“Howl’s Moving Castle” Book-It Repertory Theatre First Ever Full-Scale Musical Proves Magical

Howl’s Moving Castle - Book-It Repertory Theatre

Riddle: What young adult fantasy came after J.R.R. Tolkien and before J.K. Rowling?

Answer: “Howl’s Moving Castle” by Diana Wynne Jones

Book-It Repertory Theatre presents its first ever full-scale musical, a premiere adaptation of the 1986 coming-of-age, fantasy novel, “Howl’s Moving Castle” by Diana Wynne Jones. Myra Platt adapts and directs, with music and lyrics by Justin Huertas. The production runs through December 30th.

Like Jones’ outrageous and adventurous novel, the musical unfolds with humor, imagination, alternate worlds and magic galore. And at the same time, there are serious moments and a sense of urgency. The award-winning 1986 novel, turned musical, inspires each of us to trust in our own powers of transformation.

Nineteen-year-old Sophie has the great misfortune of being the eldest of three daughters, destined to fail miserably should she ever leave home to seek her fate. She resigns herself to living a humdrum life, toiling in a hat shop and helping her younger sisters. But adventure seeks Sophie out in the shop where she sits alone, dreaming over her hats.

When she unwittingly attracts the ire of the Witch of the Waste, Sophie finds herself under a horrid spell that transforms her into a feeble, 90-year-old crone who is unable to speak of her curse. She runs away and seeks refuge inside the strange moving castle of the Wizard Howl, reputed to be an eater of souls. But he too is a victim of the Witches curse, one he is frantically trying to escape. He wants to find the girl of his dreams, and end the contract he and his fire demon have entered.

Sarah Russell (Lettie Hatter), Sara Porkalob (Sophie Hatter), and Rachel Guyer-Mafune (Martha Hatter). Photo by Alabastro Photography.

“Howl’s Moving Castle” – Sarah Russell (Lettie Hatter), Sara Porkalob (Sophie Hatter), and Rachel Guyer-Mafune (Martha Hatter). Photo by Alabastro Photography.

Sophie, against her best instincts and at first unaware of her own powers, falls in love. Her only chance at breaking the Witches curse lies in Wizard Howl’s ever-moving castle. To untangle the enchantment, Sophie must handle the brash but irresponsible Howl, strike a bargain with the belligerent fire demon Calcifer, and meet the Witch of the Waste head-on. Along the way, Sophie discovers, there’s far more to Howl—and herself—than first meets the eye.

Sara Porkalob stars as Sophie Hatter. An award-winning solo performer, director, and theatre theorist/activist she currently serves as Intiman Theatre’s 2017 co-curator. Porkalob also appeared in Book-It’s “Emma,” and is the writer/performer of “Dragon Lady.”

“Howl’s Moving Castle” - Michael Feldman (Howl) and Sara Porkalob (Sophie Hatter). Photo by Alabastro Photography.

“Howl’s Moving Castle” – Michael Feldman (Howl) and Sara Porkalob (Sophie Hatter). Photo by Alabastro Photography.

Last year, Seattle-based actor, musician, playwright, and songwriter Huertas appeared in Book-It’s production of “Welcome to Braggsville,” and his original musical “Lizard Boy” premiered at Seattle Repertory Theatre. Huertas has created a contemporary pop score for “Howling’s Moving Castle,” inspired by indie rock music and Stephen Sondheim. Both influences will be woven throughout the score.

As both adapter and director, Platt has helped produce over 125 world-premiere mainstage productions and over 30 education touring productions. For her, “Howl’s Moving Castle” is about discovering one’s inner power. “Book-It chose Jones’ book,” Platt explains, “because of the strong female lead character, Sophie Hatter. She is smart, funny, and defies time and age as she stares fearlessly into her own future.”

Although this is the first time Book-It has produced a full-scale musical, past shows have had musical elements including “Red Ranger Came Calling,” by Berkeley Breathed, “Night Flight” by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, and “The Awakening” by Kate Chopin.”

With the exceptions of Porkalob and Feldman, all of the cast members in “Howl’s Moving Castle” play multiple roles. The plot is somewhat complex, so you might consider checking out book before you see the performance. Word on the street is that the musical runs three hours, with intermission. FYI: Book-It recommends the show for age 10 and over.

“Howl’s Moving Castle” runs through December 30, 2017 at The Center Theatre at the Armory. Tickets start at $26 with group rates available. $15 tickets available to students during the entire run with valid school ID; purchase at book-it.org or the box office at 206.216.0833. The box office is open Tues through Fri, 12:00pm – 5:00pm (Tues – Sat during production run), located in the outer lobby of The Center Theatre at the Armory; the production is recommended for ages 10 and up.

About Myra Platt
As Founding Co-Artistic Director of Book-It Repertory Theatre, Myra has helped produce over 125 world-premiere mainstage productions and over 30 education touring productions. Her adapting credits include The Brothers K, Parts One and Two, Little Bee, The Financial Lives of the Poets, The Art of Racing in the Rain, The River WhyThe House of the Spirits, Giant, Owen Meany’s Christmas Pageant (with Jane Jones). She has directed more than 20 productions, most recently The Brothers KLittle Bee, and The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay (2014 Gregory Award for Outstanding Production, Seattle Times Footlight Award). She’s the recipient (with Jane Jones) of Paul G. Allen Family Foundation’s Founders Award, the 2010 Women of Influence from Puget Sound Business Journal, and was named a 2010 Unsung Hero and Uncommon Genius by The Seattle Times.

About Justin Huertas
Justin Huertas is a Seattle-based actor, musician, playwright, and songwriter. His original musical Lizard Boy premiered at Seattle Repertory Theatre (Gregory Award, Outstanding New Play) and had its second production at San Diego’s Diversionary Theatre (Craig Noel Nomination, Outstanding Musical). Justin also composed and performed original music for Romeo and Juliet at Seattle Shakespeare Company (Gregory Nomination). Acting credits include Lizard Boy (Gregory, Footlight, Gypsy Rose Lee, Craig Noel Awards), In the Heights at Village Theatre (Gregory Nomination), and Welcome to Braggsville at Book-It.

About Sara Porkalob
Sara Porkalob is an award-winning performer, playwright, director, and arts activist recently recognized on City Art Magazine’s 2017 Future List and just finished her term as Intiman Theatre’s 2017 co-curator. Previous Book-It credits include Emma and Flora and Ulysses (Arts & Education Tour). This winter, she is directing Straight White Men at Washington Ensemble Theatre and Peerless at ArtsWest. In spring 2018, her one-woman musical DRAGON LADY will be touring to Boston’s American Repertory Theater and she will be in String, a new musical at Village Theatre. She is a co-founder of DeConstruct, an online journal of performance critique. An Asian-Pacific Islander and fervent intersectional feminist, she is committed to cultural place-making in her community and the destruction of white supremacy in America.

About Diana Wynne Jones
Born in London, Diana Wynne Jones studied English at St Anne’s College, Oxford. Her books, which range from amusing slapstick situations to sharp social observation, include Howl’s Moving CastleThe Tough Guide to Fantasyland, and Changeover, among others. Jones’ works are compared to those of Robin McKinley, Neil Gaiman, and the Harry Potter series. Awards include 1978 Guardian Children’s Fiction Prize, British Fantasy Society’s Karl Edward Wagner Award in 1999, and World Fantasy Award for Life Achievement in 2007.

The Cast
Randall Scott Carpenter (Michael/Ensemble)
John Coons (Scarecrow/Ensemble)
Michael Feldman (Howl)
Rachel Guyer-Mafune (Martha Hatter/Ensemble)
Kate Jaeger (Witch of the Waste/Mrs. Fairfax)
Katherine Jett (Lily Angorian/Ensemble)
Lamar Legend (Calcifer/Ensemble)
Sarah Russell (Lettie Hatter/Ensemble)
Opal Peachey (Mrs. Fanny Hatter/Ensemble)
Sara Porkalob (Sophie Hatter)
Tyler Rogers (Percival/Ensemble)

The Creative Team
Myra Platt, Adapter/Director
Justin Huertas, Music and lyrics
Adam Quillian, music director and local group
Table Flip. Choreography
Julia Hayes Welch, Scenic design
Andrew D. Smith, Lighting design
Margaret Toomey, Costume design
Erin Bednarz, Sound design

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About Starla Smith

Starla Smith is a career journalist, writing features for such publications as The New Yorker, The San Francisco Chronicle, The Daily News, The Des Moines Register, Vibe and a prize-winning Gannett Newspaper. She helped launch Theater Week Magazine and eventually became its publisher. As a regular contributor to Playbill, her interviews and photos were featured in Playbill and Playbill-on-line. Smith was featured in the New York Times “Style” section for her “Word Portraits,” specialized tributes, speeches, and presentation profiles. And she covered theater and features for City Search, Digital City, and the Tena Duberry WOW! Radio show. She previously served as astrology guru for Out Magazine, and she hastens to assure her readers that “Starla” is indeed her real name.

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