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Seattle by David-Edward Hughes

Stu For Silverton and the Second Coming of
Intiman Theatre

Also see David's review of Les Misérables


Mark Anders, Bobbi Kotula and Company
Photo by Chris Bennion
In 2011 after the exit of Bartlett Sher and the unraveling and shuttering of Intiman Theatre not too far afterward, despite the efforts of then artistic director Kate Whoriskey, her associate Andrew Russell, and the board, it looked like Seattle and the Pacific Northwest had lost one of our longest established theatre companies. But Russell, who became artistic director, along with a dedicated and largely new board after Whoriskey's departure, launched a fairly successful summer rep season of shows in 2012, and followed up with an even stronger one this year. The surprise stunner may well be the well-received revival of Alice Childress' Trouble in Mind, but the one with real legs, or perhaps I should say gams, may well be the sleeper musical delight Stu For Silverton, which, though deemed a work-in-progress (and out of respect for Intiman's wishes non-reviewed show, at least by Talkinbroadway.com) received a lovely mounting that revealed an all-American, for the whole family, hummable, heart-warmer of a tuner that happens to be suggested by the real life story of tiny Silverton, Oregon's Stu Rasmussen, who became the nation's first transgender Mayor. What I will say is the show is engagingly performed by a part Equity and part non-Equity cast led by the beguiling just plain folks charm of Mark Anders in the title role, Bobbi Kotula in possibly her strongest and most atypical musical theatre performance as Stu's ultra liberal female lover Victoria, and Charles Leggett as a Stage Manager who'd be right at home in Thorton Wilder's Grovers Corners.

Stu For Silverton is winding up its summer long run (in rep with Trouble in Mind, Lysistrata and We Won't Pay! We Won't Pay) and a pleased if obviously pooped Russell took a few minutes out to reflect on Stu and the future of both the show and his reviving company. "It's been great to watch the veteran and newcomers blend on our stage in this festival, and that certainly has been one of our focuses. And Bobbi Kotula confided in me she had made a wish that she'd get a shot at a romantic lead, which she seldom gets cast in, though I doubt she expected it would come in a role as out of the box as Victoria. She is indeed standing out in this, in a particular way, as many, like yourself, have noted."

With Seattle having established itself as a musicals tryout town thanks to the likes of 5th Avenue's premiere of Hairspray and Intiman's own adventure in the mix with the ultimately highly regarded The Light in the Piazza, what does Russell think of Stu and its future life expectancy? "Stu has more in common with The Music Man than it does with say Hedwig and the Angry Inch, but to some degree that's intentional, as Silverton, Oregon, where it take place is a small town. It is completely in the spirit of the actual story to tell it in that way, and we are pleased as punch audiences are responding so positively, because people are slowly and surely falling in love with Stu, and librettist Peter Duchan and Composer/Lyricist Breedlove have worked very hard on what parts of the natural story to tell, and what parts to shift in a way to encompass the 35 years we have to squeeze through a two and a half hour window of time. It goes pretty quickly. We have learned a lot about how to move forward with the show's development, both constructive, positive and all over the place."

And what feedback is there? "Although it's articulated differently, a lot of the feedback is similar. We know from what we're hearing the exact points we want to work on, rather than how difficult it can be when you hear lots of divergent opinions. That can be so frustrating. It takes some time for some people to realize they're watching the history of a transsexual person's progress through their history all the way through to the end of act one, and remarkable how quickly the audiences can handle it. I'm glad the audiences are feeling they have a place in it, and I think that it's inviting in a way that is true to the spirit of Stu and Victoria, and Breedlove, whose music when he performs it in real life, which has a natural openness and honesty and sincerity, which if I were to quote it would just sound sarcastic, but when he does it the actual goodness seems to be pouring in from deep down somewhere, if that makes any sense?"

What are the post summer prospects for this feel good musical? Russell is an anything but cockeyed optimist on the subject. "We'd like to have an official regional world premiere, since this was technically still a work-in-progress mounting, in the next year or so, implementing what we learned here this summer, and then from there see if we feel it has a commercial future. I think it will be licensed in a way it can be done in Nashville, Houston and Atlanta, for instance, and have a huge potential for bringing about change."

For information on the remaining two performances of Stu for Silverton as well as those of Trouble in Mind, Lysistrata and We Won't Pay! We Won't Pay, visit www.intiman.org.



- David Edward Hughes



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