patrick Lowrie, David Pichette, Meenakshi Rishi and Shaudi Vahdat.

Prodigal Song
Book: Keri Healey
Music &Lyrics: Anne Eisendrath
Director: David Bennett
A product of The 5th Avenue Theatre Writers Group

Nolan, a fallen star of the classical music scene, returns to his small Southern hometown to make amends and begin to rebuild his life. His mentor, a Catholic priest, offers him an assignment that sends him on a journey through the Bible, through old wrongs and through new obstacles on a quest to rediscover his faith. Along the way, he leads a ragtag group of musicians in an updated-and controversial-church pageant, bringing them public acclaim and incurring the ire of the Catholic Church, which tries to shut them down. What results is a story of awkward collaborators and unlikely saviors working together to make the most beautiful music of their lives.

Casting includes Hans Altwies, Peter Crook, Sarah Harlett, and Alexandria Henderson.

Busload of Blonds
Book & Lyrics: Jim Luigs
Music: Scott Warrender
UW Table Reads, a new series

1933. Palm Beach. America's high society ladies are in a pickle: with their husbands away, who will accompany them to Palm Beach's clubs and casinos? It's a lack-of-testosterone crisis. Enter an enterprising manicurist, Jenny, who, overhearing the ladies' crisis comes up with a creative plan. She rounds up young and handsome Ivy League graduates, dyes their hair blond and drives them to Florida. Her escort business is an instant hit and the manicurist surprises herself by falling for a local jack-of-all-trades. Unsatisfied with entrepreneurship and romance, our heroine seeks to tear down the social barriers for women.

Casting will include professional Seattle performers including Anne Allgood, Candice Donahoo, Frances Leah King, Bobbi Kotula, Ellen McLain, Jessica Skerritt, Karen Skrinde and Dane Stokinger, with students of the University of Washington Musical Theatre Program.

10-Minute Musical Project
A new program in The 5th Avenue Theatre's Education & Outreach Department

The 10-Minute Musical Project is a new tuition-free education program which connects Washington State students ages 14 to 19 to the process of creating new works in the musical theater genre. The mission of the program is to empower students and support their future achievement by introducing them to the crafts and skills associated with songwriting, book writing, directing and the workshop process.

Students were given the opportunity to participate in multiple ways: as book writers, composers and lyricists; as student directors and music directors; as student stage managers; as actors; as marketing and public relations administrators; and as photographers and videographers. Professional mentors worked with students to learn skills and execute tasks which immerse students in the nationally recognized new works initiatives of The 5th Avenue Theatre.

About The 5th Avenue Theatre's New Works Program
The 5th Avenue Theatre is one of the nation's leading producers and creators of new work, having premiered 17 original Broadway-caliber musicals since 2001. But The 5th's commitment to new musicals runs deeper than the fully realized productions audiences see onstage. Under the leadership of Producing Artistic Director Bill Berry and The Alhadeff Family Director of New Works and Music Supervisor Ian Eisendrath, The 5th Avenue Theatre's New Works Program fosters the creation of new musicals in each phase of development through writer's retreats, table readings and workshops. The New Works Program creates specially-crafted development programs for each show that comes under its care, and is committed to creating a positive and safe environment that supports the unique needs of each project.

The New Works mission is to advance the art form of musical theater through the creation and production of the next generation of musicals; to support and respond to the specific needs of individual projects throughout each phase of development; and to create integrated, dynamic partnerships between The 5th Avenue Theatre and writers of new musicals in Seattle, across the country, and around the world.

About The 5th Avenue Theatre
The non-profit 5th Avenue Theatre is the nation's premier incubator for new musical theater. Since 2001, the Seattle-based company has produced 17 new musicals. To date, nine (including the sensational hit Disney's Aladdin) have moved on to Broadway premieres, earning a combined 15 Tony Awards®, including two for Best Musical (Hairspray and Memphis). The 5th Avenue Theatre is also known for its world class, critically acclaimed productions of musicals chosen from both the contemporary canon and the Golden Age of Broadway.

Unique in its Chinese-inspired design, this exquisite theater opened in 1926 as a venue for vaudeville and film. Today, under the leadership of Executive Producer and Artistic Director David Armstrong, Managing Director Bernadine C. Griffin and Producing Artistic Director Bill Berry, this non-profit theater company attracts an annual attendance of more than 300,000, including over 25,000 subscribers-one of the largest theater subscriptions in North America.

In addition to its main stage productions, The 5th Avenue Theatre is also committed to encouraging the next generation of theatergoers through its extensive educational outreach programs. For more information about The 5th Avenue Theatre, its season and its programs, please visit

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