A new theater comes to Olympia
By Alec Clayton
Published in the Weekly Volcano, July 26, 2018
Season introduction celebrations, from left: Lexi Barnett (holding child), Kyle Murphy, Matt Posner, photo by George Dougherty
A new theater company premieres its opening season the weekend of August 16 to 19 with the popular musical Legally Blonde, to be follow by other hit musicals: The Rocky Horror Show in October, The Wedding Singer in February, Young Frankenstein in March, and Cabaret in May. For the first season at least, they are sticking to musicals with broad public appeal, and each show will run one weekend only. But founder and managing director Kyle Murphy has indicated a willingness to tackle some less sure-fire properties in future seasons. “We hope to partner and collaborate with as many local performing organizations as possible, not limited to musical theater,” he says.
Shows will be performed in the historical Capitol Theater, where the company has added new lighting fixtures and taken steps to ensure the best possible audio.
Helping get the new company rolling is an all-star group of local theater professionals, including Lexi Barnett; Amy Shepherd; Bruce Haasl; Heidi Fredericks from Apple Tree Productions; and Chris Serface, artistic director of Tacoma Little Theatre.
“It took me four years to find a creative partner, Lexi, who shared my vision and had the experience to execute it,” Murphy says.
Barnett says she loves Murphy’s “intention to create opportunities for the Olympia community — and really that is our focus. We put out an all-call for anyone to submit resumes and letters of interest to direct, choreograph, music direct and design for our shows this season. We ended up really getting a mix of people who hail from Olympia and from other areas of the Pacific Northwest, which to me is also inspiring. I love the idea of the theater community in Washington getting to broaden their scope and work with people from many places.”
“I approached Bruce Haasl about designing and building sets before I ever spoke to a director. He was the first person I asked to work with me,” Murphy says. Haasl is known as the longtime designer for the old Capital Playhouse and has more recently designed sets for Harlequin and Tacoma Musical Playhouse.
“Amy Shepherd was the first local person to step up and offer to help and has continued to be one of our strongest connections to the existing theater community.” Shepherd is the group’s community outreach director and will choreograph Young Frankenstein. “It is one of my favorite musicals,” she says. “I'm really excited about Broadway Olympia, I think that the more theater Olympia has the better.”
Barnett says, “We have Chris Serface and Jimmy Shields returning to the area to direct shows for us. We also have some amazing Olympia natives on our team in people like Bruce Haasl, Mishka Navarre, and L.M. Attea. We saw the same thing with auditions for Legally Blonde. We got a lot of great Olympia talent coming out, and we got some actors who have come out from other towns as well. We had about 50 actors come out for auditions.
Murphy originally intended to launch with two small-cast shows, but he credit’s Barnett’s “experience, confidence and council” for the decision to launch with a full season.
Murphy says Legally Blonde, the season’s opening show, “has a much deeper message than appears on the surface.” It is the story of Elle Woods, a supposedly superficial blonde who becomes a law student at Harvard. Elle will be played by Jessica Furnstahl. Her arrogant and stuffy boyfriend, Warner Huntington III, will be played by James Padilla. Molly Quinn will be Elle’s friend, Paulette, a gutsy and streetwise hairdresser; her friend, Emmett Forrest will be played by Henry Talbot Dorset; and Professor Callahan will be played by Andrew Fry.
Legally Blonde, 8 p.m. Aug. 16-19 and 2 p.m. Aug. 18-19, Capitol Theatre, 206 East Fifth Ave., Olympia, $20, 253.961.4161 firstname.lastname@example.org