Marlette Buchanan as Dot in “Tin Pan Lady.” -- Photo by Eligius Wolodkewitsch

Marlette Buchanan as Dot in “Tin Pan Lady.” -- Photo by Eligius Wolodkewitsch

WEEKEND: Key City celebrates women songwriters of Tin Pan Alley

“Today” and “tonight” in this report are Friday, Aug. 16.

PORT TOWNSEND — There is a duet in this show, singer Marlette Buchanan says, that sails like an arrow to the heart.

It has her joining Heather Dudley Nollette for “Good Morning, Heartache” interwoven with “Willow, Weep for Me,” two songs shot through with emotion.

The duet is but one of Buchanan’s favorite moments in “Tin Pan Lady,” the celebration of female songwriters at the Key City Playhouse. Buchanan and Nollette portray women from the 1920s up through the ’40s, particularly those who contended with the male-dominated songwriting industry.

“Tin Pan Lady,” opening tonight, runs for just two weeks and will close Sunday, Aug. 25. It’s a revival of Key City’s 2010 show “Here’s to the Ladies! The Women of Tin Pan Alley.” Created by pianist-arranger Linda Dowdell and singer Joanne Schmoll, the show highlights songs by Tot Seymour, Betty Comden, Kay Swift and Dorothy Fields, among other relatively unsung female writers.

This time around, Dowdell and director Denise Winter wanted a tighter title — and they wanted to catch Port Townsend’s summer crowd.

For nearly three years, Winter has been hearing from people who saw “Here’s to the Ladies!” multiple times. Then there are those — local residents and visitors — who never did get to see it. Winter and Dowdell figured they had a thirsty audience, so they invited Buchanan, who lives in the Seattle area, and Nollette, a Port Townsender, back to reprise their 2010 roles.

Buchanan grew up in the country town of Jackson, Tenn., and went on to study music at Boston University. Today her repertoire ranges from opera to jazz singing; she appeared in the Seattle Opera’s “Porgy and Bess,” and can be seen now in a Washington State Labor & Industries Worker Retraining program commercial. She plays a sous chef who retrains as a jazz singer.

“Tin Pan Lady,” for Buchanan, is good music and good fun: cabaret, for a change. Its 29 songs go from “What a Difference a Day Makes,” “No Other One” and “Pick Yourself Up,” to what Buchanan calls “the Judy Garland moment,” with “You’re Gonna Hear from Me.”

The interpretations are different from 2010, Buchanan said, as are the costumes and the men: David Natale has succeeded Lee Harwell in the Mister role while Russell Clark plays the bass. Kia Armstrong did that in the 2010 show; she recently had a baby boy.

Curtain time for the 90-minute show is 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays; 7 p.m. Thursday; and both 2:30 p.m. and 7 p.m. this Sunday and next Sunday, Aug. 25. Tickets are $18 to $20, or $10 for students, with two exceptions. The 2:30 p.m. performance this Sunday and the 7 p.m. show next Thursday, Aug. 22, are pay-what-you-wish, and will include Afterwords discussions following the show.

For information about “Tin Pan Lady” and other Key City offerings such as Shakespeare’s “Much Ado about Nothing” in Chetzemoka Park, phone 360-385-5278 or see

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