5th Avenue Theatre preps latest original musical

SEATTLE - Before crowds line up, seats are filled, and before audiences are dazzled by song and dance, a lot of work goes into taking an idea and turning it into a musical.

It's a process the 5th Avenue Theatre knows very well, as 8 out of 15 musicals done by 5th Avenue have now gone to Broadway.

Executive producer and artistic director David Armstrong is preparing to open the theater's latest original musical, Secondhand Lions.

"Seattle is one of the three great theater towns in the United States. There's New York, there's Chicago, and there's Seattle," David Armstrong says. "And I say that very often to people in Seattle and they look at me like I'm crazy because they can't imagine that's true."

A sign in the theater's lobby tells its story of successful Broadway musicals that got their start in the Emerald City.

"Seattle is an incredible city for the development for theater," Armstrong says.

Composers and lyricists Alan Zachary and Michael Weiner wrote the score for First Date, and now Secondhand Lions.

"It's about a young boy named Walter, who's sent to spend the summer with his two great uncles who he's never met before in the 1950's in Texas," Weiner says.

Audiences might recognize the story from a 2003 movie starring Haley Joel Osment, Michael Caine, and Robert Duvall.

After weeks of rehearsal, the cast and crew run the show again and again, knowing the true test will be when the curtain goes up in front of a full house.

"Every night during the run of the show the creators will be sitting in the house, and they'll be paying more attention to the audience than what's going on on the stage," Armstrong says.

Those who bring their work to Seattle say the 5th Avenue and its audiences understand how to nurture a new show.

"Our success, our impact on the American musical is due to the support of the audience we have in Seattle," Armstrong says.

A team effort with thousands of members - on the stage and in the seats - to send a touch of Seattle to the stage.

The 5th Avenue has five other original musicals in various stages of development. Tickets for Secondhand Lion are on sale now, with a preview beginning Saturday and opening on September 26, 2013.