Tuesday, September 09, 2014

Keep On Tapping: Greg McCormick Allen in "A Chorus Line" – Show #23 at the 5th Avenue Theatre

Greg McCormick Allen in A Chorus Line (Tracy Martin)

How you arrive at where your life is at can be quite surprising journey. Greg McCormick Allen says, “From what I’ve been told, I was taking drum lessons when I was 2 ½.  I’m not sure why I was taking drum lessons, but apparently, I really liked making noise but not sitting still. One day I heard a noise and wandered down the hall and there was a tap class going on. I indicated (to my mother that) I would like that. I’ve pretty much been doing it ever since!”

Greg is appearing in A Chorus Line at the 5th Avenue Theatre and it’s his 23rd show in that theater. It’s a pretty impressive number, and is mounting quickly. Almost every 5th Ave show seems to have a role for Greg somewhere in it. At least lately! Not that the 5th Ave is the only place you’ll see Greg. He’s also prepping to perform as Bert in Village Theatre’s Mary Poppins. Most people think that role is perfect for Greg at the perfect time in his life!

But back to his journey. Greg says, “My mom was from Texas and my father from Oregon and they adopted me when I was a couple of weeks old in Tacoma. They are not at all artistic. I’m not sure why they wanted to put me in all these lessons.” Well, we’re glad they did!


His mother was so supportive, Greg reports, that she sewed all his costumes and took him to tap dancing competitions, sometimes far away, like Spokane. Greg says, “My first trophy I ever got was in ’78. I was taking private lessons and learning numbers specifically for competition. It was fun. I liked getting out of town, seeing other people who did the same stuff I did, meeting new people. I won quite a few trophies, most of which are still in storage.

“In late ’78, our family moved to Scotland. My father did electrical engineering for oil rigs and the company moved us over there. After three years, we moved to South Korea for three years. I did competitions in Scotland. In South Korea, we lived in a foreigners’ compound and there was a clubhouse and they would have parties for holidays and I performed at a couple of those, but there wasn’t much opportunity to dance in South Korea.

“In Scotland, it was the first time I sang. My teacher got me to sing. (But) there wasn’t any vocal instruction.

“When we moved back to Washington in ’83, I started taking tap classes again and in ’85 my dance teacher knew a choreographer who was looking for boys for Music Man at Civic Light Opera. I went to an audition and recited a poem and sang and danced and got the part.

“When the show closed, I was in tears because I thought I’d never see these people again or do a show again. Then Civic Light Opera was doing Anything Goes, which is a big tap show, and I got in it and realized, ‘Hey, maybe I can do more of these!’”

“I did quite a few shows at a Fort Lewis theater, The Chinook Theater, in high school. I started going to college at Tacoma Community College in the mornings and in the afternoons I worked at a movie theater and then evening rehearsal. It got to be a bit much. College I wasn’t enjoying that much.

“So I worked day jobs like in customer service (I worked at McDonalds, and a bakery/deli, mostly food service) and found acting jobs in musical theater that paid at night.

“In 2002, I went to New York City to pursue a Broadway or regional career. That’s where a whole lot of auditions are. I went on a number of auditions and nothing much happened. I did a lot of catering like a lot of actors in New York do. Eventually, I did more catering because New York is expensive. Then I got a call to come back to the 5th Avenue and do A Chorus Line. I played Al (the song “Sing”). Then I did a one man musical at Village Theatre, Ichabod, about Ichabod Crane the headless horseman, singing and tap dancing. Then I went back to New York.

“I got a call from the 5th to do a series of three shows and decided I didn’t really like New York and I moved back toward the end of 2003. I worked a lot at the 5th and Village and an occasional Seattle Children’s Theater show. Now I’ve been in over 100 shows!”

In A Chorus Line (this time, I’m performing) as Larry, the director’s assistant. This time I don’t sing. I’m too old to play “on the line” (as a young dancer starting out) anymore. I demonstrate some dance routines. I like that it tells such a good story about what people in theater have to go through.

“This is not an easy business to be in. and not a lucrative one, either. You really have to love what you’re doing to do it. Especially considering, like in New York on Broadway they have open ended runs that can run for years, but in Seattle  you can be out of work after a month or two when a show closes, and you have to keep looking for more jobs.

“(Luckily) I’m going to be Bert in Mary Poppins and it’s the first time I’ve done Mary Poppins. Any role Dick van Dyke has ever done is one I’d love to do. I loved watching his movies growing up. So, this is excellent. I saw the show on Broadway a few years ago. I loved it. I wanted to be Bert when I saw the movie! I’m really excited about that. It’s a dream role.”

Greg recently expanded his options by taking a role in Maine. “Billy Elliott at the Ogunquit Playhouse. I played Mr. Braithwaite, the inebriated class pianist.” He is a pretty shy guy, so he worried about the difficulty of performing with people he didn’t know, but it ended up great, he says. 

“I’d like to perform as long as I possibly can. I’m still in the process of figuring out how to be considered around the country. There’s also The Studios opening downtown and I’m going to start teaching there. It’s the first time I’ve ever taught, so I’m looking forward to the challenge. I’ll be teaching Advanced Tap.”

To get tickets for his 23rd  5th Avenue show and his 20th production at Village, go to www.5thavenue.org or call 206-625-1900 or go to www.villagetheatre.org or call 425-392-2202.