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On the pulse of On the Town: An interview with Greg McCormick Allen
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On the pulse of On the Town: An interview with Greg McCormick Allen

by Eric Andrews-Katz - SGN Contributing Writer

On The Town
5th Avenue Theatre
Through May 2


You most likely have seen Greg McCormick Allen in several local performances. If you've ever seen White Christmas on stage, you would recognize him in the role made famous by Danny Kaye. For almost two decades, he has been on one Seattle stage or another, bringing musical theater to the masses. Currently, he is staring as Ozzie in the classic Leonard Bernstein/Comden/Green musical On The Town. Taking time away from rehearsals at Seattle's 5th Avenue Theatre, Mr. McCormick Allen gave an interview to the Seattle Gay News about his upcoming role.

Eric Andrews-Katz: When did you start performing on stage?

Greg McCormick Allen: I auditioned for the Civic Light Opera in 1985 when they were casting for The Music Man. I got a part in the ensemble.

Andrews-Katz: How did you get involved with the 5th Avenue Theatre?

McCormick Allen: In 1991, they were having auditions for the Meredith Wilson musical Here's Love, a musical based on Miracle on 34th Street. They were also auditioning for "extras" in West Side Story. I wanted to be in West Side Story and got cast in Here's Love.

Andrews-Katz: Your credits include On the Town, White Christmas, and Beauty and the Beast, among others. Do you count yourself as more of a "family" musical actor, opposed to more modern shows?

McCormick Allen: Generally, the family musical is what I get cast in. It's sort of the look that I have and the way my talents are; they are more geared towards that kind of musical. I don't have the tendencies for pop-rock shows.

Andrews-Katz: What kind of rituals do you have before going on stage?

McCormick Allen: None, really. I get into costume and makeup and when it's time for the show to start, I just go. I do make it a point to generally go around and wish everyone a good show.

Andrews-Katz: Do you count yourself as more of an actor, singer, or dancer, or are you more a "triple threat"?

McCormick Allen: Personally, I consider myself a dancer who can sing and act. Others may have different opinions.

Andrews-Katz: Which roles would you like to eventually play?

McCormick Allen: Eventually I'd like to play Bobby in Crazy For You. I like "tap" musicals as that's more my personal style. I'd like to do Avenue Q. I think it would be fun to do anything in that show.

Andrews-Katz: And if you could play one of the great "diva" roles, which would you want to play?

McCormick Allen: Mama Rose (Gypsy) would be awfully fun. There's such a broad spectrum that character shows during that show.

Andrews-Katz: Do you always play the Danny Kaye role in White Christmas, or do you ever want to play the Bing Crosby role?

McCormick Allen: I've only played the Danny Kaye role. When dancing exhausts me a little more, I'd like to switch to the other.

Andrews-Katz: For On the Town, do you think its Bernstein's music, Comden/Green's book and lyrics, or is it the choreography that gives this show its legs?

McCormick Allen: I'd probably have to say the book and lyrics. The book is written very well, and it takes quite a bit to screw up the show. Our choreographer, Bob Richard, is really good and fun to work with.

Andrews-Katz: The subject matter of three sailors on leave looking for "action" was controversial in 1946. Do you think it still has a taboo ring to it?

McCormick Allen: In today's age with everything that people are exposed to, I don't think it's taboo today. People have so much access to the internet and are growing up faster than they did back then.

Andrews-Katz: Do you have a favorite part of On the Town?

McCormick Allen: One of my favorite scenes - and definitely the hardest scene - is the museum scene. The sheer physicality is exhausting. By the time it is finished, we (Billy Wildrick and I) are both worn out and thankful we have the next scene off to recoup.

Andrews-Katz: Bill Berry recently staged On The Town at New Jersey's Paper Mill Playhouse, and is now at the helm of Seattle's production. Will there be any differences between the two?

McCormick Allen: There are differences. The actors who played the three sailors (at Papermill) were ballet dancers. & There is also a different choreographer in Seattle. There are certain bits that we tried and just had to adapt for our own production.

Andrews-Katz: Village Theatre mounted On the Town in 2006, and you were in that production, as well. Were you in the same role or a different one?

McCormick Allen: At Village Theatre I played Chip, and so now I get to play someone else: Ozzie. It's definitely interesting to play a different role in the show.

Andrews-Katz: When a musical is made into a successful movie, do you find it more difficult to play the part?

McCormick Allen: It really doesn't bother me at all. Usually when a musical is turned into a movie, a lot of things get changed. The film On the Town changed a lot of the music, and the script is a bit different - more "Hollywood," so to speak.

On the Town first hit Broadway in 1944 with a lead role played by Nancy Walker as Hildy. Choreographer Jerome Robbins wanted to set a ballet to the music of Leonard Bernstein and originally came up with the concept. After husband/wife team Comden/Green joined (not only as composer/lyricist, but also as main cast members), the show was fleshed out into a full-fledged musical, giving the world such songs as "New York, New York," "I Can Cook, Too" and "Carried Away." The show enjoyed two revivals on Broadway in 1971 and 1998.

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