2012-07-06 / Front Page

Taking laughs to Alaska

Musical comedy “Gold Rush Girls” ready for Anchorage opening
By Michael Kelley
Staff Writer

Karmo Sanders’ theatrical comedy may be well known here in Maine through her portrayal of Birdie Googins, the Marden’s Lady, but next month a whole new audience more than 4,000 miles away will be introduced to the comedic mind of Sanders.

Last week Sanders and her husband, Jerry, headed to Anchorage, Alaska, to prepare for a six-week staging of their musical comedy, “Gold Rush Girls,” at Cyrano’s Theatre. The theater celebrates its 20th anniversary this year.

“It is on the exact other side of the country, but geographically it’s perfect because it is about the gold rush (in Alaska in the 1890s),” Sanders said.

This will be the first official staging of the show, although it was staged through the Boston Playwrights’ Theater and in a two-week workshop in 2007 at the New Repertory Theater in Watertown, Mass. An informal reading was held a year later with local actors at the St. Lawrence Center for the Arts in Portland.

“Gold Rush Girls,” a musical written by Karmo and Jerry Sanders, will be staged at Cyrano’s Theater in Anchorage, Alaska. (Courtesy photos) “Gold Rush Girls,” a musical written by Karmo and Jerry Sanders, will be staged at Cyrano’s Theater in Anchorage, Alaska. (Courtesy photos) The musical started in 2001 as a playwriting assignment Sanders had to do while in the master creative writing program at Boston University. The musical is inspired by “The Good Time Girls,” a nonfiction book by Lael Morgan that profiles women of the Alaska-Yukon gold rush. Morgan is a friend of Sanders’ who has supported the musical from the start.

The first song written for the musical, Sanders said, came from music her husband, a composer, was working on one night. Sanders said she recalled hearing the song and knowing it would be perfect for the musical.

From that point the couple continued working on the musical, song-by-song, line-by-line and scene-by-scene.

“We’ve continued working on this for years,” Sanders said. “We are very happy now that it is finally going up.”

Officially the musical’s script was written by Sanders, the music by her husband, with both of them writing the lyrics, but over the years the work has been so collaborative, Sanders said she has forgotten who did what.

“It is hard to tell who did what and when, so we just say it is presented by Sanders and Sanders,” she said.

The musical takes place during one day in the late 1890s during the Klondike Gold Rush and tells the story of Eudora Horn, who builds Paradise, the greatest dance hall in the Yukon. Horn, living the high life, falls in love, but not with Barker Jones, the man she is trying to escape from. Jones, a man filled with desire and greed, is out to win Horn back, at any cost.

Sanders said, as a fan of Rogers and Hammerstein, a duo that has written songs in many iconic Broadway plays, her goal for her musical is to “have the audience leave singing.” Samples of songs from the musical can be heard at goldrushmusical.com.

“It is all about getting people into the theater and enjoying it,” Sanders said.

The Sanders, who have never been to Alaska before, will be in the state for about a month working with the musical’s directors and cast before it opens on Friday, July 27.

This is not the first time the couple has joined forces to write a musical. In 1991, the couple worked with Steve Underwood on “Spellbound” a children’s musical, at the Brunswick Theater Project. The group collaborated again in 1995 to write, produce and act in “Radical Radio,” a musical that premiered at the Playhouse 91, an Off- Broadway theater in Manhattan that has since closed. The play also toured the east coast for several years.

Staff Writer Michael Kelley can be reached at 282-4337, ext. 237.

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