Somewhere in Time at Portland Center Stage

Portland Center Stage’s world premiere of the musical, Somewhere in Time, launched a fleet of thoughts for me. When a work brings emotion days after I’ve seen it, I know I have been in the presence of something powerful.

Somewhere in Time felt like going back in time, theatre-wise. To the days of old-fashioned musicals* when falling in love was a one-minute process and it was okay to be sentimental and charming. I was doubtful it would have a lasting effect. But it really did stay with me, a tribute to the excellence of this production. 

Richard Collier, an “aw, shucks” guy with a humble grin, has been given less than a year to live. (Confession here: I saw the movie when I was 12 or 13, and nobody could ever measure up to that handsome, hazy memory of Christopher Reeve in this role. That movie was one of the reasons I couldn’t wait to see this show.) 

Collier sees the sepia-hued photograph of starlet Elise McKenna, who has since grown old and died. He can’t get her out of his mind, and finds a sense of purpose in putting together mysterious clues that hint of how he might defy the laws of time and meet this woman. That’s where the story begins, and it stays simple. 

Somewhere in Time gently overrides your brain, engaging you to enjoy the sweetness and well-delivered lines without caring about the hair-thin plot. I loved the lark-voiced Hannah Elless as Elise. The music is lush and old-fashioned in a good way, and Andrew Samonksy is an impressive vocalist as Richard Collier. “And yet” is a beautiful duet that would melt any cynic.   

I especially liked that before we went back in time, we went back in time. We started in the 80s, with fluffy-haired characters and preppy clothing, and then moved backward to the early 1900s. The costumes were gorgeous and amazing.

For me, the sentimentality comes a bit too close to Hallmark. My husband, on the other hand, wouldn’t change a thing about this production. My favorite moments were unexpected weird humor from the lovesick librarian (Lizzie Klemperer), as she is ignored by our hero. (But I couldn’t think about it too long, or I’d get mad about librarian-stereotyping.)  

This is not an intricate story. It is far from sci-fi. But here’s where the simplicity caught me off guard. I thought about it for days, about what this means to us as human beings traveling through this dream of life.

At the beginning of his research, Collier is warned about the conditions of foraying into the past. When traveling back in time, one must never allow a modern object in view. Put away every threat—from a wristwatch to a drinking glass to a ball point pen. This could pull you out of the trancelike condition necessary. It could end your journey forever.

I thought: don’t we all have certain objects, items, people, distractions, that pull us out of the places we really want to be? For me, distractions of the Internet, or how my book is selling (or not selling), or the emails in my inbox, or the paperwork on my desk—these are the things that pull me away from my highest purposes. 

I wrote in my journal: I want to be filled with my purpose, creating beauty. What takes me out of my dream, away from what I love? One simple distraction can take up my brain space and destroy my focus.

How about you? What is it that takes you out of your best world? 

*Isn't it funny that my brain thinks I was there in those days? My favorite musicals, Singing in the Rain, the King and I, and the Sound of Music, are all from the fifties and sixties, years before I was born. 

Photo credits: Portland Center Stage, by Patrick Weishampel.

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