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Tracking Broadway's Real History with David Armstrong

Join doubleXposure for a special holiday episode! Guest David Armstrong adores Broadway.

He led Seattle's 5th Avenue Theatre for 18 years, transforming what had been a stop for national touring shows into a cauldron for new musicals, starting with the award-winning Hairspray. Armstrong left the 5th Avenue several years ago, but he didn't leave Broadway behind. He teaches a course at the University of Washington's drama school that traces Broadway's roots to immigrants, Jews, Queers, and African Americans. Armstrong talks with hosts Vivian and Marcie about his own childhood passion for musical theater, how it dovetails with Broadway history, and about his podcast, Broadway Nation.

"Migration and immigration are at the center of almost everything to do with the Broadway musical. It's how these people all ended up in New York City at this particular moment to create this bouillabaisse of art." --David Armstrong

David Armstrong in front of the 5th Avenue Theatre


David Armstrong is an American stage director, writer, producer, lecturer, educator, and choreographer. He is best known for his work at The 5th Avenue Theatre in Seattle where from 2000 to 2018 he served as the Producing Artistic Director and later as the Executive Producer and Artistic Director, and where he is currently the Artistic Director Emeritus.

He also currently serves on the faculty of the University of Washington School Of Drama where he teaches a course entitled: The Broadway Musical - How Immigrants, Jews, Queers, and African-Americans Invented America's Signature Art Form.

On Broadway, he directed the musical Scandalous!: The Life And Trials Of Aimee Semple McPherson starring Carolee Carmello who received a Tony nomination for her performance. He also directed this show’s pre-Broadway production at The 5th Avenue Theatre under the title Saving Aimee.

Other acclaimed 5th Avenue Theatre productions include Candide, Sweeney Todd, HAIR, A Little Night Music, Company, Hello, Dolly!, Oliver!, Anything Goes, MAME, Pippin, The Secret Garden, Vanities, White Christmas, The Rocky Horror Show, Yankee Doodle Dandy!, Holiday Inn, A Room With A View, Jaques Brel Is Alive… and Paint Your Wagon as well as concert productions of Gentleman Prefer Blondes, Hairspray, and Titanic.

Under his leadership, The 5th Avenue grew to become one of the nation’s leading musical theater companies, especially with regards to the development and production of new work. During his tenure, The 5th produced full productions of 19 new musicals, nine of which subsequently transferred to Broadway, and two of which received the TONY Award for Best Musical (Hairspray and Memphis).

Mr. Armstrong’s direction and choreography have been seen on Broadway, Off-Broadway, in Los Angeles, and at many leading regional theaters including DC’s Shakespeare Theatre Company, Paper Mill Playhouse, The Kennedy Center, Seattle’s ACT Theater, Ordway Center, Houston’s TUTS, Berkshire Theatre Festival, Dallas Summer Musicals, Cincinnati Playhouse, St. Louis Rep, Cohoes Music Hall, Pittsburg CLO, and Ford’s Theater. In 2018 he directed Shaw’s Arms And The Man for the Seattle Shakespeare Company.

As a playwright, Mr. Armstrong was commissioned by Theatreworks/USA to create the books for the musicals Gold Rush! and A Christmas Carol (both with scores by Mark Waldrop and Dick Gallagher). Their A Christmas Carol was produced Off-Broadway at the Lucille Lortel Theatre and has toured America every holiday season for the last 20 years. His bio-musical Yankee Doodle Dandy! (songs by George M. Cohan and Albert Evans) has received seven productions, most recently at Musical Theatre West in the summer of 2018. He co-wrote the book for the baby-boom themed revue The Wonder Years which was produced Off-Broadway at the Village Gate and received seven Drama-Logue Awards for its hit Los Angeles production. His Cole Porter revue, Hot N' Cole, which he devised and directed, has been produced by scores of theaters nationwide (including Actor's Theatre of Louisville), and was published by Samuel French, Inc.

Mr. Armstrong’s awards include the Puget Sound Business Journal’s 2016 “Outstanding Voice” Award, the Puget Sound Association of Phi Beta Kappa’s 2018 Humanities Achievement Award, and in honor of his 18 years as Executive Producer and Artistic Director of The 5th Avenue Theatre, Mayor Jenny A. Durkan proclaimed June 26, 2018, to be “David Armstrong Day” in the city of Seattle.

To listen to David's podcast visit Broadway Nation.


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