Mother and daughter team up for retrospective show at Farmington Civic Center

'The Story Goes On' focuses on experiences of Anne Runolfsson and Tess Adams

Mike Easterling
Farmington Daily Times
  • "The Story Goes On" will be performed at 7:30 p.m. Friday, Feb. 25 at the Civic Center.
  • Tickets are $14 and $18.
  • They can be purchased at fmtn.org/shows or by calling 505-599-1148.

FARMINGTON — "The Story Goes On," the second nationally-touring show presented by Anne Runolfsson and her daughter Tess Adams, made its debut less than a year ago and still feels fresh in every way, Runolfsson says.

But the veteran Broadway actress said the chemistry she has developed with her daughter goes back much further, even beyond the point when they began working together back in 2007.

"I would say there was definitely instant chemistry," Runolfsson said, laughing. "We had instant chemistry the instant she was put into my arms."

That bond may be two decades old at this point, but it likely has been intensified by their work together over the past few years, first in a nationally touring show called "Heroine's Song" that the two brought to the Farmington Civic Center in January 2020 and now with "The Story Goes On," which will be performed at the Civic Center this weekend.

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Runolfsson said "Heroine's Song" was more of a cabaret-style show that featured the two performing songs from many of Broadway's better-known musicals. "The Story Goes On" is more of a personal narrative, focusing on the lives of its two stars, especially their onstage work and their reflections on how those experiences have shaped them.

Anne Runolfsson, left, and Tess Adams star in "The Story Goes On," which will be presented Friday night at the Farmington Civic Center.

Runolfsson said the two always have trusted each other, but that feeling has grown as Adams has reached adulthood and started making her own decisions.

"We've deepened our level of respect for each other, especially in regard to our work ethic and desire to create something we feel proud of," she said, noting that when one of the two throws out an idea for the show, there are no worries about how that suggestion will be received.

"That's the ability to collaborate, to be truly collaborative and appreciate what the other person brings to the table," she said.

"The Story Goes On" includes Runolfsson's remembrances of her time starring in production of such iconic Broadway shows as "Victor/Victoria," "Les Miserables" and "Phantom of the Opera." Those segments are augmented by still images and video clips from her performances and candid moments backstage, as well as a variety of songs.

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"The Story Goes On," which will be presented this weekend at the Farmington Civic Center, is the second nationally touring show the mother-and-daughter team of Anne Runnolfsson, left, and Tess Adams have done.

Runolfsson laughed and said she felt a certain sense of detachment from those images when she went through them as she and Adams prepared to launch the show. In many ways, she said, it was like looking at someone else.

"It all feels separate," she said. "When you're in the moment, you don't have the same appreciation for it, and you tend to be hard on yourself for what you didn't do. … But as I look back on those now, I realized, 'I had some game — I really had some game. It was a privilege to be able to do those things, and I feel inherently grateful for those experiences."

Adams said she had grown up hearing her mother's stories about her early career on Broadway, but only the broad strokes. As the two put the show together and began to discuss those experiences in greater detail, a fuller picture emerged for her, Adams said.

"We got into the nitty gritty of the stories, and that was really exciting," she said.

Listening to her mother's accounts and comparing those stories to her own experiences as a young performer gave her an appreciation for how much the business has evolved over time, Adams said.

Anne Runolfsson appears as Fantine in a Broadway production of "Les Miserables," one of the experiences she will recount in "The Story Goes On" this weekend at the Farmington Civic Center.

"The business has changed immensely just since I was a kid," she said, describing the impact social media has had on it. "It's definitely been a, I guess a learning curve is the right word. I've needed to keep changing because the world I was in when I was 7, 8, 9, 10 is very different now."

The Broadway community was much smaller and more insular in the 1990s and early 2000s than it is now, Adams said, explaining that there is much more competition these days — along with a lot more opportunities.

"I'm very happy it's become a more accessible pathway for people who are passionate about it," she said. "I think that pushes everyone to be at the top of their game and be better artists."

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Another person associated with the show, music director and arranger Larry Yerman, also has had the benefit of seeing how the business has evolved and how Runolfsson's career has continued against that backdrop. He said the two have known each other since they worked together on "Victor/Victoria" 30 years ago.

"She's just a joy to work with and arrange for," he said.

Yurman said his contribution to the show consists largely of gauging the tone of the stories Runolfsson and Adams share, then crafting his arrangements to reflect those feelings.

"These stories have dramatic arcs to them, and sometimes the dramatic art is larger than the story itself," he said.

"As an arranger, I'm looking at the mood, at the quality of the experiences," he said. "That mood can be tiny or large or vulnerable or simple, and my job is look at the way an idea might grow. Those are the things that become my world, my contribution."

Of course, "The Story Goes On" has its lighter moments, as well, and Runolfsson said many of those deal with the realities of working on Broadway. She said that while many people view that experience as a glamorous one — and it is, when you're onstage in full costume, under the bright lights — there are many things about it that fall well short of that standard.

"It's really, really, really hard work, and I think that's the part people can't appreciate it," she said, describing the grind of doing a show every day of the week and sometimes twice a day.

She laughed when she described the backstage theater environment.

"It's squishy, small, dark, dirty and infectious," she said, explaining that most of Broadway's theaters are several decades old and were not built with the comfort of the performers in mind. "On the other hand, you're working with a group of people who are very passionate about what they do."

That atmosphere offers a little bit of everything, and Runolfsson and her daughter will do their best to bring it to life this weekend.

"It's a lot of fun and a lot of laughter and a lot of drama backstage," she said.

"The Story Goes On" will be performed at 7:30 p.m. Friday, Feb. 25 at the Civic Center, 200 W. Arrington St. Tickets are $14 and $18. They can be purchased at fmtn.org/shows or by calling 505-599-1148.

Mike Easterling can be reached at 505-564-4610 or measterling@daily-times.com. Support local journalism with a digital subscription.