News

New York wants 'The Prodigal'

By PAT JENKINS

Editor

A New York City theatre company plans to buy the rights to “The Prodigal,” a stage musical that originated in Federal Way, and make it an off-Broadway feature.

Representatives of the company pursued the acquisition after attending a performance of the show during its Jan. 23-Feb. 8 run at Highline Performing Arts Center in Burien.

Andrew T. Miller, the playwright and composer, is working out the details with the company, which is remaining anonymous to the public “at this time,” said Pat De Vol Nadon, who heads marketing of the production locally.

Initial plans call for “The Prodigal” to be be part of the 2005-06 season at the company’s theater and, if it’s a hit, be staged later in another theater on NYC’s fabled Broadway.

"This is not a common occurrence and it's very exciting. I told Andrew that

he should be very proud of his work," said De Vol Nadon.

He is –– among other emotions.

“This is very humbling and gratifying,” he said.

“The Prodigal” mixes humor and inspirational messages in a tale of a prodigal son who gives up his home and family and blows his inheritance in pursuit of happiness. The frequent bawdiness of the central character’s journey, which ends with his return to the forgiveness of a loving father, has been described by Miller as “over the top” but built on a message of unconditional love and spirituality.

Miller was commissioned to write the Broadway-style play and the music by Federal Way United Methodist Church, where he is music director. He also is associate director and composer-in-residence for the Federal Way Chorale.

In the Burien production of “Prodigal,” the 62-person cast –– headed by Robert McPherson, an opera tenor whose stage credits stretch to France –– included 16 actors who live in Federal Way or have ties here as performers. Twenty-four members of the Seattle Symphony performed the musical score.

Miller has agreed to be the music director for the New York production. He said McPherson and at least one other member of the cast here, John Cooper, will be asked to audition for roles in the Big Apple.

“A friend of a friend” invited the head of the NYC theater company to watch “The Prodigal” last year at Federal Way United Methodist Church, Miller related. The theater honcho returned with his board to watch one of the Burien performances.

Churches and other theater groups across the country also like what they’ve seen or heard of the show so much that Miller said he’ll license it for the next 12 months so they can produce it, too.

“I never expected this kind of reaction and interest,” he said. He gave credit to the “great combination of talent” in the Burien production.

Miller has made a mark musically by composing, arranging and recording several albums, including “In Love With Santa,” which reached no. 8 on the Billboard music charts in 2002. In another recording, his arrangement of "Danny Boy" was part of National Geographic's “Destination Ireland” compilation CD.

Later this year, the Federal Way Chorale will debut Miller’s Christmas contata, “The Birth of Christ,” at Benaroya Hall in Seattle in a live radio broadcast on 98.1 FM.

Editor Pat Jenkins: 925-5565, editor@fedwaymirror.com

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