Village Theatre actress Taryn Darr misses the audiences at the Everett Performing Arts Center.
Three musicals from Village Theatre’s 2019-2020 season had to be canceled because of the pandemic. This includes all performances of “Hansel & Gretl & Heidi & Günter” and “The Wedding Singer,” as well as the last two weeks of “She Loves Me.”
Darr, of Seattle, was playing Ilona in “She Loves Me” when COVID-19 hit. The musical that inspired the film “You’ve Got Mail” had been scheduled to run Feb. 28 through March 22 at the Everett Performing Arts Center.
But then the musical was postponed — and then the last 15 or so shows canceled — as Washington shut down to slow the spread of the virus.
“My mom asked me what it was like,” Darr said. “I told her, ‘You know that scene in ‘Back to the Future’ when Marty McFly is playing guitar and his hand starts to disappear? That’s what it felt like. It was like watching it all twinkle and fade into starlight.’”
“She Loves Me” is based on the play “Parfumerie.” Perfumery shop clerks Amalia and Georg have never quite seen eye to eye, but what they don’t know is that they have already fallen in love — as “lonely hearts” pen pals.
In addition to “She Loves Me,” “Parfumerie” also inspired the movies “The Shop Around the Corner” (1940), starring James Stewart and Margaret Sullavan, “In the Good Old Summertime” (1949), with Judy Garland and Van Johnson, and, of course, “You’ve Got Mail” (1998), starring Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan.
The last showing of “She Loves Me” was March 8. Darr vividly remembers that performance. Right before she took her bow, she was thinking about how much she didn’t want that show to be her last. She didn’t want “She Loves Me” to be cut short because of the coronavirus.
Darr, who also has performed with 5th Avenue Theatre and Seattle Children’s Theatre, said she wasn’t done yet playing Ilona — that she wanted more time in the show’s perfumery shop. When the cast met at the Everett Performing Arts Center to pick up their belongings left in the dressing rooms, she stopped to take a photo of the ghost light — left on the stage so that the theater never goes dark.
“I looked at the set with the ghost light shining on it, and I just cried,” she said. “I was just so sad. I’ve missed a show due to illness, I got injured once and missed the rest of a performance, but it’s never just stopped like that. It was a bummer not to have the closure.”
Darr, who holds a bachelor’s degree in drama from the University of Washington, has performed with Village Theatre for 20 years.
Most notably, she played Sandy in 2000’s “Grease, starred as Nellie in 2004’s “South Pacific,” was Roxie in “Chicago” in 2013, and Maggie in the Village original “The Noteworthy Life of Howard Barnes” in 2018. She also played that role in the Festival of New Musicals in 2013.
Darr was cast as Linda in “The Wedding Singer” before it was canceled.
Associate Artistic Director Brandon Ivie called Darr a triple threat because she sings, dances and acts. Make that a quadruple threat, he said — she has crack comedic timing.
“I love working with Taryn because she is so technical and scientific about her comedy. We share that,” Ivie said. “I have so much fun working through bits with Taryn. She’ll say, ‘Is it funnier if I go walk, walk, look, or if I go walk, walk, walk, look? How many steps should I take?’
“And then I’ll watch and maybe say, ‘I actually think it’s funniest if you walk, walk, walk, pause, look’ — and she’ll smile and we’ve found this great little piece of gold together.”
Without stage performance, Darr is doing what she can to get back into working with kids. (Darr served as a director or choreographer for Village Theatre’s KidStage for about five years.) She also teaches drama at Seattle-area high schools and will choreograph and direct their plays and musicals. Locally, she’s worked with Kamiak High School in Mukilteo for the past four years. If COVID-19 doesn’t put a stop to it, she’ll work with Bishop Blanchet High School in Seattle this fall.
“I’ve done a few things online since then — yes, I want to be artistic and share those things — but it’s just not the same,” Darr said. “Not even close.”
She recorded “Musical Theater Mishaps” videos for Village Theatre’s blog, in which she tells about the mistakes she’s made on stage. She had fun with it — but for her it just wasn’t the same as performing in front of a live audience. Especially Village Theatre’s Everett audiences.
“The audience is part of the production,” Darr said. “They’re the last element you add, and the best element you add, because they change and shape the show in ways that you’d never imagine. They end up laughing at things you didn’t even think were funny and they don’t even chitter at a joke you worked at so hard.”