For those who pursue and undertake a career in the arts, it’s a lifelong journey. Canadian Karlee Squires has been in a wide variety of musical and nonmusical theater productions ranging from classics such as “The Wizard of Oz”, “Sugar”, and “The Music Man” to court tales that infuse comedy and drama. Depending on the project and her role you might see her singing an iconic Broadway solo, dancing a choreographed ballet piece, or supplying the comic relief that diffuses the tension of the action. Karlee’s inspiration comes just as much from the early part of the past century as it does the current one. The tradition of musical theater has long been her comfort zone but a modern day entertainer such as Squires finds herself in an eclectic array of roles and productions. The uncertainty of the next role is something that all those involved in the entertainment industry make peace with but Karlee seems to revel in the surprise that awaits herself and her peers as, from this situation comes creation…which is the lifeblood of all creative individuals.
Karlee was very young when her mother took her to see The Nutcracker in Alberta (Canada). It was at this moment that she fell in love with Clara and the wonderment of the live production. There was something tangible and visceral about seeing the artists move right in front of her and deliver this incredible story. Years later, she has performed in massive venues to clamoring crowds herself but has never forgotten the imprinting of this occasion. This led to Squires involvement in groups like the CAC (Creative Arts Company). CAC is a 5-star, award winning production company that inspires, enriches, and educates through the performing and visual arts. This group of professional performers and educators with international, national, off-Broadway and Broadway experience serves as an outreach to inspire and entertain children, schools, hospitals, and the military.
One of Karlee’s most fond memories of being involved with the CAC is the (seasonally appropriate) Happy Halloween House. Appearing as Jack Skellington (the Pumpkin King), Squires had a lead role in this interactive presentation geared towards children. The show included many favorite Halloween characters, like Casper the Ghost, Elphaba the Good Witch, Scarecrow, Captain Jack Sparrow, the Orange Fairy, Shewolf, and Mother Gothel. The show begins by whisking the audience off to the Happy Halloween House and meeting all of the characters. The show included Halloween songs, group numbers and solos, and dancing with all of the children. Karlee/Jack’s solo comes close to the end of the show singing ‘What’s This?!’ from The Nightmare Before Christmas. It’s prompted by him finding Christmas ornaments on stage and after never seeing anything quite like it before he begins to spin around, going a little crazy and exploring the rest of the space, audience, and children.
Shannon Sukovaty (director of Happy Halloween House) professes, “I cast Karlee in the role of Jack because I knew she could handle the extreme physicality of this role. Her strong background in dancing and singing is essential to this acting role. Those who have seen the now classic film (The Nightmare Before Christmas) know that Jack is extremely animated in his motions and is the central character. His singing is a very unusual. His solo is a patter song consisting of many words and paragraphs of material to sing while running around stage dancing and engaging the audience. Just as important is the energy of Jack. It’s a very demanding role and Karlee performed as Jack perfectly. CAC prides ourselves in delivering incredible performances but also in taking time to spend with the audience and show appreciation. Karlee recalls, “One little girl in particular, was really attached to me during the show and autograph signing. She was probably only six or seven and came with her mom dressed in a little witch costume. She followed me around the stage whenever we asked the kids to come up to dance. She wanted to talk and tell me her life story, as six year olds do. After the show I gave her a personalized autograph and took a few pictures with her. She is one child for whom I know I made their Halloween special and that makes me love my job even more. It reminded me of how I felt when I was very young and was mesmerized by ‘The Nutcracker.’ I feel strongly about being involved in these kind of situations and not solely focusing on those which take place in state of the art theaters with huge crowds. You have to feed both sides to truly appreciate your own good fortune.”
There’s no type casting someone like Squires who constantly seeks out new and diverse roles to be challenged with. As evidence, she has recently been cast in the role of Heather Chandler in the musical “Heathers” based on the 1989 film starring Winona Ryder. Chandler is completely different from the friendly Karlee, which only served to draw her more to the character. Exorcizing her inner teen drama demon, Karlee can be seen shouting and insulting others on stage, as well as sharing her lovely singing voice. This triple threat knows where she has been and where she is going, and is quick to share the journey with those who join her.