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Imagine That

AHS serves up a dose of warmth and whimsy with 'Harvey'
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Noah Yaconelli plays Dr. Sanderson, Jeremiah Lieberman plays Elwood P. Dowd and Mason McLellan plays Duane Wilson in the Ashland High School production of “Harvey.” Photo courtesy of AHSPhoto courtesy of AHS
 Posted: 8:25 AM February 28, 2013

Real people are fine friends but often can be disappointing. Sometimes only an imaginary friend will do. That's what Elwood P. Dowd thinks, especially if the imaginary friend is a 6-foot-tall, rather witty, white rabbit named Harvey.

Ashland High School's drama department will present "Harvey," playwright Mary Chase's Pulitzer Prize-winning comedy, at the Mountain Avenue Theatre, 201 S. Mountain Ave. Performances are set for 7:30 p.m. Thursday through Saturday, Feb. 28 through March 2, and Thursday through Saturday, March 7-9, and at 2 p.m. Sundays, March 3 and 10.

Tickets cost $5 for the Feb. 28 preview show. All other tickets cost $10, $5 for seniors and students, and are available at Paddington Station, Tree House Books and Music Coop in Ashland. Reserved seating costs $15 and is available only at www.showtix4u.com.

If you go

What: "Harvey"

When: 7:30 p.m. Thursdays through Saturdays, Feb. 28 through March 2 and March 7-9, and 2 p.m. Sundays, March 3 and 10

Where: Mountain Avenue Theatre, 201 S. Mountain Ave.

Tickets: Tickets cost $5 for the Feb. 28 preview show. All other tickets cost $10, $5 for seniors and students, and are available at Paddington Station, Tree House Books and Music Coop in Ashland. Reserved seating costs $15 and is available only at www.showtix4u.com.

John Stadelman directs.

Stadelman says he came up with the idea of doing "Harvey" when Betsy Bishop, head of the AHS drama department, asked him to direct a student production

"I was struck by the warmth and gentleness of the play in these hard-edged times," Bishop says. "The play is so appealing. We love its charm, its sense of humor and whimsy. It's about embracing the moment and caring about others. Sometimes we miss important things when we worry too much about the details."

Of course, Dowd's stuffy family thinks he is crazy. Being an eccentric bachelor is one thing, but having conversations with an imaginary rabbit? And even introducing him to everyone? When Dowd's sister tries to have him committed, things don't work out quite as expected — thanks to Harvey.

"Yes, it's a situation comedy with broad characters," Stadelman says. "But the characters have feelings and complexity. It is a challenge for the actors to do style and substance at the same time."

Stadelman has directed plays over the past 15 years at AHS. (The lead in one of his early productions, "The Music Man," was a freshman named Steffanie Leigh, now starring in the title role of "Mary Poppins" on Broadway.) This is Stadelman's first nonmusical directing project at the school.

"Harvey" premiered Nov. 1, 1944, on Broadway and ran for 1,775 performances. Playwright Chase received the Pulitzer Prize for Drama for the work in 1945. The play became better known in 1950 when Jimmy Stewart played Dowd in a movie version that garnered four Oscar nominations including Stewart for best actor in a leading role.

The AHS cast includes Jeremiah Lieberman as Dowd, Lindsey Crocker as Veta Louise and Ceili Widmann as Myrtle Mae. Shay Astor plays Mrs. Chauvenet; Aubyn Heglie is nurse Kelly; Mason McLellan is Mr. Wilson; Noah Yaconelli is Dr. Sanderson; Joseph Yaconelli is Dr. Chumley; Isabel Enns is Betty Chumley; Braedon Bell plays Judge Omar Gaffney; and Jackson Richmond plays Cabby.

Costume design is by Ellen Alphonso, and set design is by Doug Ham. More than 50 AHS students are involved in the production.

Roberta Kent is a freelance writer living in Ashland. Reach her at rbkent@mind.net.


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