I was pleasantly surprised to discover (actually its been around since 1977) Federal Way's Centerstage Theatre and its recent world premier production of the musical For All That. Driving the hour from central Seattle, I wondered what this venue so distant from my usual haunts could offer, and what I found was nothing less than a beautiful theater and a production that was as good as anything I've seen.
For All That was created and written by Alan Bryce, the humble Artistic Director of Centerstage. I use the word humble because I arrived early for the pre-show talk Bryce provided, and I found him helping with the logistics of the event. Still, when he spoke to the couple dozen people who showed up early, his insights were eye opening. I also found his description of the multi-year process he went through to create For All That to be fascinating, and it added a great deal to my experience of the show itself.
I knew a little about the Battle of the Somme, but Mr. Bryce's explanation made it feel very real and much more devastating than the following Wikipedia description.
A battle of the First World War fought by the armies of the British and French empires against the German Empire. It took place between 1 July and 18 November 1916 on both sides of the River Somme in France. The battle was one of the largest of World War I, in which more than 1,000,000 men were wounded or killed, making it one of the bloodiest battles in human history.
Regardless of the size of the devastation, which was clearly massive, the question in my mind after listening to Mr. Bryce was "how could someone create an entertaining musical from such a destructive story." A couple hours later, as the cast received a standing ovation, I had seen that happen. The acting and staging of this complex tale is exceptional and moves the audience to the depths and heights of emotion.
The story revolves around an actual Scottish army company that participated in the Battle of the Somme. It focuses on two Scottish brothers and the woman they both love.
The music was especially significant as some of it was traditional Scottish pieces not performed in English. Still, each song was hauntingly sincere and contributed to the story while getting the audience even more involved. I was amazed at the depth of the musical performances and the emotions they evoked, even when the words were in another language.
All in all, this show lifts the spirit as it portrays the triumph of human nature in the face of adversity. It's well worth traveling to Federal Way to see during this world premier of what may well turn out to be an enduring musical presented worldwide.
For All That continues through May 24 at Centerstage, and Mr. Bryce will be graciously providing his insightful commentary one hour prior to each performance at no additional charge. Both the show and Mr. Bryce are not to be missed.