Arts & Culture

Harlequin adds a magical touch to its ‘Stardust Christmas’ show

Harlequin Productions has cooked up some magic for the holidays — and this isn’t marketing hyperbole. It’s fact.

“The Stardust Christmas Enchantment,” No. 21 in the theater’s series set at Manhattan’s Stardust Club, combines the usual ingredients — peppy cast members, period music and dance, Christmas songs and a dash of romance — with the appearance of a magician.

This year’s show is set in 1960, with songs including, appropriately enough, The Drifters’ “This Magic Moment.”

In Act I, The Great Zabatino (John Serembe, the first “Stardust” alum to return as a new character) brings with him the usual plot complications. He’s arrived in New York without most of the equipment needed for his show, and his rabbit is in quarantine.

“He loves his rabbit,” said director Linda Whitney, who runs Harlequin with husband Scot Whitney. “She’s kind of his muse.”

In Act II, the gang — Stardust regulars Christian Doyle, Maggie Ferguson-Wagstaffe, Bruce Haasl and Xander Layden, plus Kristen Natalia (“Little Shop of Horrors”) and Harlequin newbies James Dean and Alexandria Henderson — pitches in to help create a show that blends magic with song and dance.

“The tricks are picked out to go along with the storyline in some way,” Serembe said in a phone interview this week.

“I used to do little kid magic shows when I was very young, and I loved it,” he said. But he and Whitney said the addition of magic has its challenges.

“It’s another element,” Serembe said. “You have the singing, you have the dancing, you have the acting, and then you have magic. It takes some rehearsal time.”

This magic is, like the show’s tunes, a throwback to an earlier time.

“It’s magic of a style that was being done a lot in the ’50s and ’60s,” Linda Whitney said. “It’s charming. You can go online and immediately discover how anything is done these days. It’s still fun to see it live.

“One of the things we have is the big disappearing box,” she added. “You put someone in, you close the door, you open the door, and they’re gone.”

And then there’s the rabbit, that staple of traditional magic shows.

“Rabbits are used in magic because, unlike puppies and kittens, when they are covered, they get very quiet,” Whitney said. “They just wait for whatever is going to happen next.”

Serembe, who has worked on television and in films, is game about his fluffy colleague, a young rabbit named Starr.

“She’s very sweet,” he said. “She was a little scared at first, but she seems to be adapting quite nicely now and getting a little rambunctious.

“She’s great fun to work with and very soft.”

The Stardust Christmas Enchantment

What: In the latest in Harlequin Productions’ series of holiday musicals, the year is 1960, and magic is in the air at the Stardust Club.

When: 8 p.m. Friday (Nov. 25), Saturday, Nov. 30-Dec. 3 and Dec. 8-10, 15-17, 21-23, 29-30; 2 p.m. Sunday plus Dec. 4, 11, 18 and 24; 3 p.m. Dec. 17; and 7 p.m. Dec. 31.

Where: State Theater, 202 Fourth Ave. E., Olympia.

Tickets: $48; $44 for seniors and military; $25 for youth and students; for the Nov. 30 performance, pay what you can.

Information: 360-786-0151,