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Harvey puts his paw prints on the CCA stage

The Creek’s thespians bring a classic to life
Dr. Chumley (Grant Versteegh) restrains Myrtle Mae Simmons (Laurel Preston) as she has an adverse reaction to a portrait of her brother Elwood (Cole Sherman) and his friend Harvey the rabbit having been placed over a portrait of her mother in Clear Creek Amana High School’s presentation of “Harvey.” (photo by Chris Umscheid)

NORTH LIBERTY– Elwood P. Dowd is a happy man. Day in and day out, he meets new friends and generally lives without a care. His best friend, though, is a 6-3 white rabbit named Harvey, who nobody else can see. The trials and tribulations of his loving sister, Myrtle Mae Simmons, and her efforts to have Dowd committed to a sanitarium are the basis for “Harvey,” a two-act comedy-drama the Clear Creek Amana (CCA) High School Drama Department presented Thursday, Nov. 8, through Saturday, Nov. 10, in the Performing Arts Center in Tiffin.
Director Tom Milligan explained how the big bunny came to the CCA stage. “I had done Harvey years ago at a dinner theatre in Des Moines, and it’s such a delightful show because it’s a great concept,” he said. “One of the things I look for in finding a fall show for the kids here is some of the older shows. Because to me, the older shows are all very well written, as well as they have really great character development. You have these unique characters in a really great story, and ‘Harvey’ is one of those.”
“Harvey” was originally produced as a Broadway play but became popular as a 1950 movie starring Jimmy Stewart. “Most everybody remembers it as a Jimmy Stewart movie,” Milligan said. He noted the show had a recent revival on Broadway with Jim Parsons of “The Big Bang Theory” in the lead role of Elwood P. Dowd, who was portrayed by Stewart.
The show still has what Milligan described as “a kind of magnetic charm to it that you see, and it is a charming play. The character of Elwood (portrayed on CCA’s stage by Cole Sherman) is just this great character, and the sister (Myrtle Mae Simmons, played by Laurel Preston), and the doctors and everybody… just great characters.” “Harvey,” he said, is a classic, well-written script that the kids can sink their teeth into.
The play starts out on a comedic track, particularly as Elwood and Harvey interact, but takes a turn toward the dramatic as it heads for a conclusion with a message of acceptance.
“For all the eccentricities that you have, all the quirkiness that people have, if you accept those quirkiness and eccentricities at times, people are OK, Milligan said. “And that’s what Harvey is, he’s kind-of a magical thing that makes people feel good about themselves.”
Milligan said he really enjoys the show.
“It’s fun and to me, the fun is in the characters and the story,” he said. “One of the things I really try to stress to the kids is, we are storytellers, and that is what we do, and this is a fun story to tell.”
Milligan said the spring musical will be “Freaky Friday,” which debuted in 1976 with Barbara Harris and Jodie Foster as a Disney movie, and was most recently a movie starring Jamie Lee Curtis and Lindsey Lohan in a story about a mother and daughter who magically trade places as the pair trade bodies.
“It’s a really fun show,” Milligan said. “They did it over at Circa 21 dinner theater, my wife was in it, and I thought this could be an interesting show.”
He added it is possible CCA could be the first theater in Iowa to present the show, as it has only recently been released for amateur productions. “The minute that happened, we applied for it and got the rights to it, so we’ll be doing that in April.”