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TMP Turns 25

Founder and Artistic Director Jon Douglas Rake talks new season and milestone

Newsies will kick off TMP’s 25th season in September. Photo credit: TMP Facebook

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It's a continued astonishment to look at calendars, week after week, and see how much amazing theater we get to enjoy in Tacoma over the year. Over the past few months, we at the Weekly Volcano have shined the spotlight on two local theaters as they prepare for their new seasons -- Lakewood Playhouse and Tacoma Little Theatre -- and we'd be remiss not to give the same treatment to Tacoma Musical Playhouse, especially as they ready themselves for the milestone of their 25th season. 

TMP has made a name for itself, over these past 25 years, for their grand, ambitious productions, frequently teeming with enormous casts and impeccable designs. Finishing up their past season with the lavish Beauty and the Beast, TMP now gets set for another run of crowd-pleasing shows. Founder and Managing Artistic Director Jon Douglas Rake spoke with the Weekly Volcano about the new season, and how it feels to turn 25.

"We do an audience survey, every year, and I look at what the top vote-getters are, and most of the time those shows end up our bookends for the season -- the beginning and the finale," says Rake.

In the case of this season, the bookends are occupied by two crackerjack new classics: opener Newsies in September, and closer Mamma Mia! in July. The rest of the season is similarly populated with musicals that will likely appeal to both musical newbies and aficionados. For the holiday season, there's White Christmas, based on the film of the same name, and packed with the evergreen tunes of Irving Berlin. Later, in one of TMP's occasional songbook shows, we have The Music of Andrew Lloyd Webber, which celebrates the work of one of musical theater's biggest names. After that, it's The Drowsy Chaperone, a madcap comedy that parodies musicals of the ‘20s, and then the nakedly boisterous The Fully Monty.

When pressed, Rake singles out The Drowsy Chaperone and Mamma Mia! as shows that simply can't be missed.

It can be quite a trip to see a big spectacle on the TMP stage and think of how things have changed for the theater in the 25 years since its birth. Turns out it's a little bit strange for Rake, as well.

"Interestingly enough, somebody recently posted a picture from our very first show, and it took me back," says Rake. "I was just like, ‘Oh my gosh, we've done all of these shows, and accomplished so much, like purchasing a building, and continued to grow!' It feels really great. We are further ahead than I'd ever expected. To do something like Beauty and the Beast, which we did recently, and some of the other big shows, and to pull them off successfully, no, I didn't imagine we'd be where we are today."

Newsies -- which, Rake says, will feature an incredibly talented young cast -- opens Sept. 14. Tickets for that show, and for TMP's 25th season as a whole, are now available online at

NEWSIES, Sept. 14-Oct. 7, Tacoma Musical Playhouse, 7116 Sixth Ave., Tacoma, $22-$31, 253.565.6867,

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