Musical review celebrates love’s “Stages”
— Created June 14, 2023 by Kathy Reed
By Kathy Reed
Over the course of a lifetime one goes through many different phases – stages, if you will. From friends to romantic partners, infatuation to love, for example.
Set those romantic phases to music and you have “Stages,” an evening of musical entertainment starring Darren and Heather McCoy and featuring Eileen Soskin and Ken Merrell. Performances will take place Friday, June 23 and Saturday, June 24 at 7 p.m. at the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Whidbey Island, located at 20103 State Route 525 in Freeland. There are no tickets to purchase, but a $25 donation at the door is suggested.
“’Stages’ is a musical review featuring previously composed music from many Broadway shows spanning the years 1926 to 2019,” explained Soskin, who worked with the McCoys and Merrell to develop the show and will accompany the McCoys on the piano. “We have organized the songs in a way that tells a story about the stages of life and love: Stage One – Waiting, Wanting, Believing; Stage Two – Me, Me, Me, Me, You (a.k.a. Infatuation); Stage Three – Perfection??? HA!!!; and Stage Four – Feeling and Remembering.
“I was very eager to work with Heather and Darren McCoy and put together an evening of show music suited to their talents,” she continued. “The idea of ‘Stages’ evolved gradually from a list of songs (solos and duets) that Heather and Darren were eager to perform plus a list of songs that I was eager to perform with them. The result merges most of the songs that appeared on our initial lists.”
Darren and Heather McCoy are no strangers when it comes to performing – the couple met on stage at the Whidbey Playhouse in Oak Harbor. The two are now married and the proud parents of a 2-and-a-half-year-old. With busy careers – Darren is the choral director at Oak Harbor High School and Heather is a physician’s assistant – they both said it’s hard to find time for projects like this.
“It’s always such a pleasure to find projects that can be done along with busy lifestyles, work, and parenting, and there are so few opportunities for that, so I’m grateful that Darren and Eileen love to do this sort of thing as much as I do,” Heather told Whidbey Weekly via email. “Also, I’m incredibly grateful to my mom, Sandi Good, for allowing us this opportunity by watching our kiddo during the rehearsal process.”
As Soskin and the McCoys tossed around initial ideas of the songs they’d like to include in the project, their choices almost seemed to arrange themselves.
“The songs sorted themselves rather neatly into representations of different stages of life,” Soskin described. “They were initially chosen by each of us just because we loved them and wanted to perform them. Once I had our list, it was easy to see that some were about the intense desire for life to truly begin that is common among young people; some were about the magic of new love, where everything is perfect; some were about how committed relationships require giving up some things and figuring out how to work around differences; and some were about looking back fondly at long-term affection and love.”
Neither Darren nor Heather said they could identify a particular “Stage” as their favorite, in part due to their current stage that is day-to-day life.
“I feel like I most relate to stage two, three and four in a whirlwind of succession,” said Darren, who responded to questions via email late last month. “It’s never just one for very long. There is one song, however, that stands out. It’s the song where the character can’t remember anything. Maybe it’s because I’m a teacher in May or maybe it’s because I have a toddler and am therefore sleep deprived, but I can’t remember lyrics like I once did!”
“I don’t really have a specific stage that I relate with, I think that’s the magic of this show, that it shows the different stages from hope and bliss to conflict and yearning,” Heather said. “I also find I can relate more to one stage, or to a specific song, depending on what’s going on that day emotionally. I think each person watching the show will relate to a specific song or ‘stage’ in a different way, based on a different life experience, and that’s the beauty of musical theater – you present something to a crowd and everyone experiences it a little differently.”
Soskin began playing the piano and composing music when she was 5. She began working on musicals at summer camp when she was 13, and grew up attending shows on Broadway. This is not the first time she and Merrell have produced shows on Whidbey Island.
“We have worked together on several reviews using previously composed songs, including ‘Fred & Ginger – No Dancing,’ for which Ken wrote the script using only songs composed for films starring Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers,” Soskin explained. “We also collaborated on an original musical in 2015 called ‘Pasture-ized.’
For “Stages,” Merrell will serve as a narrator of sorts. The show will feature songs by composers George Gershwin, Leonard Bernstein, Stephen Sondheim, Cole Porter and others.
In addition to great the music, Soskin said she believes the talents of Darren and Heather McCoy will entice people to see the show.
“Both Darren and Heather are the complete package: wonderful musicians, wonderful singers and wonderful actors,” she said. “Audiences will feel immediately connected to the two stars and, we all think audiences will fall under the spell of both familiar and new songs which combine meaningful lyrics and music in beautiful ways.”
“I hope audiences will think about the many shapes and moments that occur in relationships,” Darren said. “I hope they’ll see something that sparks the thought, ‘That’s so true’ or, ‘I’ve had that same conversation!’ At the same time, I hope they see something unfamiliar, both musically and emotionally.”