Tuesday, October 30, 2012
The movie "White Christmas" opens with a scene set in 1944.
That's also the year Little Theatre of Walla Walla held its first production.
Fast forward to now.
The Bing Crosby-Rosemary Clooney holiday classic, adapted as a musical play that first ran on Broadway in 2008, is in rehearsal at Little Theatre for its Nov. 2 opening.
And like the Irving Berlin musical's characters Bob and Betty, the play's directors, Brian and Becky Hatley, are show business people who started dating when she was working in a summer musical production at the Fort Walla Walla Amphitheater.
For the Hatleys, now married 17 years and parents, the stage has become a family affair.
"Within 48 hours of our son being born, he was taken to the theater," where the couple was involved in "The Wizard of Oz," said Becky, 40, who manages Walla Walla's Book & Game store. "It's really the family pastime."
"It feels like we've been doing it forever," said Brian, 47, an information technology specialist for Columbia REA. "... It's our artistic outlet. We both work to support our theater habit."
Becky has been involved with the Little Theatre since 1989; Brian since 1995.
Brian is in charge of lighting and sound for the theater. It's been a continual progression since he was in his teens, a way to meld his acumen with computers and his need for creativity.
"It's not that big a leap" from technology to artistry, the technical director said.
Becky heads the costume department. "It's my artistic outlet. I love to make decisions about how someone is dressed," she said. "It's incredibly energizing."
Both have been mentored and inspired by Bernie Frazier, longtime Little Theatre volunteer and former technical director.
"White Christmas," as musicals do, presents more challenges and a lot more work, time and volunteers as does a drama or comedy.
However, this year the season was moved back at least a month. "Moving the season back actually meant we could start with a musical," Becky said. "It's bigger, 24 actors as opposed to five to 12 in a non-musical, plus an orchestra of six to seven people. Backstage crew is about eight, not including the directors. So it just doubled the support team. It takes a lot of people and time management," Becky said.
"For a non-musical you learn lines and blocking. For this you also have to learn music and dancing."
"We want to mix the Hollywood glamour of the 1950s and the Broadway pizzazz," Becky said. "We want to mix the movie and Broadway expectations. That's tough."
Brain said a musical demands more intense lighting and sound.
"It must have more of a punch," he said. Another challenge for "White Christmas" he added, is that Little Theatre has a smaller stage -- about 20 by 20 feet -- and on it will be a full-function Broadway show.
But they are not strangers to musicals on that stage, either.
"We always find some way to do it," Brian said. "'You can't do that' isn't in our vocabulary."
The musical has a few variations from the movie but still has "all the moments you know and love," Becky said.
"Some scenes are different than you remember," she said. "It begins with slightly different music. It's more upbeat than the movie."
For the stage production, Berlin's "Blue Skies" an "I Love a Piano" were added to be more true to the play, she said. The cast is also more age appropriate with younger faces, those in their 20s and 30s rather than Bing Crosby in his 40s.
The local production is produced by Mike Rose, with musical direction by Jeremy Mims and the choreography by Craig Allen.
The Hatleys' similar interests and love for the theater make for a solid duo as co-directors.
"We tag team so well by the time we get to a show, we know very well what we want from each scene," Brian said.
"We know what each other is thinking," Becky said. "We usually have the same notes and we can still come up with our own stuff" he said.
"After 17 years of marriage we think a lot alike," she said.