August 5-6, Evans Amphitheater
Saturday 8pm, Sunday 2pm
Sunday 1pm pre-performance talk by Bill Rudman for ticket holders, The Musical Theater Project
There might be trouble in River City, but there is a whole lot of family fun going on at Cain Park in the beginning of August. Newly named Artistic Director Joanna May Hunkins has decided to bring back the big brassy musical to the Evans Amphitheater. She is joined by esteemed Musical Director Jordan Cooper. And as the song talks about the 6 pockets in the pool table, here are my 6 reasons why an outting to Cain Park to see The Music Man is a great choice.
1. The Show.
There’s trouble in River City when a fast-talking salesman gets his heart stolen by the town librarian! The Music Man follows fast-talking traveling salesman Harold Hill (Eric Fancher) as he cons the people of River City, Iowa into buying instruments and uniforms for a boys’ band he vows to organize – this despite the fact he doesn’t know a trombone from a treble clef. His plans to skip town with the cash are foiled when he falls for Marian the librarian (Nicole Sumlin), who transforms him into a respectable citizen by the end of the night. By turns wicked, funny, warm, romantic and touching, The Music Man is family entertainment at its best. Meredith Willson’s six-time, Tony Award winning musical comedy has been entertaining audiences since 1957 and is a family-friendly story to be shared with every generation. Cain Park’s production features Liza Grossman and the Contemporary Youth Orchestra performing the music on the stage of the Evans Amphitheater, while the actors stand in front of the orchestra singing the show’s timeless classics.
2. The Venue.
The Evans amphitheater had its grand opening in August 1938 with the staging of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.” Plays, operas, concerts, and other cultural events have been held at Cain Park ever since. Dr. Dina Rees Evans, meanwhile, continued to serve as managing director of Cain Park Theater until 1950. She attracted top-flight young talent to the theater company, including music director Jack Lee, producer Ross Hunter, and actors Hal Holbrook, Dom DeLuise, Carol Kane, Jack Weston and Pernell Roberts. Evans retired from teaching in 1958. The amphitheater was renamed in her honor in 1989.
3. The Cast.
A group of over 60 local actors, both equity and community actors, and some local families as well.
Harold Hill…Eric Fancher (pictured above right)
Marian…Nicole Sumlin* (pictured above left)
Mrs. Paroo…Nan Golz
Mrs. Shinn…Jeanne Task
Mayor Shinn…Darryl Lewis*
Gracie Shinn…Sun-Hee Smith
Tommy Djilas…Frank Ivancic
Constable/Conductor…Jon M. Fancher
Carlie Cowell…Jim Bray*
Alma Hix…Kate Michalski
Maud Dunlop…Corlesia Smith
Mrs. Squires…Julie Sabroff
Ethel Toffelmeir…Sarah Clare
The River City School Board Quartet…The Cornerstone Quartet (Fred Locker, Chris Foisy, Mike Sabo, David Hipp)
Ensemble: Anna Barrett, Jeffrey Bendix, Joan Bendix, Stephen Bundy, Nicolas Bustamante, David Cooper, Deborah Cooper, Lexi Cowan, Mary DeNunzio, Kennedy Ellis, Courtney Foerg, Trey Gilpin, Jade Gladue, Johnathon L. Jackson, Lily Kerr-Jung, Rose Leininger, Gabriel Mallamad, Ryan Michaels, Lili Evangelina Miller, Ryan C. Miller, Scott Miller, Shawn Miller, Luca Mokotoff, Sienna Mokotoff, Brian Mueller, Elisha Mueller, Keegan Polatz, Connor Logan Reese, Will Sanborn, Olivia Sislow, Nick Sobotka, Jake Spencer, Sam Spencer, Kathleen Sullivan, August Sumlin, Rosie Tilk, Cecilia Willets, Cordelia Willets, Grace Willmott, Robin Woods, Hannah Woodside
This cast is a beautiful example of casting roles in this truly iconic American musical, with diversity at the core of its principles. Inclusiveness is the theme, and one to be heralded and enjoyed.
4. Conductor Liza Grossman and the Contempory Youth Orchestra.
Liza Grossman is the founding Music Director of the Contemporary Youth Orchestra. Liza has worked with some pretty amazing people in some spectacular places, too: Blossom Music Center. Severance Hall. Nautica Stage. Interlochen. Liza has conducted major artists performing major works on these stages and more, including 20 world-premiere concertos performed by members of the Cleveland Orchestra, nationally recognized musicians and prominent jazz artists. She has conducted more than 300 orchestral world premieres, all with the composers present, including Bernard Rands, Robert Ward and Joan Tower. It is thrilling that this partnership will provide an orchestrial backdrop to this incredible concert production of The Music Man. “Don’t let our name fool you: We’re youthful in energy and passion, but professional in quality, delivery, and repertoire.”
5. Bill Rudman and The Musical Theatre Project Performance Talk.
BILL RUDMAN is an educator, a broadcaster, a producer and the founder of The Musical Theater Project. As TMTP’s Artistic Director, he has created more than 40 concerts and cabarets that celebrate and share musical theater as a uniquely American art form. His radio programs, “Footlight Parade” and “On the Aisle,” are heard across the country on public radio stations, Public Radio Exchange (prx.org) and Sirius XM Satellite Radio. In 1983, he and New York author Ken Bloom co-founded Harbinger Records, a label that has won critical praise for albums devoted to the American musical and the Great American Songbook. In 2000 he became the first recipient of the Robert Bergman Award for his work in arts education and community outreach. Mr. Rudman will lead a fascinating discussion about The Music Man and its creation. Sunday 1pm pre-performance talk by Bill Rudman for ticket holders, The Musical Theater Project
6. The Interview
Last week I had a chance to sit down with Eric Fancher (Harold Hill), Nicole Sumlin (Marian Paroo), and Musical Director Jordan Cooper. I wanted to know their first memory of The Music Man. Sumlin stated that she was in high school, and it was one of those “let’s show a video in class day”. She has been singing since she was 3, but when she listened to The Music Man, that young lady wondered would she ever get a chance to sing those songs. She was captivated. Fancher was 4 years old, and grew up in a musical family environment. He remembers his parents putting on The Music Man, and he proceeded to dance around the living room pretending to be Harold Hill. Cooper was also around 4 or 5 when he first heard the show. He remembers being overwhelmed with the music, and described the experience as magical. That moment of exhilaration started his love affair with the piano.
Is there a lasting impression from when you saw or remember The Music Man? Sumlin stated it was the Quartet singing, and the fabulous counter melody that Marian gets to sing with Lida Rose. Fancher responded with a more historical reference, by saying the musical reminded him that the show was truly a classic and groundbreaking “American” Musical. Cooper reiterated the love affair with the piano, and how that musical transported a young man’s path to musical heights.
We then turned to the question of what is unique to this production. Sumlin stated that she was honored to have the chance to play Marian Paroo and sing her songs. This could have only happened due to the bold and artistic choice to have a cast with diversity. To be able to handle a role not traditionally cast black, but to look at this project as an oppurtunity for young people to see a cast of all race and ethnicity tell this truly American Musical filled with true Americans. African-Americans can offer the world more than Gospel and Jazz, and this show offers some classical song delivery. And what a joy that her son Easton Sumlin is playing Winthrop. Cooper stated that this particular production is a testament to diversity. He also stated that working in tandem with Liza Grossman has been a truly professional collaboration. Cooper will be in the pit playing the piano, while Grossman will be conducting. He said the process of putting the music performance together was inspiring.
My final thoughts. The story is about who you are, not what you are. Let people be drawn to the characters these talented actors will create. America is a melting pot. Diversity in casting should be celebrated, but hopefully not that surprising anymore. Tell the story. The story is about family and a town who finds redemption and grace through believing. And in the end, isn’t that what we want for America?
CSA – Kevin
* Actor’s Equity Association