By Richard Schultz, January 2016 Issue.
Lead actor Hugh Hastings has the enviable opportunity to once again play a role he created 10 years ago in Snapshots, a musical now produced by the Arizona Theatre Company from Dec. 30 to Jan. 17.
In an innovative musical format, the show features a score comprised of the work of Stephen Schwartz of Wicked fame, with 25 songs from 12 beloved shows throughout his career.
When Schwartz heard about the concept from David Stern (the book’s author), he fell in love with the idea and became involved by adjusting his own songs to better fit the story and bringing new life to the familiar melodies. Songs featured in Snapshots include “Popular” (Wicked), “All Good Gifts” (Godspell), “Meadowlark” (The Baker’s Wife) and “That’s How You Know” (Disney’s Enchanted).
The story centers on a couple that’s been married for 20 years, but they’ve reached a point where they simply have nothing left to say to each other. But, when they uncover a box of photos in the attic, their memories come blossoming back to life, helping them take a look back at the moments that built their relationship and the opportunities that got lost along the way.
Six actors play the couple in various stages of their lives, along with a few other characters: Susie and Danny, the couple in their youth, are played by Mallory King and Ben Wynant; Susan and Daniel, the couple in their young adulthood, are played by Terry McDowell and Jim DeSelm; and Sue and Dan, the empty nesters in the story’s present, are played by Beth DeVries and Hastings.
Hastings first portrayed the role of Dan in 2005. His character is a middle-aged “empty nester” whose relationship with his wife has suffered and frayed from inattention.
“The basic story of Dan and Sue’s journey has remained the same since the early version that we worked on, but some music has been rearranged, some songs are gone, and new ones added,” he said. “Some of the scenes have been tweaked or rewritten to better tell the story, and I think that the present version that we are performing is the best it’s ever been.”
During the play, Dan is made to remember all the bonds that were forged between himself and his wife, Sue, in the younger, formative years of their relationship. He rediscovers the things he loves about her, realizes how his benign neglect has hurt their relationship and, finally, is motivated to fight to win her back.
“Although humor is used a lot in the play to tell the story, the final moments are very emotional for us as actors, and also for the audience,” he said. “This situation is just so universal, so identifiable to anyone who has been in a long-term relationship: it’s too easy to take your partner for granted. If you don’t keep feeding the fire, there is the real danger that it might go out!”
For Hastings, the show’s theme still holds special significance.
“I was a mess during rehearsals,” he said. “I’d go home every night, hold my wife and ask her, ‘You know I love you, right?’ The possibility that there might be some Dan in my real life made me ultra-sensitive to all my relationship dealings at home – even my cats started avoiding me!”
Hastings summarizes, “love needs to be tended to. If your partner makes you happy, let them know it!”
Fans of musical theater will recognize much of the songbook, Hastings said, adding that his favorite scene occurs at the end of the show.
“The song, ‘In Whatever Time We Have – So Far,’ is a brilliant mash-up sung by all six characters that delivers a very satisfying and emotional conclusion,” he said.
Let’s Hear It From Hastings
Hastings grew up in Waterloo, Iowa, with four siblings whose father loved music and theater and often took the family to local arts events as well as on outings to see performances in Chicago, Minneapolis and Des Moines. He recalls loving the big Broadway touring shows and listening to Broadway soundtracks, which was a Sunday ritual in his family’s home.
Hastings received bachelor’s degree in theater at the University of Northern Iowa, and a master’s of fine arts degree in acting at the Professional Actor Training Program at the University of Washington. He is a longtime Seattle-based actor with years of professional experience including playing roles at theatres across the Northwest, including Seattle Children’s Theatre, Seattle Shakespeare Company and the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. He is currently an adjunct professor at Cornish College of the Arts, teaching acting for the musical theatre.
“Like all actors, I have learned most of what I know about the craft through experience,” he said. “I have been very fortunate to have been a working actor for 30 years, learning what I can from each audience I perform for, and every colleague I have the pleasure to work with.”
Snapshots, directed by Daniel Goldstein, is a co-production with Village Theatre in Issaquah and Everett, Wash., which also collaborated with Arizona Theatre Company two years ago for Xanadu.
Snapshots: A Musical Scrapbook
Through Dec. 19
Temple of Music and Art, Tucson
330 S. Scott Ave., Tucson
Tickets: $54-$61; 520-622-2823
Dec. 30-Jan. 17
Arizona Theatre Company
Herberger Theater Center
222 E. Monroe St., Phoenix
Tickets: $28-$68; 602-256-6995