ETCETERA - ‘Memphis' a Tony winner with WW native's help

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When Marleen Manuel Magnoni Alhadeff launched out of town after earning her associate degree from Walla Walla Community College in 1974, she hadn't an inkling she'd have a hand in making a musical into a four-time Tony Award winner.

Living in the Seattle area, she spent 30 years in interior design, mostly with her own business. She and husband Kenny Alhadeff also invested time and funds in a variety of theater productions, fostering new talent along the way.

One of their recent endeavors, the Broadway production "Memphis," garnered four coveted Tony awards. And speaking of fostering new talent, among its lead players is Chad Kimball, 32, who graduated from Roosevelt High School in Seattle.

"Not in a jillion years did I imagine I'd be this involved," she said in a recent interview. Yet she and Kenny consciously dug into the theater scene. "After our kids left for college, we wanted to keep our brains moving and hooked up with Sue Frost and Randy Adams."

The four are principals in Junkyard Dog Productions. "We invest in original pieces and create new, original work. Creating stars is the focus, rather than hiring stars. Broadway needs that element to stay in the mix."

They stumbled upon "Memphis," through Randy, who had it on stage in Palo Alto, Calif.

As lead producers, the Alhadeffs helped co-produce "Memphis," which on June 21 earned Best Musical; Best Book of a Musical, "Memphis," by Joe Dipietro; Best Original Score (for music and/or lyrics) Written For The Theater, Music: David Bryan, Lyrics: DiPietro and Bryan; and Best Orchestrations, Daryl Waters and Bryan.

"I had the pleasure of attending the Tony Award ceremony this year," e-mailed Janet Mueller, Marleen's sister-in-law. "‘Memphis' ... is a fantastical play and deserved to win," she wrote. "This is a pretty amazing achievement," she said of Marleen's role in its success.

Seattle.bizjournals noted that Kenny and Marleen are longtime board members of Seattle's 5th Avenue Theatre. They "have devoted themselves to the development of ‘Memphis,' a musical that opened in Seattle (in January 2009) and is set to open at New York's famed Shubert Theater on Broadway on Oct. 19, 2009."

The Alhadeffs took an apartment in New York to ready the show for opening night and attend previews, seattle.bizjournals writer Patti Payne said. In Puget Sound BizTalk, Patti wrote that at the Tony Awards, the Alhadeffs "waved their Tony statue triumphantly overhead, to the roar of the crowd. The two are credited with incubating ‘Memphis' here in Seattle and then co-producing it on Broadway.

Marleen and Kenny have supported many non-profit organizations and became executive producers for the 5th Avenue, which Marleen describes as a "kind of percolator theater."

Another former Walla Wallan (and 1978 DeSales Catholic School alumna) Bernadine "Bernie" Determan Griffin, has been deeply involved in the 5th Avenue, previously as development director and currently as managing director, Marleen said.

The Alhadeffs also invested as producers of such New York stage productions as "The Color Purple" and "Hairspray."

"Seattle is one of the leading theater cities in America, where they do pre-work before shows go to New York, such as "Shrek" and "The Wedding Singer," Marleen said.

Junkyard Dog looks "for money to invest in a product," she explained. "It took $12 million to produce (‘Memphis'). We had a job ahead of us to raise the funds during this economic time. Everybody said it couldn't be done, that they didn't know us, that (we) didn't have any stars. All of that was true but we had a vision and a message that had value that needed to be heard."

"What's remarkable about ("Memphis") is that every single night there are standing ovations."

About the story it tells, Marleen said, "people can look at a part of Americana, understand our history, the creation of rock ‘n' roll and bringing the music to blacks and whites through the radio. They can see how far we've come and how much farther we have to go.

"We kept pushing forward. It's surrealistic that we have this experience of the Tonys. We said, ‘Oh if we could just get to Broadway.'" "Memphis" made it all the way to the premier Shubert Theatre on West 44th Street where more than 1,400 people can be seated. "The theater owners scoped out the show while it was in Seattle and they've had long runs of "A Chorus Line" and "Spamalot" play there," Marleen marveled. "There is very little rotation in houses like that."

"Junkyard Dog has a business model that is very specific to us. We've modified things from the Broadway standard, reexamined ourselves and we got there."

The Alhadeffs became lead producers in 2006, Marleen said. Previously, they gave funding for projects, but in lead producer posts, they raise funds for productions.

The daughter of Walla Wallan Jerry "Pepe" Manuel, 85, of Walla Walla and the late Lanore Hatley Manuel, Marleen graduated in 1972 from Walla Walla High School. She and some of her siblings took on their father's original last name, Magnoni to preserve their Italian roots. Many will remember Pepe, who is former longtime owner of Pizza Pete's which later became Pepe's Pizza.

While in Walla Walla, Marleen studied ballet and jazz with Patricia Hawkins through Patricians. Marleen then went to the University of Utah to study ballet, but shortly thereafter changed her major to design and worked toward a degree in that field for three years at the University of Washington. She then did residential and commercial interior design work and was involved in the remodel of Pepe's restaurant in Walla Walla. She had projects around the state and in the Seattle area and "worked from the ground up with architects." She and Kenny own the Majestic Bay Theater in the Ballard area of Seattle, which they had gutted and she remodeled.

Marleen is one of five kids: Larry Magnoni of Bothell, Wash., Jerry Magnoni of Olympia and Ron Manuel of Georgetown, Wash., and Christine Magnoni Crowley of Bainbridge, Island, Wash.

In her first job out of the UW, Marleen's boss thought she worked too much and set her up on a blind date with Kenny and 21/2 years later they married. The Alhadeffs have three kids between them, daughters Alison and Andrea Alhadeff; and son Erin Alhadeff; and two grandsons.

The couple celebrated three milestones in rapid succession this year: Alison's graduation from the UW at Husky stadium; a day later they were in New York for the Tony Award ceremony; and a week later, they helped fete the 5th Avenue Theatre's 30th anniversary.

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Mathew Gregory Fazzari graduated cum laude from Gonzaga University in May 2010. He earned a bachelor's in mathematics, with minors in philosophy and music. Concurrently, as a four-year cadet in the nationally ranked Bulldog Battalion Reserve Officers Training Corps, he placed in the top 6 percent of all the nation's graduating U.S. Army cadets. BBROTC's criteria is based on academic and physical achievement and performance in leadership roles. At graduation he was commissioned a U.S. Army 2nd lieutenant. He has been assigned to the First Aviation Training Brigade at Fort Rucker in Enterprise, Ala. A 2005 graduate of DeSales High School, he is married to Tovah Fazzari. The couple has a son, Dominic. Mathew's parents are Greg and Susan Fazzari of Walla Walla. His siblings, Danielle, Luke and Shawn, also reside here.

In 1999, few people were aware of RCW 73.08.010, the statutory authority that provides for indigent veterans assistance programs, said Eleanor Buckey with the Walla Walla County Department of Human Services.

"Then one day a veteran in need of housing requested assistance. While housing was available, he was denied because he had a dog. This incident prompted the establishment of what is now the Veterans' Relief Fund," she said in a release.

The fund is a resource for indigent veterans and their families who are experiencing financial hardship. The main source of money for the fund is generated from Walla Walla County property tax levies and enhanced slightly by donations and fundraising.

A board of veterans from local branches of national veterans' service organizations or the veteran community at large made up the Veterans' Relief Advisory Committee board. The fund is administered by the county's Department of Human Services. DHS personnel and Walla Walla County commissioners provide fund oversight. The DRF provided assistance to 131 indigent veterans in 2009. In the first quarter of 2010, 36 veterans received assistance with food, lodging, transportation and/or medical care not covered elsewhere. The numbers refer to individual veterans, not the number of times they needed help or the number of services provided. "With more of our troops expected to return home to Walla Walla County from the war on terror, the need is expected to increase," Eleanor said.

Indigent veterans can access multiple support services through Helpline, 16 S. Colville St., or 529-3377, Monday-Friday between 9-11:45 a.m. and 1-3:45 p.m. After hours, information on these services is accessible through the officer in charge at the Walla Walla Police Department, 527-1960, or College Place Police department, 525-7773; or contact the Walla Walla County Crisis Response Unit, 524-2999, available 24 hours a day, seven days per week.

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Kelly Jean Lambert Harri and James Edward Harri are settled into their Milton-Freewater home after honeymooning in Las Vegas and Italy.

They wed May 1, 2010, at First Christian Church in Milton-Freewater. The Rev. Steve Lyons officiated. A reception followed at the Walla Walla Elks Lodge where Swing Unlimited provided the Big Band sound for the 1940s-themed event, Kelly said.

The daughter of Edwin and Catherine Lambert of Waitsburg, Kelly graduated in 1997 from Waitsburg High School and attended Walla Walla Community College.

The son of Dr. Jim and Mary Harri of Walla Walla, James graduated in 1994 from DeSales High School; in 1999 with a major in agricultural systems and in 2002 with master's in agricultural economics from the University of Idaho. He is employed by McGregor Company in Adams, Ore.

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In the past seven years, Barnyard Champs 4-H Club members have sewn more than 1,700 book bags for the Head Start/Early Childhood Education Assistance Program at Blue Ridge School. On June 2 this year the 4-H group delivered 242 of the bags to the children at Head Start and were greeted by many smiling faces, reported 4-Hers Sarah Jameson and Mary Neal.

Thirteen club members helped sew bags this year during group sewing sessions: Anthony Neal, Annie Ladderud, Chris Neal, Liz Wood, Kyle Jameson, Mary Neal, Sarah Jameson, Seth and Garred Guttromsen, Ashley Bennett, Evan Jameson, John Neal and Jerry Ladderud.

Head Start/ECEAP are family development programs that provide comprehensive education, health and social services to children ages 3-5 and their families. Head Start preschool is funded by the federal government and ECEAP is funded by Washington state.

"Barnyard Champs 4-H Club took on this community service project because we felt the need to help these children and we hope this act encourages others to do the same," Sarah and Mary said via e-mail. Barnyard Champs 4-H members, who range in grades from 1-12, also raise sheep and pigs to show and sell at the Walla Walla County Fair. Their leader is Ruth Ladderud.

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Korean War veterans with service from 1950-1955 are encouraged to attend a recognition event Monday. College Place Veterans of Foreign War Post 466 is sponsoring the cake and ice cream activity at 6 p.m. at the College Place Fire Department, 625 S. College Ave.

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What's vintage becomes new again at Fort Walla Walla Museum. "There's always something new to see, even if it's more than a century old," said Paul Franzmann, museum communications manager. The Collections & Exhibit Department, led by Manager Laura Schulz, installed a historic flag that once flew over the Museum's namesake U.S. Military Fort Walla Walla.

Acquisition of the flag comes with an unusual story, Paul said in a release. In a note some years ago, George Abdill, director of the Douglas County Museum in Roseburg, Ore., offered to return the flag to the community.

The note arrived with the flag, whad had been discovered inside a brown satchel.

"Horace Berg was a newspaper boy in Walla Walla and delivered papers to officers and men at the post. On one occasion (the soldiers) were changing the colors at the Fort and gave him the old flag; his widow finally donated it to the Douglas County Museum and we are returning it to you as a gift to the Walla Walla County Historical Society." The flag measures 7 feet by 15.5 feet and sports 38 stars.

"Given the number of stars, it is possible to determine when the flag might have flown to a period after Aug. 1, 1876, when Colorado was admitted to the Union as the 38th state," Paul noted. The country remained at that status until Nov. 2, 1889, when North Dakota was admitted, meaning that the flag likely flew over the Fort at some time between 1876 and 1889.

In rapid succession, others gaining statehood in 1889 include: South Dakota, 40th on Nov. 2; Montana, 41st on Nov. 8; and Washington, 42nd on Nov. 11.

There is a curiously asymmetrical layout to the flag's stars. Museum volunteer Shirl Phillips, who prepared the flag for display, observed that white material was placed on both sides of the flag, then sewn on by machine in star patterns. Excess material was trimmed to size. Even though the flag would be viewed from both sides when flying atop a flag pole, the side the Museum displays is, in a sense, the ‘back' side. According to Phillips, the seams are turned over on the side facing viewers.

The flag hangs on a wall in the Museum's Fort Walla Walla military gallery in a display that showcases five headstones found on the Museum's grounds in March 2001. During the excavation of a utility trench near the Museum's pioneer settlement, a backhoe hit something large, heavy and hard.

Staff quickly notified Director James Payne, an experienced archaeologist, who determined that further exploration needed to be accomplished. A field crew he led unearthed the grave markers over the next weekend. Through research, it was learned the army ordered a ‘cemetery realignment' in the early 1900s; the tombstones in the Museum's possession were the original markers discarded when standardized replacements were installed.

"We are so pleased to add the flag to our exhibit and share it with visitors," Laura said.

"This flag flew over the making of some important regional history. Soldiers at the Fort covered a pretty big territory they patrolled on horseback, were involved in several battles of the Indian wars, and served as the law when there was little else. I think it gives the display a certain dignity and offers people the opportunity to reflect on some issues of the past we still deal with today."

The Museum is at 755 Myra Road. Operating hours are 10 a.m.-5 p.m. daily. There is an admission fee.

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