The Music of the Night: In Praise of Seattle’s Musical Theater —and Its Fans

Broadway chestnuts Phantom of the Opera and Les Miz have made the rounds in Seattle, but fans can look forward to a fun crop of Broadway touring shows this fall
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To paraphrase the tagline of one of my favorite local advertising campaigns ever (the brilliant Pemco ads of 2007), Seattle musical theater nerds, you’re one of us.

You fill the Paramount to the rafters when The Sound of Music (The You-Can-See-It-At-Any-High-School-Now Sound of Music, people!) comes around on tour. You wait in line at the Paramount Stage door to get your programs signed by a cast that’s yet to make it big on Broadway. You own one of those theater approved sippy-cup wine glasses (though that is where I have drawn the line).

And, you were with us this year as the tours of new productions of the 1980s and 90s-era musicals made the rounds. The revivals of Les Miserables and Phantom both come from mega musical producer Cameron Mackintosh, who is upping the staging game for a special effects savvy audience. Les Mis showed off its new theater tech with projection staging in its run earlier this year. The sewer tunnel scene--in the past created with stage fog, fancy stage light projection of a sewer grate on to the stage floor--was replaced by super-cool projections on a screen that also created the feeling of motion through the sewer tunnels.

Though it’s being billed as a “spectacular new production,” the touring show of The Phantom of the Opera currently in town at the Paramount through August 19 has actually been here before in 2015, shortly after it was relaunched in 2013. Fans of the musical will remember the first time they saw the Phantom and Christine gliding across a foggy lake on a boat as one the the landmark staging effects—-and of course, the infamous glitchy opera house chandelier. This production has a set that is at once more grand and intimate. Highlights include a cool secret staircase, gigantic statuary, a theater within a theater and of course, the lair of our tragic protagonist (though no cool projections). These shows are about the showiness as much as they are about earworms you’ll be humming for days.

Maybe it’s the Hamilton effect; Maybe it’s that the generation of theater goers who went to see Cats, Les Mis, The Lion King, etc as young adults now have their own kids who are catching the musical theater bug through summer camps or high school. Either way, I see a lot of aging gen exers like me going on nostalgia tours with their kids when the touring groups roll around. My 16 year old son fell in love with the music of Phantom--no doubt through my husband’s love of the music--and has the soundtrack on constant rotation alongside Frank Sinatra and Kendrick Lamar (what can I say, he’s got eclectic taste).

But here’s the good news for musical theater fans in Seattle: there are tons of great shows coming to town this season. Of the Broadway at the Paramount season, we bought tickets to broadway darling Sara Bareilles’ Waitress, Dear Evan Hansen and Wicked, which we shockingly haven’t even seen yet. We also nabbed tix to Come from Away, showing at the Fifth Avenue Theatre. Seattle magazine’s September issue, with our annual Theater and Arts Fall Preview, will hit newsstands next week and you can read all about it and so many other great shows, art exhibits and more there.

With all these good shows all over town, here’s an opportunity for an entrepreneur: create a “punch card” a la what ClassPass is to exercise studios, allowing arts patrons to build their own mega season subscription across groups. In the mean time, see you at the concessions line. I just might spring for the sippy cup this year.

Phantom runs through August 19 at the Paramount. Tickets start at $35 and are available online at available at STGPresents.org, Ticketmaster.com, by calling 1-800-982-2787 or in person at The Paramount Theatre Box Office (Monday through Friday, 10am to 6pm). Check out Seattle magazine’s Fall Theater and Arts Preview with info on the fall’s highly-anticipated shows at seattlemag.com

 

Remember those awesome Pemco ads? Seattle Musical Theater fans, you’re one of us. And you can drink your Walla Walla wine in a plastic, theater friendly sippy cup as well. Image courtesy of Pemco.

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