Vashon’s venerable Drama Dock Theatre Company will, at long last, present the regional premiere of “Winghaven Park,” a new musical play set on 1940s Vashon Island, opening Friday, Aug. 26, at Vashon High School Theater.
Commissioned in 2018 as new work from Vashon composer and playwright Lisa Peretti, “Winghaven Park” is the long-delayed fulfillment of Drama Dock’s commitment to producing a compelling new work of theater.
A wholly original musical play based on Vashon’s turbulent WWII history and set during the island’s Strawberry Festival of 1944, “Winghaven Park” is described by Drama Dock as “a not-always-so-sentimental journey into the island’s collective past.”
The musical — forged by the creative team of writer-composer Lisa Peretti, award-winning director Kelly Kitchens, musical supervisor Zachary Kellogg, and producer Louis Hobson — tells the story of a glamorous movie star’s return visit to the rocky shores of her childhood home, “Winghaven Park,” and her reckoning with her own unresolved personal history.
It boasts 18 original songs encompassing swing music, bluesy ballads, comic songs, romantic duets and Broadway-style ensemble chorusing.
The show’s seasoned cast is led by Seattle actress Sarah Daniels (“Merrily We Roll Along,” “Legally Blonde,” Disneyland “Frozen”) as movie star Vera Webster; Broadway-World nominee Alicia Ferrin (“Into the Woods,” “Guys and Dolls”) as Vera’s sister, Lily Webster; Seattle-based actor Ricky Spaulding (“9 to 5,” “Spring Awakening,” “Anything Goes”) as Vera’s high-school sweetheart; and Timothy Wilds (“Working,” “Bright Star”) as Vera’s Hollywood agent, Rick Lloyd.
These lead performers are backed by an ensemble of versatile character actor-singers, portraying the community of WWII-era Vashon: Bill Epstein, Jessica Robins, Mick Etchoe, Ernest Henderson, Dianne Kutzke, Christopher Sweet, Alex Perfect, Olivia Bentley, Alison Rucker, Tisah Durahim, Leo Watson, David Hackett, Erika Strandberg, Erin Lee Smith, and Nathan Campbell.
For Peretti, seeing the show come to life at last, after a long series of pandemic delays, has been worth the wait.
“I feel a deep sense of accomplishment, and gratitude — a combination of excitement and joy — and a deep sense of fulfillment,” Peretti said, in an interview. “A project and vision of this size undergoes a lot of change, challenges, and disappointment — and not just for me as the writer-composer.”
Peretti said that after six years of work and hundreds of hours collaborating with friends and colleagues, it has been a thrill to finally be in rehearsals with actors and musicians and to witness her work being warmly received and embraced.
“That’s the biggest reward I can have as a writer,” she said. “Theater is such a forum for meaning and relationship — a collective experience in the power of a story — and this story, about Vashon and for Vashon, is unique.”
The show had had three writing-development retreats, she said — one in December 2021, and then two more in March and April of this year.
In the end, Peretti said, pandemic delays have been a blessing for “Winghaven Park.”
“The show had time to season, the story, songs, and characters refined, and mostly to re-boot the production a-fresh with a new team of collaborators who make up the current team,” she said. “Interestingly, only a couple of songs were cut from the original score, so I’m pleased that the music held together under collaborative scrutiny.”
Throughout the course of its development, the show has won accolades from those who have seen and heard previews of its charms.
Arthur Zadinsky, of Seattle Symphony, has called the songwriting superb, and Debbie Kashino, former president of the Nisei Veterans Foundation, in Seattle, has hailed the relevance of its historical plot.
“‘Winghaven Park’ is a moving example of how art can teach history, and remind us of the injustices we must not repeat,” Kashino said.
Miyoko Matsuda, a widow of a Japanese-American WWII war veteran and Vashon berry farmer, described “Winghaven Park” as “a story of survival and an island community’s response to a tragedy, with a child’s longing at its heart.”
The show opens at 7 p.m. Friday, Aug. 26, at Vashon High School Theatre. Additional performances will take place at 7 p.m. on Aug. 27 and 31, as well as on Sept. 1, 2, and 3. A matinee will be held at 2 p.m. on Aug. 28.