To complement the upcoming Sons of the Desert International Convention, the Harlem High School Drama Department is breathing new life into one Hollywood's most famous comedic duos by portraying their life stories in Take a Smile: The Life and Times of Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy.
"I am honored and flattered that the city of Harlem asked me to do it," said Roy Lewis, Harlem High's drama director. "It is extremely exciting."
The musical chronicles the lives of Laurel and Hardy from the beginning of their separate careers, their meeting and their successful partnership through Hardy's 1957 death, Lewis said.
"It's a great show," he said.
The musical will hit the stage at 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday at the Harlem High School theater.
Tickets cost $6 and are available at the door.
The Sons of the Desert International Convention, held by Harlem's Oliver Hardy appreciation society, the Berth Marks Tent, runs Wednesday through Sunday, July 16, and includes lots of Laurel and Hardy-theme events.
Hardy was born in Harlem in 1892.
Lewis said he was sent the manuscript, originally intended to be a screenplay, by the two British men who wrote it - Ron Day and Paul Maratos. Harlem High's version will be the production's American premiere.
Lewis and the production's musical director Phillip Streetman, who also is Columbia Middle School choral director, spent months painstakingly revising the manuscript and putting lyrics and music into the production.
Lewis said he cast the production in May, with rising senior Elias Wilson as Laurel and graduate Nathan Hartfell, now studying at Georgia Southern University, playing Hardy.
But for the students and former students cast in the slapstick musical, it has been a large commitment to practice three days a week during the summer, Lewis said.
"They are having a good time and learning a lot," Lewis said. "They have really enjoyed watching the movies and they are having a good time reliving the history of these two guys."
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