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Originally published Wednesday, March 12, 2014 at 12:59 PM

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‘The Tutor’ graduates to Village stage

“The Tutor,” a musical about a novelist- tutor and his teenage pupil, plays at Village Theatre in Issaquah, March 20-April 27.


Seattle Times theater critic

THEATER PREVIEW

‘The Tutor’

By Maryrose Wood and Andrew Gerle. Through April 27 at Village Theatre, Issaquah, and May 2-25 at Everett Performing Arts Center; $25-$65 (425-392-2202 or villagetheatre.org).

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Musicals do not emerge full-blown from the head of Zeus. In fact, it can take quite a few years for a tuner to get its first full-blown production — even if the show has won prizes galore in its infancy.

This just goes with the territory, so patience is a must for musical-theater creators like author-lyricist Maryrose Wood and composer Andrew Gerle.

The duo began crafting “The Tutor” over a decade ago. And this week the small-cast musical about a frustrated novelist and tutor (played by Seattle favorite Eric Ankrim) and the bratty, bright teenager (Katie Griffith) who becomes his muse, and helps bring his characters (literally) to life, will at last have its mainstage debut, at Village Theatre. The show plays in Issaquah through Sunday, April 27, and moves to Everett in May.

The book and score for “The Tutor” were first developed by Gerle and Wood during a residency at the O’Neill Theater Center in Connecticut. But before the general public had heard a song or a line of dialogue, the piece won a coveted Richard Rodgers Award in 2002, which came with cash needed for its further development.

“It was great because it’s decided by the Olympians of musical theater — people like Stephen Sondheim,” says Wood, noting the show received two more Richard Rodgers prizes to help fund a stage reading and a small black-box New York production.

Village Theatre got interested in “The Tutor” too, and presented two workshop productions of the show: one in 2004, followed by one in 2005.

“Twice we were voted best of the fest,” says Gerle. “That program the theater has is nurturing so many new shows. We’re grateful to be part of it.”

In the long gap since those local glimpses of “The Tutor,” Gerle and Wood have been busy with other theatrical projects. But when they got the word from Village artistic head Steve Tomkins that he was including “The Tutor” in Village’s 2013-14 season, they were delighted to return to it. (Ankrim is too: he starred in the Village workshop.)

“We feel like ‘The Tutor’ has graduated,” cracks Wood, who has been tweaking the storyline and dialogue for this production.

“To me the story has come to be about growing up, and how that is a lifelong process. It’s about big milestones in life — a teen graduating from high school and getting into college, Edmond desperately trying to finish a novel, parents trying to launch their daughter into the world — that are just one threshold after another.”

And Gerle is revisiting his eclectic score. “There are characters in the book Edmund is writing that come to life, and they’re from different periods,” he says, “Tthat allowed me to write many kinds of music, from ’20s Charleston tunes to Irish reels.”

Misha Berson: mberson@seattletimes.com



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