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Karlee Squires is a time traveler. It might be more relatable to say that she is the type of triple threat entertainer that was more prominent in the early days of Hollywood but the essence of the statement is true. As an actor/dancer/singer she contrasts a world of entertainers that (for the majority) wish to specialize in one field. Action star, dancer, singer…these are labels which allow the public to quickly distinguish what they think they prefer. Squires has much more in common with the Hollywood stars of the early last century and those of modern Broadway than any genre specific individual you might be more familiar with. Don’t hold onto that idea too long though; Karlee is finding herself cast in a number of international productions. Her appearances these days are eclectic and it’s her contention that her early days in live theater are what prepared her for these. One of the most beloved and classic of these is Meredith Wilson’s “The Music Man” which first made its mark on Broadway in 1957. The importance of these types of productions and the demands on the entertainers performing them have seen a resurgence in the last few years as evidenced by their appearance as live TV events on major networks. These demanding roles serve to vet Karlee and those of her peers who are able to exhibit their immense talent across a number of creative mediums.

The Music Man is a long revered musical by Meredith Wilson which has become one of the most pervasive productions throughout North America. A Broadway smash winning five Tony awards, and holding the distinction of winning the first Grammy ever for Best Musical Theater Album, it’s popularity has maintained since the late 1950’s. The story of a conman who himself in a small town in Iowa and also finds love has cultivated generations of fans in the audience and given the opportunity to numerous entertainers to exhibit their talent. Harold Hill presents himself as a music instrument/uniform supplier who will train the band members but he has no intent on doing anything but taking the money and leaving town. Marian is the female lead and a piano teacher who is untrusting of Hill until the stranger helps her brother with his lisp. The story becomes one of what are you willing to change to find love.

As the lead role of Marian, Karlee presented her incarnation of the insightful and warm female star of The Music Man at the Maclab Theatre in Leduc, Alberta, Canada. Her powerful performance acting as well as singing three solos and a number of duets with the male lead would seem to belie the fact that she had never heard of The Music Man prior to auditioning for the show. She reveals, “When I found out that ESBCHS was putting it on, I started doing my research. I studied all of the video footage, sound tracks, and any information I could find about the show, trying to get familiar with the script and style, as it was set in Iowa in the 1910’s. I immediately fell in love with the production when I found out Barbara Cook originated the role of Marian on Broadway and Shirley Jones was in the original movie. My greatest inspiration came from Kristin Chenoweth’s performance as Marian in the updated movie along with Matthew Broderick. These are two Broadway legends whom I love and aspire to perform and have careers like one day.” The lineage of the role is impressive and the praise which Squires received as Marian bodes well for her continuation in musical theater.

This time period piece could possibly be seen as dated if not interpreted well by the cast. The social mores and decorum of the past century are vastly different from those of today. Karlee showed great insight into her performance in the early part of the play, during which Marian continually ignores Harold’s advances, presenting them with an air of modern feminism and independence rather than as merely rude or stuck up. This sense of Marian as a strong independent woman is much more relatable to Squires and those of her gender and generation.

One of the most challenging musical aspects of performing as Marian is the song “My White Knight.” This iconic tune is not only well-known but also quite difficult to sing. Describing her personal approach to tackling this classic, Squires notes, “In the beginning, I was scared every time I sang it as I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to hit the high notes. I found that by focusing on the story and lyrics of the song piece, I was able to stay in character and focus on what Marian desired most. She has a soft spot for romance and dreams of her own “My White Knight”. Marian is soft when she talks about love privately, but portrays herself as a strong woman when in public. She doesn’t fall for Harold’s fake façade. She is able to stand up for herself and what she believes is right, which is what drew me to her as a character. With the right mindset and determination, I wasn’t afraid to sing the song and could perform it well.” Of course, this doesn’t even begin to refer to the immense amount of dialogue for Marian in The Music Man. Audience members can attest to the fact that her mastery of this was DLP (Dead Letter Perfect).

Film, TV networks, and of course live theater is seemingly more embracing of musicals these days. While new productions are given opportunity annually, the classics like “The Music Man” are everywhere. They are just as prominent in amateur theater as they are in mainstays like Broadway. Those like Karlee Squires who can act, sing, and dance are eschewing forth a modern day wave of talented individuals who are keeping the art-form thriving. The actors in these productions have immense respect for those who starred before them in these roles and appreciate the talent and preparation it takes to master them. There is a generational bridge that “The Music Man” creates. Squires relates, “I think the public loves ‘The Music Man’ so much as it is a heart touching love story. The characters are imperfect but lovable and people relate to them. The story is family friendly and the music is beautiful and has unforgettable catchy tunes. One of my favorite memories of being involved in ‘The Music Man’ is when my great aunt came to a performance and was so convinced that she actually talked herself into believing that the male lead and I were in love. That’s the kind of convincing performance I’m trying to deliver every time!”

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