Mark Harelik, writer of the "The Immigrant," stands on the set of the musical about a Jewish immigrant who settled in central Texas.
The play opens Jan. 24 at the Stage Theater in the Denver Center for the Performing Arts complex.
ON STAGE Info:
Name: The Immigrant
...Former DCTC member Mark Harelik first staged the tribute to his grandfather in 1985.
It came back in a bigger production the next season, and last fall a new musical version was workshopped in New York.Harelik's
back in Denver putting the final touches on the musical before its first full staging.
"Donald Seawell, I think on our opening night of the play, said this would make a good musical," Harelik
says as he
watches the set go up at the Stage Theatre."I just sort of accepted that as a generic compliment and went on my way." But five years ago, at a playwright's workshop in New Harmony, Ind., Harelik ran into composer Steven M. Alper and lyricist Sarah Knapp.
"I thought, 'This would be good for The Immigrant,' and rather than plugging songs into places, these are whole scenes that could be set to music," Harelik
Harelik lives in Los Angeles; his
collaborators live in New York.The three communicated by phone, e-mail and cassette tape to put the play into musical form.The tribute to Haskell Harelik, as a play one of America's most-produced works, breathed new life.
The Harelik patriarch was a Russian Jew who immigrated via Galveston, Texas, where Jewish immigrants were diverted to ease the burden on Ellis Island.He found himself the only Jew in the tiny town of Henderson, Texas, where he became a banana peddler and eventually a merchant.Mark Harelik
hoped to tell the story of all immigrants positioning by Haskell, the stranger, against Texans who had never seen a Jew before, and eventually against his
descendants, who grew up Americans.
"It turns out the play is as much about parents and children as it is about immigrants," Harelik
Just days before previews began, Harelik
was still tinkering with a script he's
been developing for 16 years."We've been making some substantial changes, mostly to internal structure of scenes.We're always chipping at it," he
relies on Knapp, Alper and director Randal Myler (who guided the original production) for a bit of perspective."I think I probably lost a certain critical eye," Harelik
says."Places I should be more critical of I have come to like a lot."
Much of the play's initial success, he
says, was owed to Denver's Jewish community, which filled the tiny Source Theatre."I think it struck a chord because outside of New York there are hundreds of Jews who have a small-town or Southern or Southwestern history."
The Denver production will soon move to Miami's Coconut Grove, and eventually it may return to New York."One of our regrets was that it got a rave review in The New York Times
but the theater was broke, so they weren't able to do any advertising," Harelik
says."It just sort of died on the vine there."
For the first time in Denver, Harelik
, now 50, will not be playing the role of his
grandfather (that job goes to Adam Heller)."It's such a relief," Harelik
says."In a funny way, I don't think I was very good in the role.I don't think I was quite appropriate."
says, was a bit of a character.With his
broad physique and strong profile, Harelik's type is more "generic leading man -- which means I'm nothing," he
Since the original production, Harelik
has hit the public eye in some off-center ways of his
own.Seinfeld fans will recognize him as the jealous tennis pro whose wife hit on Jerry.But the real fame came from a single appearance on Star Trek: Voyager, which put him on hundreds of Web sites."The worldwide Seinfeld club is not as extensive," he
Harelik plans to head back to California and look for TV and film work after The Immigrant opens.This summer he'll appear in The Beard of Avon at the Goodman Theatre.And he'll be rooting for The Immigrant.
"I'll try to help that along as much as I can in my unambitious, disinterested passion," he
says."I would like to hear from the actors, get an e-mail saying they're lined up to 15th Street."