Artfully Edmonds: Playhouses set to lavish us with love for Valentine’s Day

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Michael G. McFadden, playing “Ralph” in The Phoenix Theatre’s production “The Last Romance,” will show us how wooing is done; but not before he stops by for an exclusive interview with My Edmonds News.

As Valentine’s Day approaches Edmonds’ theatre companies, The Phoenix Theatre (TPT) and Driftwood Players (The Players) will be heating things up with romance and the Riviera.

Romance steps up first in TPT’s production, The Last Romance by Joe DiPietro, a tribute to Valentine’s Day, which offers a dress rehearsal performance Thursday, Feb. 9.

Then, on Friday, Feb. 17 it’s off to the Riviera as The Players enthrall us with a production meant to transport audiences from the bleak and chilly climes of a London winter to the intense heat of the Italian seashore in their production, Enchanted April by Matthew Barber.

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Edmonds’ two companies impressively pull their audiences from far reaches of the Puget Sound region — Bainbridge Island to Olympia if my seat mates over the past three years are reflective on this topic. Some theatre-goers come to see the work of a particular playwright; quite a few attendees come to support the volunteerism of community theatre, and many more are there because they find the stylistic achievements of a particular thespian endearing.

It brings Artfully Edmonds (AE) great pleasure this week to lead our column with an exclusive in-studio interview with actor Michael Gene McFadden (MGMc) whose long career in Puget Sound theatre has attracted countless fans over the years with his stellar accomplishments, dapper looks and engaging demeanor.

Michael is cast in TPT’s production, The Last Romance, which opens this Friday, Feb. 10.

AE: Michael, first of all, “Thank you so much!” for taking time out from rehearsing The Last Romance for this interview.

Let’s start at the beginning. Tell us how, theatre-wise, you got to where you are today.

MGMc: The year 1973 . . . the place, Fort Sill, Oklahoma. I was an instructor in a nuclear missile battalion. Sure, the days were exciting but filling the evenings was difficult. A friend of mine told me about a theater company on base and said I should go audition. I did.

The production was How to Succeed in Business by Willie Gilbert and Jack Weinstock. I was in the chorus and happy to have landed a part.

Then, just like in the movies, the guy playing Bud Frump was transferred and had to drop out. I begged the director to let me have the part. He did and I got my first taste of applause and public recognition. I was hooked and did four more shows while I was there.

Once I got out of the service I moved home, went back to work for the City of Seattle and began taking voice lessons. I didn’t do another show for four years.

My return to the stage in the Northwest was Habeas Corpus with the Driftwood Players. During the run I was introduced to the director of the theatre department at Everett Community College (EvCC), Arden Flom. He suggested I come audition for him. Flom gave me my first lead role and I worked with him for the next 16 years until he retired and EvCC closed the program.

I had also been hired by Open Door Theater to work on development of two shows to teach children how to protect themselves from sexual assault. I spent two years script developing under the direction of Mary Pat Byrne and performing in Snohomish County schools. Definitely this was the most important and fulfilling work I have ever done.

A chance encounter with an old friend from the college resulted in a phone call asking if I would step into the role of Mr. MacAfee in Bye Bye Birdie. I had seven days notice. That led to roles in Monroe with three different theater companies.

In 2001 I stepped onto the stage at the Historic Everett Theater and performed there until it was taken over by the current production company. That is where I met Eric Lewis. He was directing Cuckoos Nest and cast me as “MacMurphy”.

By 2008 I was doing back-to-back shows with The Players. I was cast as “Jud Frye” in Oklahoma and “Pharaoh” in Joseph. It was during this period in my career that I was cast in my first role at Edge of the World, now The Phoenix Theatre.

I also performed in three feature musicals with Northwest Savoyards and tried my hand at film work; which resulted in four student productions at Cogswell College and two independent full-length films.

I continued to play music (bass guitar) and sing over the years and worked as the emcee for Red Curtain Foundation’s Hometown Hootenanny (Marysville) and Tim Noah’s Tribute Shows (Snohomish). I also played numerous characters for Tim’s Kaddywompus Radio Show, which aired on KSER.

I currently work in Monroe with Sky Valley Musical Theatre and at The Phoenix Theatre.

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AE: My goodness!

Over all these years, have you ever been recognized for your work?

MGMc: Actually, I won the “Best Partner” award at the Irene Ryan Competition one year. Zany to bring up, but it was fun to receive.

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AE: You have played so many stages, The Red Curtain Foundation, Tim Noah Thumbnail Theatre – plus the others’you named — and of course The Phoenix… How long ago did you get over stage fright?

MGMc: Never had it. Some people fear the adrenaline rush of performing. I love it.

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AE: How much does your family enjoy your success? Are they hecklers or adoring fans?

MGMc: My parents were huge supporters of my work; as are my daughters and grandkids. I cannot wait for my newborn great grandson, Kingsley, to see a show that I’m in.

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AE: That’s right! Congratulations on the new member of the family, which puts your family at five generations.

Let’s see. Which stage personality/celebrity should play you in the biopic of your life?

MGMc: Ryan Gosling.

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AE: Okay, I get that.

As you prepare for your role as “Ralph” in The Last Romance – a couple multiple choice questions regarding that character:

What is it about Ralph that resonates with your own life?

MGMc: His energy, love of music and his integrity.

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What advice would you give Ralph from your own Tool Box of Life

MGMc: Don’t sweat the small stuff.

– –

AE:  Multiple choice here:

Did he make the right choices regarding Carol?

Should he have been more blasé toward her?

More devoted to her?

Or…..?

MGMc: Yes. His decisions regarding Carol are true to his character. When he says, “What kind of man would that make me?” you know as difficult as his decision might be, he will make the right choice.

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AE: How intriguing!

In another direction, why should the public and arts community support theatre company’s like The Phoenix Theatre?

MGMc: I have seen the demise of at least seven theater companies in my career. Typically having to do with venues and always involving working capital.

Without a space to work in that meets all the local safety and business requirements, it’s tough to compete with theatres that have corporate and civic sponsorship. Independent organizations like The Phoenix Theatre, Sky Valley Music Theatre, the Tim Noah Thumbnail Theatre, and Red Curtain Foundation rely [primarily] on private donations and ticket sales to cover operating expenses. While private donations and ticket sales might cover the cost of production, there is little left for rent, maintenance or facility improvements.

– – –

AE: Thank you for that explanation.

What is it about comedy that is such a draw for you?

MGMc: It is so essential to our well being as humans. There is so much in life that can cause fear and despair. In many cases laughter is the only way to express an emotional response in a positive way.

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AE: As we begin to wrap up our time together, do you have an official fan page for our readers to check out?

MGMc: Yes, my Facebook page serves that purpose.

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AE: Michael, what question were you hoping we would ask, but didn’t; and how would you answer that question?

MGMc: How long will I continue to work, would be the question.

My answer would be: As long as I am able and there are venues producing beautiful pieces like The Last Romance.

AE: Very good! Well, again we are happy to have had the pleasure of your company and wish you and your fellow cast members a marvelous run. Break a leg!

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McFadden as “Ralph” overcomes his jealous sister (Susan Connors); a wary sweetheart (Melanie Calderwood) but seems to make friends with “Miss Sadie Calderwood,” who is off to the Hoboken Dog Show in this production!

Feb. 10 thru March 5
Friday and Saturdays at 8 p.m.
Sundays at 2 p.m.

*Pay-What-You-Can” Dress Rehearsal
Thursday, Feb. 9
8 p.m.

The Last Romance
Directed by Eric Lewis

The Phoenix Theatre
9673 Firdale Ave.
(Upper level of Firdale Shopping Plaza)

On a day like any other, widower Ralph (played by Michael McFadden), decides to take a different path on his daily walk — one that leads him to a dog park and an unexpected chance at love. By pretending that he actually has a dog, and relying on his boyish charm, Ralph tries to woo the resistant Carol (Melanie Calderwood). Defying Carol’s reticence and his sister’s jealousy (played by Susan Connors) Ralph regains (spoiler alert!) a happiness that seemed all but lost.

The Last Romance is a heart-warming comedy about the transformative power of love by the author of last year’s hit Over the River and Through the Woods, Joe DiPietro.

The Phoenix Theatre online box office is at this link.

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Once again Cascade Symphony Orchestra members set to delight the youngest set of music lovers with this Saturday’s “Children’s Concert”

Saturday, Feb. 11
3 p.m.

Kids!

The Tortoise and The Hare and also
“Rising Star” Performance

Edmonds Center for the Arts
410 4th Ave. N.

The Cascade Symphony Orchestra Children’s Concert is pleased to present, “The Tortoise and the Hare”, based on the symphony by Frank Churchill.

The tale which, we all know, concerns a Hare named Max who bullies a slow-moving Tortoise named Toby.

Tired of the Max’s boastful behavior, Toby challenges him to a race. Max leaves Toby behind and, confident of winning, takes a nap midway through the race. And, yes, Toby wins the race!

Accomplished Rising Star Nathan Zhao is included in this year’s “Children’s Concert” program.

This year’s Children’s Concert features a performance by pianist Nathan Zhao, the winner of the orchestra’s Rising Star competition.

Nathan, at 10 years old, is the youngest Rising Star since the inception of this program. He will perform the 3rd movement of the Mozart Piano Concerto No. 21. The popular Cascade Percussion Ensemble will conclude the program.

Cascade Symphony’s own instrument petting zoo will be in the ECA lobby after the performance to give aspiring young musicians a chance to try out various instruments.

Tickets here!

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Popular Capella group, Naturally 7 comes to Edmonds Center for the Arts. Sell Out Alert! in effect.

Wednesday, Feb. 15
7:30 p.m.

Sell Out Alert!

Naturally 7
Capella

Edmonds Center for the Arts
410 4th Ave. N.

With origins in New York City, the musical group Naturally 7 dates back to 1999 when brothers Roger and Warren Thomas started the group with five other singers they had come to know over the years by singing around the Big Apple.

Roger developed an affinity for a cappella sound known as “vocal play” and a unique ability to create distinct harmony arrangements.

Naturally 7 has toured as special guests of Michael Bublé, Coldplay, and has sung on Quincy Jones’ most recent studio album.

The group received BET Honors for Herbie Hancock’s Night Of The Proms. Their album “All Natural Live” was released in 2013 after Naturally 7 appeared on The Arsenio Hall Show.

Tickets to see Naturally 7 live on stage are available by calling ECA at 425-275-9595 or going to the ECA online ticket outlet.

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Friday/ Saturday
Feb. 17/ 18
7:30 p.m.

Edmonds Comedy Night returns to the ECA for a 10th year, bringing nationally touring comedians together to raise funds for kids and academic programs in Edmonds area schools.

If you love to laugh, love kids, and love local comedy-sweetheart Kermet Apio, who emcees the show, you will want to jump on the click! click! links below and meet your friends for this year’s show.

Friday night ticket link.

Saturday night ticket link (Sell Out Alert! for Saturday)

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Feb. 17 – March 5
8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays
2 p.m. Sundays

Dinner and A Show!

Enchanted April by Matthew Barber

The Driftwood Players are pairing up with Edmonds’ most popular downtown Italian osteria – Girardi’s Osteria Italiana – for a sophisticated combination of fine dining and theatre during the production of Enchanted April.

Enchanted April is a properly charming tale of love and rediscovery sure to inspire us during Valentine’s season. Managing director,Kim Smith suggests, “Surprise your special someone on Valentine’s Day with tickets to the play and a certificate for dinner!”

Local talent Paul Fouhy directs the production.

To reserve your reservations for theatre-only or dinner-and-theatre, go this Driftwood ticket link.

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Saturday, Feb. 25
7:30 p.m.

Ticket Hold!

The Irish Rovers

Edmonds Center for the Arts
410 4th Ave. N.

A ticket hold has been placed on this exciting appearance of The Irish Rovers; one more example of the wild success of their show lineup that the ECA team is enjoying this season! Contact the ECA if you want to be placed on a standby list for this show.

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Popular children’s author, Kizzie Jones is leaving Edmonds for a day of Bellingham book signing this weekend.

Highlights on the time and distance continuum

Popular local children’s author Kizzie Jones will be visiting Bellingham’s Fair Haven district on Saturday, Feb. 18 between 2 – 4 p.m.

Kizzie and illustrator Scott Ward will read and sign their latest book, A Tall Tale about a Dachshund and a Pelican at Current and Furbish Books, 1115 Harris Ave, in Fairhaven Village.

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Saturday/ Sunday
Feb. 18 /19

SRJO
Seattle Repertory Jazz Orchestra

Performing in Seattle and Kirkland

The birthday centennial of Ella Fitzgerald, The First Lady of Song, takes place in 2017, and SRJO is presenting a weekend of concerts in Seattle and Kirkland to celebrate the life and artistry of Ms. Fitzgerald, whose voice has thrilled audiences around the globe and remains the standard by which all jazz singers are measured.

Award-winning vocalist Carmen Bradford joins SRJO to honor Fitzgerald’s memory. Bradford met Ms. Fitzgerald many times as a child, and the two singers shared many special moments backstage during tours with Count Basie and his orchestra.

The two concerts will be

  • Saturday, Feb. 18 at the Illsley Ball Nordstrom Recital Hall at 7:30 p.m., and
  • Sunday, Feb. 19 at the Kirkland Performance Center at 2 p.m. (Artfully Edmonds note: Although the Sunday concert is sold out, patrons may add their names to a wait list by contacting SRJO at info@srjo.org or 206-523-6159.

Tickets are available through the SRJO’s website srjo.org or by calling 206-523-6159.

Edmonds

The SRJO will be back in Edmonds for a Monday, April 24 program titled, “Louis Armstrong: A New Orleans State of Mind”. The box office is now open for this concert.

For more information and to sign up, contact SRJO at info@srjo.org or 206-523-6159.

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Saturday, March 18
3 p.m. and 7 p.m. 

Sno-King Community Chorale (SKCC)

Trinity Lutheran Church
6215 196th St. S.W.

Members of the Sno-King Community Chorale recently returned from New York City, where they joined an international group of singers in the U.S. première of Cantata Memoria at Carnegie Hall.

Cantata Memoria, composed by Sir Karl Jenkins, is a commissioned homage to the 50th anniversary of a horrific coal mining disaster that took place in the village of Aberfan, South Wales, in which the lives of 116 schoolchildren and 28 adults were lost in 1966.

The piece, with its stunning artistry, has been described as “dramatic, somber, and ultimately beautiful in its celebration of childhood—moving from darkness to light.”

On March 18, the chorale — backed by a full orchestra and accompanied by a children’s chorus — will perform Cantata Memoria with featured soloists soprano Jennifer Bromagen and bass-baritone Jacob Herbert.

Says SKCC conductor Frank DeMiero of the occasion, “because of our own local tragedy three years ago in Oso and Darrington, we will be remembering those communities as we perform this moving piece. We have invited the mayors of Edmonds, Darrington and Arlington to attend the concert and they will make brief presentations. This promises to be a memorable concert with the libretto in English, Spanish, French, German, Latin and Welsh.”

Tickets for the two performances are available at www.brownpapertickets.com or by calling SKCC at 206.940.8049.

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Monday, April 10

Entry Deadline

Now beginning its 6th year, EPIC Group Writers announces its annual writing contest.

Entries are being accepted on any theme and in the categories of Adult/Poetry, Adult/Prose, Youth/Poetry, and Youth (High School level)/Prose.

Laura Moe, author of Breakfast with Neruda, and host of The Young Adult Café with Laura Moe has agreed to join the judging team for submissions to the youth categories.

First and second place winners in the four categories will receive cash awards, publication of their winning entry on the EPIC Group Writers website, membership in EPIC Group Writers, and the opportunity to read their work at a public celebration of writers to be held at the Edmonds Library.

Complete rules and entry forms for the contest are at the group’s official website www.epicgroupwriters.com

— By Emily Hill

Emily Hill is the author of two novels and a short story collection. Emily is retired from a career in public information and news media relations. If you would like your event listed, or featured, in Artfully Edmonds, Emily invites you to contact her at myedmondsnews@gmail.com.

 

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