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The 5th Avenue Theatre's Third Annual NEXTFEST: A FESTIVAL OF NEW MUSICALS Launches This Weekend


The 5th Avenue Theatre is a vibrant hive of musical theater activity as the projects of NextFest: A Festival of New Musicals have started rehearsals this week. A three-week musical theater intensive development cycle, NextFest has played a role in the creation of musicals ranging from Persuasion by Harold Taw and Chris Jeffries (Taproot Theatre, 2017) to Come From Away by Irene Carl Sankoff and David Hein (Broadway). 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 nationally renowned theater company 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 Alexandria Henderson, Justin Huertas, Matthew Kacergis, Shaunyce Omar, Brandon O'Neill, Timothy Piggee, Hannah Schuerman, Billie Wildrick and many more.

"In the world of musicals, 'made at The 5th' is a mark of distinction that means artistic excellence and originality," said Producing Artistic Director Bill Berry. "That's why NextFest is integral to who we are and what we do here. We are creating musical theater from the ground up, pushing the boundaries of the art form and telling the stories of our time. For us, the only thing as exciting as creating today's must-see musical is imagining tomorrow's."

Taking place in the historic theater's rehearsal halls and studios February 24-March 13, 2018, NextFest is a celebration of new musicals at various stages of development, ranging from a first read-through of new text and music to a week-long seated rehearsal process. 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 Tom and Connie Walsh for their leadership support. Special thanks to the Alhadeff Family for their ongoing support of the New Works Program.

The Projects of NextFest 2018

The 5th Avenue Theatre's Third Annual NEXTFEST: A FESTIVAL OF NEW MUSICALS Launches This Weekend


Book: Cheryl L. West

Music & Lyrics: Ethan Pakchar & Douglas Lyons

Director: Bill Berry

'64 is a fictional musical inspired by the events surrounding the suspension of the Stanford fraternity Sigma Chi after inducting African American and Jewish pledges. In the vein of Ragtime, '64 reflects a time when the United States was undergoing a tectonic cultural shift. Race, class and civil rights were pushing forward in the national consciousness and white Americans were beginning to realize that the American Dream was not yet available to everyone.

Complete casting includes Nicholas Japaul Bernard, Peter Crook, Andy Davison, Brace Evans, Tori Gresham, Matthew Kacergis, Patrick McDermott, Henry Nettleton, Shaunyce Omar, Taylor Pearlstein, Hannah Schuerman, Nathan Smith, Mike Spee and Zack Summers with Kody Bringman, Bob De Dea, Emily Ann Johnson, Matthew Posner, Brenna Wagner and Ty Willis.

The Rumble Within

Book & Lyrics: Andrew Russell

Music & Lyrics: Richard Andriessen

Director: Marya Sea Kaminski

The Rumble Within is a brand-spanking-new musical inspired by the life and times of Linda Hazzard. The legendary Seattle health specialist fasted people to health and also...death.

Among her many wealthy patrons in the early 1900s was the fast-talking and boisterous Daisy Haglun-mother to Ivar Haglund (Ivar's Clam Chowder). This over-the-top musical feels like a blend of Sweeney Todd with all things Richard Simmons. Through music, The Rumble Within explores how revenge and power work in America-especially when mixed with hunger for food, sex and anything else that might satisfy that terrifying rumble within.

Casting includes Emily Chisolm, Kathy Hseih, Shaunyce Omar, Timothy McCuen Piggee and Brandon J. Simmons.

Prodigal Song

Book: Keri Healey

Music & Lyrics: Anne Eisendrath

Released after a lengthy stay in prison, Nolan needs to restart his life. Sidelined after decades on the road as a hard-living rocker, Edie needs to face the tough truth about the years she has left. The paths of these two lonely and scared strangers converge inside a small Southern church, where they wind up leading a ragtag group of musicians in creating a concert that causes uproar in their conservative community. Prodigal Song is the journey of unlikely collaborators working together to make the most beautiful music of their lives.

Casting includes Julia Francis, Marena Kleinpeter, Teri Lazzara, Rafael Molina and Timothy McCuen Piggee.

Anybody Can Do Anything

Book: John Longenbaugh

Music & Lyrics: Bruce Monroe

Director: Makaela Pollock

Music Director: Josh Archibald-Seiffer

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. Betty's family had two invaluable resources: an endless supply of good humor and Betty's formidable older sister Mary. Believing that "anybody can do anything," Mary set out to prove just that-despite the protests from her family.

Through bad dates and frozen nights, with Saturday night parties and endless Sunday dinners of meatloaf, Anybody is a slice of little-remembered Seattle history, and a reminder that desperate times are best faced not with fear but with laughter and an open heart.

Complete casting includes Alexandria Henderson, Justin Huertas, Corinna Lapid Munter, Taylor Niemeyer, Jenny Shotwell, Tatum Poirrier and Billie Wildrick with Eric Polani Jensen, Angie Louise and Matt Owen.

The Promised Land

Book, Music & Lyrics: Orlando Morales

Director: Valerie Curtis-Newton

The Promised Land tells the story of Joseph, a young Buffalo soldier who is sent to the Philippines in 1898 and the Filipino villagers who rescue and shelter him, unaware that he has been ordered to subdue their fight for independence. The score takes on a Golden Age-style, and the script includes three different languages to depict this epic war story.

Casting includes Corinna Lapid Munter, Mara E. Palma, Christian Quinto, Ray Tagavilla and Dimitri Woods.


Book & Lyrics: Naomi Morgan

Music: Naomi Morgan & Michael Nutting

Director: Marya Sea Kaminski

Music Director: Julia Thornton

Running from the past, Vivian is content in her new life as a stripper-finally-until her younger sister, Lisa, shows up at her work in a desperate attempt to make amends. Vivian refuses to forgive her sister for her past mistakes and insists she leave the club immediately. Not ready to give up, Lisa agrees to participate in the night's amateur contest in an attempt to stay close to her. Danger and harsh realities surface, not to mention... a catfight! Unexpectedly, it backfires as Lisa begins to feel at home in the strip club. Vivian fears her new life is threatened if her sister decides to stay, especially with everything they've been through.

Andi Alhadeff, Shawn Belyea, Nicholas Japaul Bernard, Shannon Colcher, Bob De Dea, Beth DeVries, Aly Gutierrez, Alexandria Henderson, Justin Huertas, Elena Joyner, Jenna Lindberg, Brandon O'Neill, Patrick Shelton, Charles Simmons, Greg Stone, Jordan Iosua Taylor and Anita Welch

Austen's Pride

Book, Music & Lyrics: Lindsay Warren Baker & Amanda Jacobs

Director: Igor Goldin

Choreographer: Andrew Palermo

Music Director: Kevin Stites

Austen's Pride springs to life when the author re-imagines the world of her novel. As the timely love story of Elizabeth Bennet and Fitzwilliam Darcy unfolds, Austen learns to see both the story and herself in a new light.

Casting includes Nick DeSantis, Richard Gray, Sophie Franzella, Tori Gresham, Cristin Hubbard, Matthew Kacergis, Chelsea LeValley, Becca Orts, Peter Saide, Mike Spee, Allison Standley and Katherine Strohmaier with Ethan Carpenter, Andy Davison, Randy Scholz and Aaron Shanks.

Rising Star Project: 10-Minute Musicals

Rising Star Project: 10-Minute Musicals 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 is a driving force in developing new musicals that push artistic boundaries and tell new stories that audiences want to hear. Through the New Works program, The 5th Avenue Theatre invests in new projects for the stage, providing writers with actors and directors, time, space and a safe environment. Eighteen new musicals have been produced through this program, and nine have gone on to Broadway and garnered 14 Tony Awards, two for Best Musical.

Under the leadership of Producing Artistic Director Bill Berry, 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.

About The 5th Avenue Theatre

The 5th Avenue Theatre is one of America's leading musical theater companies. We enrich the community we love with the art form we love-giving the Pacific Northwest a front-row seat to original powerhouse productions that go on to light up marquees and audiences all the way to Broadway. From the page to the stage, we bring passion and epic scale to every musical we create. With big talent. Bigger-than-life productions. And did we mention dazzle? As a nonprofit theater company and our region's largest performing arts employer, we spread the joy of great musicals with people of all ages across our region and state. Each year, we reach more than 75,000 young people through our nationally acclaimed education programs. Programs designed to develop new musicals ensure that the next generation of great musicals will be there to tell the stories that captivate tomorrow's audiences. On the national stage, we are a leading voice for the power of this American art form to lift the human spirit.

For more information about The 5th Avenue Theatre, its season and its programs, please visit

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