When DC theater darling Tracy Lynn Olivera mentioned that 110 in the Shade’s lead, Lizzie Curry, was a dream role for her, Ford’s Theatre Director, Paul Tetreault, immediately took notice. The pair teamed up with director and choreographer Marcia Milgrom Dodge to bring the classic musical to life on Ford’s stage through May 14.
110 in the Shade follows the outspoken Lizzie in 1950s Texas, caught in a love triangle between divorced local sheriff File (played by Kevin McAllister) and charming conman Bill Starbuck (played by Ben Crawford). Lizzie’s not afraid to speak her mind, according to Olivera, and has the same hang-ups as all women when it comes to physical beauty and her place in the world.
“She sticks to her guns, even when her opinion isn’t the popular one,” Olivera says.
The local actress says each of her suitors represents something different. File encapsulates steadfastness, safety and stability, while Starbuck conjures up adventure, travel and romance.
“Both [character dynamics] are good – but only one [man] is for Lizzie, in the end.”
McAllister and Olivera have been friends for a long time, so there’s already an established comfort level between the two actors onstage. Plus, “singing with him is pure magic – that man’s voice is buttah.”
As for Crawford, Olivera says they hit it off immediately during his audition. The two share similar energies, making their scenes together hilarious and delightful.
“We both just jumped into the pool, so to speak. Plus, he cracks me up and won’t let me take myself too seriously.”
Olivera is truly thrilled about all of her collaborations in this production, especially with Dodge, who she says is her favorite kind of director. They worked together seven years ago on the Broadway revival of Ragtime, and the actress says she’s always wanted to get back to her again.
“I’m totally obsessed with her,” she says. “She likes to get everything on its feet early, and ‘get everything messy,’ as she likes to say. She makes [this play] feel fresh and true and honest and human, and something audiences can relate to even 50 years after it was written.”
Aside from kissing a sexy half-naked man, and kissing a sexy sheriff in a rainstorm, the actress says her favorite part of being in 110 in the Shade is singing the score.
“It’s got so many colors, musically and vocally, and it’s a true honor to sing. I can’t remember the last time I had this much fun at work with my friends. I’m a lucky girl.”
Whether you’re into shirtless cowboys or a modern take on 1950s girl power, Olivera thinks local audiences will find the production relevant.
“I want people to leave feeling inspired to be confident in themselves and follow whatever dream is true to them, regardless of people’s expectations of them. Not every woman is a size four with perfect hair. I think there is nothing more relatable than that, to any age.”
Theatergoers under 35 can enjoy discounted tickets and a free glass of beer or vino post-show on April 20 at 7:30 p.m. Regular tickets run from $28-$69.
Ford’s Theatre: 511 10th St. NW, DC; 202-347-4833; www.fords.org
Photo: Carol Rosegg