The Music Man to be performed July 11-14 By Parker Knox The key word in Vermillion Community Theatreâ�?�?s name is the middle one, â�?�?community.â�? Blending a diverse amalgamation of grade school, high school, community and university talent both onstage and off, VCT has produced an exhilarating rendition of one of Americaâ�?�?s most popular musicals, Meredith Wilsonâ�?�?s The Music Man, and for more than a hundred people who have worked on the project, Friday night is show time. The stage of the Vermillion High School Theatre will be transformed into River City, Wilsonâ�?�?s version of his own hometown of Mason City, IA, vintage 1912, for four performances at 7:30 p.m. Friday, Saturday and Monday and at 2 p.m. Sunday. Last Sunday as the majority of local residents were in the final throes of their holiday weekend â�?�? at the river, at the golf course, at family events or at the fireworks shops â�?�? members of The Music Man cast and crews were indoors at the high school, prepping for what would become an eight-hour day. More than 50 cast members were warming up with vocal exercises with musical director Anthony Burbach and a combination of stretching, bending and leaning with choreographer Jonnie Stapleton. At the same time stage manager Miles Brindley, assistant Sarah Rasmussen, and volunteers were preparing sets, checking cues and sliding into position a railroad passenger car, the setting for the showâ�?�?s opening scene. Incoming volunteers joining the crew for the final week of rehearsal runs were being given instructions. Costumer Jamie Danielson, whose job never ends, right up until show time, was answering questions from cast members and examining clothing items and props the actors had found on their own. Scenic designer Rick Johns was adding touches to the set to beautify â�?�?River City.â�? Lighting chief Dennis Chandler was high on the spotlight level at the rear of the theatre, making sure things were in working order. From below the stage in the orchestra pit were coming the sounds of violinists and brass and woodwind players, part of an 18-person band, tuning their instruments in order to accompany a show they see and hear only through TV monitors. Marveling at the beehive of activity as she answered questions and made executive decisions, director Nanette Hofer praised the commitment evident in the show. â�?�?Putting together a musical is demanding and time-consuming,â�? said Hofer, a recent USD graduate with a master of fine arts in theatre direction who will stay for another year to complete a masters in vocal performance. â�?�?I am consistently amazed at the level of commitment. There is a real spirit of community in this cast. Seeing them help each other in a pinch is refreshing, and watching them come to rehearsals with positive attitudes has been a real treat.â�? Whereas the commitment to The Music Man began on June 1 for a majority of the cast, for Hofer and the rest of her production crew, the show has been a presence in their minds for several months. â�?�?There is a lot of research a director has to do before she presents her concept to the production team for a cohesive production,â�? Hofer observed. â�?�?We met several times before we held auditions to make sure we were on the same page before the designers went to work.â�? When approached by Burbach, who is VCT board president, about directing the show, Hofer hesitated because of a variety of prior summer commitments. But she had past experience as musical director for a production of The Music Man. Knowing it to be a well-written, audience-favorite, fun-to-perform show, she made the jump anyway. Burbach, a USD student who is also a local church musician, has been onstage for past VCT shows, but he prefers behind-the-scenes work, though from his perch just above the orchestra pit and just below the stage, he is the lone connection between the musicians below and the actors above. â�?�?Most of my satisfaction comes from working with friends and getting to know new people,â�? Burbach commented. â�?�?The ultimate satisfaction comes on opening night when the final product is a great success.â�? The time-honored tradition that â�?�?the show must go onâ�? came into play last month for this showâ�?�?s company when set designer and builder Brian Adams was injured in an accident and subsequently hospitalized twice. Burbach and recruited volunteers jumped in to continue set-building and decorating, creating some long days in the theatre even before the cast arrived for evening rehearsals, Burbach said. The Music Man is a prime example of what a musical is all about â�?�? â�?�?great dance numbers, fun characters and well-known catchy music.â�? When it comes to dance numbers, Stapleton, a recent USD theatre graduate who is headed to California soon, will leave his work on this show as his Vermillion legacy. High-energy production numbers abound in The Music Man, and Stapleton, who also plays Marcellus Washburn onstage, has made dancers out of non-dancers, which can be a real trick. Local audiences are sure to roar with approval especially at Stapletonâ�?�?s staging of â�?�?Seventy-Six Trombones,â�? â�?�?Shipoopiâ�? and the library dance. There is no question that one character by example lifts the energy level of the entire cast in this show. That challenge befalls Steve Miller, pastor of the Vermillion UCC church and veteran VCT performer, in the role of Professor Harold Hill. â�?�?Harold Hill is a lovable con man who trips over his own game and ends up being taught the power of his own pitch â�?�? that of a changed attitude and the strength of believing,â�? Miller said in describing the man he portrays. â�?�?His over-the-top schmoozing is my favorite part, but keeping him believable and likable is the hardest part, besides all the dancing.â�? Early in the show Professor Hill has to convince the River citizens that the presence of a new pool table will lead the young people down the path to degradation and that, to counteract it, they need to fund his promise of a boys band, complete with uniforms, instruments and instruction booklets. He accomplishes the feat in â�?�?Trouble,â�? one of the best show-stoppers in Broadway musical history. â�?�?It is an honor and a blast to perform and sell that song,â�? said Miller, who along with his family has been active in community theatre since moving here 13 years ago. His introduction to the Vermillion theatre scene came in the role of Snoopy, the dancing dog in Youâ�?�?re a Good Man, Charlie Brown, but his favorite role up to now has been as Stage Manager, the lead role in Thornton Wilderâ�?�?s Our Town. Miller, whose sons convinced him he should audition for the role of Harold Hill, described it as â�?�?an absolute blastâ�? to get to act with his children, three of whom are part of the cast. One of them, 10-year-old Seth, is a show-stopper himself in the role of Winthrop, who begins the show as a shy, withdrawn lisper but who by the final curtain has come out of his shell and is brimming with self-confidence. Miller sees the appeal of The Music Man to be that â�?�?we see ourselves all over it. Harold, Marian, Winthrop, the mayor, the Pick-a-Little Ladies are all people we know and love. We are River City, and we want to believe in happy endings. We want to believe that we can think our way into a new reality.â�? At the top of the list of River citizens who falls for Professor Hillâ�?�?s â�?�?Think Systemâ�? is Marian the librarian, played by USD musical theatre major Lindsey Straw of Ralston, NE. Local residents may recognize her between shows as a waitress at Cherry Street Grille. â�?�?The thing I enjoy most about the character of Marian is the challenge of playing her,â�? Straw said. â�?�?She isnâ�?�?t the stereotypical cheesy musical character that people so often associate with musical theatre. She has so many layers, and I have the liberty to choose how to display them to the audience. She is complex, which makes the process far from boring or mundane.â�? Straw said she has been impressed during the five weeks of rehearsals which concluded this week with the work ethic of everyone in the cast. â�?�?Itâ�?�?s always fun because there isnâ�?�?t the underlying competitive aura surrounding the show. Everyone seems to support everyone else, and I love that.â�? The Music Man is Strawâ�?�?s second outing with Vermillion Community Theatre. She appeared in The Fantasticks two years ago. Her favorite role at USD has been that of Curleyâ�?�?s wife in Steinbeckâ�?�?s Of Mice and Men. Last summer she toured with USDâ�?�?s My Way, a Frank Sinatra tribute. Doug Peterson is cast as the bumbling, flustered Mayor Shinn who, try as he might, never gets farther in delivering Lincolnâ�?�?s Gettysburg Address than the first two words. Gretchen Burbach plays his wife, Eulalie, whom the audience will adore as the leader of River Cityâ�?�?s ballet ladies. Sam Miller plays Tommy Djilas, the â�?�?wild kidâ�? from the wrong side of town who thrives as the leader of the boysâ�?�? band and as a thorn in the mayorâ�?�?s side. Sarah Axtell is Zaneeta Shinn, the mayorâ�?�?s daughter. Four men who may have found second careers as barbershop performers, once the show ends its run, are the school board members who quit bickering long enough to create gorgeous music while tracking down Professor Hillâ�?�?s non-existent band director credentials. The singers are Troy Stephens, David Hulac, Ryan Schuknecht and Charles Thatcher. Other prominent roles are played by Brody Stone as Charlie Cowell, the anvil salesman who tries to save the reputation of traveling salesmen in general from the illicit practices of Harold Hill, and Erin Conlin as Marianâ�?�?s and Winthropâ�?�?s mother, Mrs. Paroo. Other members of the onstage cast include Randy Gingiss, Kurt Hackemer, Michael Kriener, Lucus Zimmerman, Caleb Miller, Donald Pryce, Crosby King, Carrie Prentice, Marley Hanson, Anna Hackemer, Amanda Aga, Mecia Graham, Jennifer Braunstein, Chrissy Eide, Leah Keating, Judy Sykes, Nancy McCahren, Marcine King, Julie Potter, Kathy Kaminski, Lynn LaMie, Evelyn Schlenker, Katherine Zimmerman, Jessica Braunstein, Harley Blue, Kennedy Blue, Kate Brockevelt, Mackenzie Stone, Rylan Craig, Abigail Burbach, Morgan Graham, Kourtney Seibel, Sarah Rosacker, Hope Knedler, Marshal Knedler, Briscis Schnack, Nathan Ford, Jacob Ford, Kaya Lewis, Carver King, Hannah Ford, Jamie Moos, Kylie Kuiper, Valerie Moos, Brenden Raizola, Jackie Hulse, Teagan McNary, Ellen Hanson, Randy LaMie, Sarah Rasmussen, Jasmine Blue, Rozzie LaMie, Sabrina Schnack, Tyler Husby and Jamie Danielson. Adult tickets are $12 and student tickets $6. Children under 5 are admitted free. Tickets are available in advance at HyVee, Davis Pharmacy and Nook â�?�?nâ�?�? Cranny but also at the theatre door. All seats are general admission, and the house will open to ticketholders 30 minutes before curtain time. As Zaneeta Shinn would say, â�?�?Ye gods! This is a great show!â�?
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