Sparkle at the Stardust

â€Å"Operation Stardust” loaded with talent

By Steve Dunkelberger on November 22, 2007

One of the most awaited holiday traditions is taking to the stage of Harlequin Productions. The Olympia theater is staging its holiday offering, the latest in its original serial about a troupe of New York nightclubbers doing their part for the war effort by singing their way to the hearts of traveling soldiers or fund-raising club hoppers.

The “Operation Stardust” cast features one of the deepest talent pools in the South Sound. The playbill lists: Antonia Darlene, LaVon Hardison, Russ Holm, Deanna Marie Molenda, Nat Rayman, Emilie Rommel, Matt Shimkus, and Jason Thayer. The Stardust band is made up of regional jazz veterans Keith Anderson (drums), Dan Blunck (saxophone), Rick Jarvela (bass) and Syd Potter (trumpet) led by Debbie Evans (piano) with arrangements by Syd Potter.

Set during the years surrounding and during World War II, this popular series is now on its 13th year. The show features the big band music and dance that made the war years more memorable than imaginable for the greatest generation. There were times when the fabled Stardust Theater was haunted and when it needed to hold a fund-raiser to stay open. And one year it held a concert to say good-bye to one of its own, who was shipping out to do his part for the war effort. The war played out around them as the Stardust years passed by holiday after holiday.

This episode in the “Stardust” story finds the swing singers leaving the lights of the big city for a USO tour with Bob Hope in Casablanca in 1943. As many military operations go, the mission goes wrong, and the singers find themselves in a supply depot in the middle of Tunisia, where a small band of lonely GIs await the news that they can go home. The troops occupying the outpost rally the performers. And the show goes on just as if they were in the Big Apple.

What makes this show so great for so many theatergoers in the South Sound is that it has so much heart and looks like the cast is really having fun as they stage this show within a show with the audience members playing the role of the audiences of the Stardust singers.

[State Theater, through Dec. 31, 8 p.m. Thursday-Saturday, 2 p.m. Sunday, 3 p.m. shows on Nov. 24, Dec. 15 and Dec. 22, $12-$38,  202 Fourth Ave. E., Olympia, 360.786.0151,]