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Playwright Harlowe Reed Reflects on the Holidays at Harlequin

first_imgFacebook42Tweet0Pin0 A Stardust Christmas Blizzard runs at The State Theater in Downtown Olympia until December 31, 2013. Reserve your tickets by calling the box office at 360.786.0151 or online here. Submitted by Reesa Nelson for Harlequin ProductionsThe Stardust Christmas Blizzard is Harlequin Productions 18th Stardust Production.The holidays are always a magical time of year. And for many of those years, Harlequin has shared a multitude of sparkly toe-tapping Stardust productions with the community. Many thousands of regional theater goers have enjoyed the hits-filled jumping, jiving, and caroling as Stardust traveled through the 1940s. Now, after a brief break from the tradition last year, we are happy to visit times gone by in Christmas 1957 with the Stardust Gang. This year’s production, A Stardust Christmas Blizzard, marks playwright Harlowe Reed’s eighteenth production of the Stardust series. The playwright has graciously granted an interview so we could glean more insights into this vibrant delight.What inspired the leap in setting from the 1940s to 1957?HR: We spent seventeen years in the 1940s and covered over 200 songs from the period. I was ready to move forward in time. The 1950s may have a little more resonance with today’s audience owing to shifting demographics. In addition, the variety of material available broadens as you move forward in time.Do you have any personal attachment to this era?HR: I’m a social history buff and all eras have their fascinations. Mid 20th century America is an amazing time. We were a very young country that had come into a newly elevated position of power and wealth after WWII. Our culture was blasting off along with the accelerated economy.What is your process for writing a musical like this?HR: Rounding up the best cast possible and then writing characters that align with them. There has to be a kernel of story to get it going, but once I begin to let them tell their own stories on paper it rolls out from there. The music will usually be selected from the hits of the decade and be placed in the show to fit characters and situations.Where does your inspiration come from?HR: Actually while I’m in the midst of working on the current show, the idea for the following holiday may spring up. That’s often been the case. This year was different because I didn’t really know what would evolve until this summer. I knew there would be a blizzard but I didn’t know how it would turn out.How do you decide which musical numbers to include in the show?HR: We start with a list of perhaps a hundred songs that were hits and emblematic of the style of popular music during the era and narrow it down to 24 or 26 numbers. This process has to do with the vocal ranges of the cast and how many solos, group numbers and duets are to be included in the show. Emotional resonance with a number is a big influence as well.What is one of the ways you’ve infused the essence of the 50s into this show?HR: Some of the skits and introductions are framed up on several TV personalities like Ed Sullivan, Lawrence Welk, and Perry Como. One snippet is an Elvis Presley impression and a number of the songs in the show were, of course, made famous by iconic rock’n’roll stars.The Stardust Christmas Blizzard is set in 1957, a departure from the previous productions in the 1940s.Why is early rock’n’roll music still popular today?HR: I think it’s still popular because it is emblematic of freedom and individualism and these are dearly held values. When you look at the entire arc of pop culture as a mass-produced and multi-media experience, it’s not really that old. American popular music went overseas in WWII with the big band recordings and they changed the world. Rock’n’roll evolved out of that uniquely American form. But it wasn’t Big Band, it was small band and big personality. There is also an innocence in early rock’n’roll that would be almost completely obliterated by the mid-70s. That sincerity still has its charms.What is your favorite part about writing these wonderful musicals?HR: Having a great cast and seeing and hearing the show come to life. There is always an adventure to be had in inventing something new! The very best part for all of us is having happy audiences and feeling that we’ve contributed to and been an enjoyable part of their holiday!last_img

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