Harold & Maude: An Intimate Musical makes its world community- theater premiere at Birmingham Village Players Jan. 13-29.
In 1971, the film Harold and Maude came out. Jay Kaplan was 11 years old. By the time he finally got to see the movie as a freshman at the University of Michigan, the film had become a cult classic. Harold and Maude starred Ruth Gordon as Maude, an 80-year-old who teaches 20-year-old Harold (Bud Cort) how to enjoy and appreciate life after falling in love over seven days.
“I’ve always been a fan of Ruth Gordon. And I love the message of the film — that two people, despite their ages and life experiences, can be soulmates,” says Kaplan, who is directing the world community-theater premiere of Harold & Maude: An Intimate Musical at Birmingham Village Players (BVP) Jan. 13-29.
As the staff attorney for ACLU of Michigan’s LGBTQ Project for the past 22 years, Kaplan has a passion for social justice. He’s equally as passionate about theater, dating back to Northbrook Elementary in Southfield where he grew up.
“I’ve always gravitated to new theater works that present interesting and provocative subject matter,” he says.
After closely following the workshopping and development of Harold & Maude: An Intimate Musical for nearly two decades, Kaplan decided he wanted to direct the production. The show features book and lyrics by Tom Jones, best known as the lyricist for the musicals The Fantasticks and I Do! I Do! The musical score is by Joseph Thalken, who often serves as music director for Tony Award-winner Patti Lupone’s cabaret shows.
“I made an inquiry on the show’s website last December 2021 to see if the rights to the musical version were available for community theaters. The website designer for the composers, Harvey Schmidt and Tom Jones, responded and told me the licensing rights hadn’t been made publicly available yet and that the show had never been performed by a community theater,” said Kaplan, an Oak Park resident. “I emailed back that BVP would love to be the first community theater group to ever perform the show and, about a month later, we got the go-ahead to do the show.”
Kaplan, who has been a member of BVP for nearly 25 years, presented the exciting news to BVP’s board of directors and they approved the production for the 100th anniversary season.
Harold & Maude: An Intimate Musical is Kaplan’s 10th show he’s directed at Birmingham Village Players. Others include Side Show, Pal Joey, Dear World, The Man Who Came to Dinner and several staged readings. He has also directed many productions at Stagecrafters in Royal Oak as well as at the Affirmations LGBTQ+ community center in Ferndale.
This isn’t the first time Kaplan has worked with both of the leads: Linda Rabin Hammell as Maude and Jonas Annear as Harold. In 2018, Kaplan directed the then 13-year-old Annear as the young Jewish playwright Moss Hart in Act One at BVP.
“Being able to work again with both Jonas and Linda is an extra bonus. Not only are they talented, but they’re incredibly dedicated and lovely human beings. I first met Jonas when he was 11 years old. He played the role of young Patrick in the musical Mame at Birmingham Village Players, and I was in the chorus,” says Kaplan, who prefers directing over acting.
“Jonas is now a senior at Seaholm High School and has grown several feet since then. He’s 6’3” and Linda Rabin Hammell is a petite 5 feet. The contrast of their height difference on stage works well for the two unlikely characters who fall in love,” Kaplan says.
The intimate musical features five actors and a three-piece band consisting of keyboard, percussion and guitar. In the movie, it’s implied that Maude is a Holocaust survivor. And while the film’s storyline is similar to the musical’s, the musical provides more backstory about Maude.
“In the musical, we learn that Maude’s husband and family died in the war and that she experienced the horrors of Kristallnacht — the Night of Broken Glass,” Kaplan says. “Maude shares this experience in a poignant song called ‘Maude’s Waltz.’
“She also demonstrates that, despite what she has gone through, Maude believes life should be lived to its fullest,” says Kaplan, who attended Temple Beth El through confirmation and also taught high school and confirmation classes there for 10 years. “Maude’s story is particularly relevant at a time where we have seen a rise of antisemitism in the United States.
“I am so excited and grateful that Village Players chose to produce this musical version of the film, which is beloved by many for its humor and uplifting messages,” adds Kaplan. “I think audiences will appreciate the show’s positive message as well as the story’s eccentric humor.”
Harold & Maude: An Intimate Musical is rated PG for adult situations including drug use and suicide. The show runs three weekends, Jan. 13-29. Tickets are $25. Birmingham Village Players is located at 34600 Woodward Ave. in Birmingham.
For tickets, go to www.birminghamvillageplayers.com/harold-maude-the-musical. For one night only, on Feb. 18, in celebration of Birmingham Village Players’ 100th anniversary season, BVP will re-create The Maker of Dreams, the first production by BVP as it was originally staged 100 years ago. Visit www.birminghamvillageplayers.com for more information.
Meet the Composer of Harold & Maude: An Intimate Musical
Joseph Thalken on January 14, 2023
Joseph Thalken is the composer of the musical Harold and Maude which will be performed Jan. 13 – 29, 2023, at BVP. We are thrilled to host a talk back session with him immediately following the Saturday, Jan. 14, 2023, performance. This is a rare opportunity to have a discussion directly with the composer of this wonderful production. Don’t miss it! Get tickets to the show and the free talk back here.
Mr. Thalken is an award-winning composer, conductor and pianist whose theater and concert works have been performed internationally.