Monday, December 2, 2013

The Stardust Christmas Blizzard

Christian Doyle

Stardust is back at Harlequin. The series based on performers in the fictional Stardust Club in New York and traditionally set at Christmas during World War II has been a holiday staple at Harlequin Productions almost as long as the theater has been in existence. But their last previous performance was in December 2011 and we thought the franchise was being permanently retired. Now it’s back with one significant change: the time has been moved forward by a decade.

Bruce Haasl
It is now 1957. Rock and roll rules the world, or at least the teenage world of America, even though many adults still hopefully predict it will be a passing fad. Once again the workers and performers at the nightclub come together on Christmas Eve, and this time a blizzard has them trapped. Naturally romance ensues. No one can leave the club — except actually some of them do leave and come back and others show up, the last to appear being a mysterious man named Lucas (Robert Humes).
Emile Rommel Shimkus

In a clever bit of writing by Harlowe Reed (himself something of a mystery man), everyone is astonished that Lucas knows everyone’s name. How does he know them? Well, because their names are on the show announcement in front of the club, he explains. Except the bartender’s name, Louis, (Christian Doyle) is not and Lucas seems to know him too. Hmmm ...

The typically thin but entertaining story line is primarily a setup for an evening filled with music.
The other song-and-dance men and women are Maggie Lofquist as Joy, the club’s no-nonsense business manager; Amy Shephard as Rosalie and Emilie Rommel-Shimkus as Ellen, both performers; Mark Alford as Baxter the sound man, who is the epitome of an overly enthusiastic 1950s teenager with dreams of becoming a star; Bruce Haasl as Eddie, a typical romantic-lead type who is Joy’s brother and another wannabe star; and Jerod Nace as the club manager Nate.

Christian Doyle and Amy Shephard
Good singers and actors all, they deliver more than 20 major hits from the early years of rock and roll, starting with Baxter doing a credible Elvis impersonation on “White Christmas.”
Musical highlights include Shephard’s “Why Do Fools Fall in Love” and Nace’s outstanding rendition of “Shake Hands with Santa Claus” and his fabulous take on the great do-wop hit “Sh-Boom,” aka “Life Can Be a Dream.” Lofquist is classy on the early ’50s hit “Que Sera Sera,” and she and Rommel Shimkus team up nicely on the sweet ballad “Sincerely.”
The band
Humes’s his first song was a beautiful version of Johnny Mathis’s “Chances Are.”

Some of the dancing opening night seemed less than inspired, and much of the cast didn’t seem to have their hearts completely in it until the second act, with the exceptions of the incredibly energetic Shephard and Alford, who burned up the stage with their energy. Humes’s dancing was stiff, but his singing made up for it.

Robert Humes
Comic highlights were provided by Shephard’s roller skating and by Doyle’s renditions of “The Great Pretender” and “Be-Bop-a-Lula.” I won’t spoil the surprise by telling you what he does with these songs; suffice it to say it is unexpected.

Mark Alford
The band, as always in Harlequin shows, is outstanding — even without the presence of Musical Director Bruce Whitney who is taking a holiday this holiday season but was in the audience to enjoy the show with us civilians. Dave Tillinghast plays a mean guitar, and pianist and band leader Brent Pendleton takes a turn at singing on the hard-rocking “Long Tall Sally” and “Blue Suede Shoes.”

With music like that plus warm holiday cheer, how can you go wrong?

Thursdays through Saturdays, 8p.m., Sundays 2 p.m. through Dec. 31
WHERE: State Theater, 202 E. 4th Ave., Olympia
TICKETS: prices vary, call for details
INFORMATION: 360-786-0151;

from left: Mark Alford, Maggie Lofquist, Jerod Nace and Christian Doyle

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