MUSCATINE, Iowa–While most people do not associate Muscatine with filming, it took only a little theatrical magic to convert a portion of downtown Muscatine into a perfect set piece for an independent movie musical. July 20, director Douglas Larche, members of the University of Iowa Cinematic Arts and Fine Arts and Theatre Departments, and several local actors came together to film a portion of “Angels in the Snow” on Pine Street.
Set in post World War II Berlin, “Angels in the Snow” tells the stories of three couples divided by the Berlin Wall and the lengths they go to to reunite. Originally written 20 years ago by Larche, his late son Jason Larche, and Susan Elliott as a stage musical, Larche later wrote a screenplay of it and composed a new score for it.
After scouting several different locations for filming sections of the movie, Larche decided some of the historic brick buildings in Downtown Muscatine would make an excellent backdrop for outdoor scenes set in East Berlin. Over the course of about three hours, actors turned the back of the Schmarje Tool Company building into a convincing East German street scene, complete with several antique cars. The actors who came to Muscatine enjoyed the time spent working on location. “The cast and crew was elated to shoot in Muscatine,” said Julisa Marcel, a part of the production team. “Not only did the location fit the look of the film, but the persons involved in procuring the space, to include the kind and efficient police officers who assisted us in clearing the space on the day of, were helpful and enthusiastic.”
“Angels in the Snow” features a diverse cast, including actors from around the country and around the world. The show even included some Muscatine actors, including Tyler Hagy, a graduate of Muscatine High School who went on to study music at Luther College and later received a pair of masters degrees in it at the University of Cambridge (England) and the Cincinnati Conservatory of Music. Another Muscatine resident, Jen Palmer, along with her family, even featured in some of the Muscatine on site filming.
Though producing a film musical during a pandemic proved challenging, the cast and crew took many steps to stay healthy and to keep those around them safe too. These included daily health screenings and temperature checks, frequent hand washing, and wearing masks during rehearsals and when not filming. While in Muscatine, they brought only a limited number of actors and did not heavily publicize their filming to keep crowds from forming to watch.
With filming of “Angels in the Snow” completed, the movie will premiere in Iowa City before eventually receiving wider screenings either at movie theaters or via digital streaming platforms.