Theater — Music Man to run three weekends

by Michelle Saturley

Revival marks theater company’s 15th anniversary right here in the Queen City


If you think you’ve already seen the Majestic Theatre put on Meredith Wilson’s The Music Man, you’re right. But then again, if you think it’s an exact replica of the show the Majestic produced previously, you’re wrong.

“Since this is our fifteenth anniversary, we decided to do a revival of one of our most popular shows, using as much of the original cast as we could,” said Majestic’s artistic director Rob Dionne, who will once again suit up to play Harold Hill, the fast-talking flim-flam artist who scams the entire town of Mason City, Iowa, into thinking he’s the savior of the town’s youth by offering to lead a marching band.

Also returning is Tina Brannen as Marion Peroo, the “spinster” librarian in Mason City who is at first repelled by Hill and then falls in love with him, even though she knows he’s a con artist. Candace Glickman, who was part of the children’s cast in the original Majestic production, will return as the choreographer of this show. Renee Bouchard is the musical director.

Directing the production is Jude Bascom, who did extensive research about the real Mason City, Iowa, in the early 1900’s to prepare for the show.

“I wanted the show to be a balance of what people expect when they come to see The Music Man and some of my own vision of the show,” she said. “I think the original play by Meredith Wilson was meant to be a valentine to the people of Mason City, not a caricature. So I’ve tried to incorporate that into my interpretation of the show.”

Bascom tried to keep preconceived notions of the popular film starring Robert Preston and Shirley Jones out of her mind when creating her vision of the musical.

“I haven’t really thought about staying true to the movie,” she said. “I’m trying to stay true to what was Meredith Wilson’s original intent. I’m trying to capture the charm, the Americana, of the show. But there are certain expectations of The Music Man: a large ensemble, lots of dancing, tableaus that capture that small-town quaintness. All of those elements will be there.”

One goal Bascom achieved was to create a multi-generational cast that is truly representative of what a real town would be.

“Our youngest cast member is six years old, and it goes up to our eldest cast member in their mid-sixties,” she said. “It makes a much better ensemble that way, but it wasn’t without challenges.”

One of the challenges, Bascom said, was the wide range of stage experience among the cast.

“That’s true of any community theater, not just in this show,” she said. “We started out the rehearsal process by sharing our stage experiences with the cast, and trying to gain a common ground. Some of the actors with more experience were encouraged to share what they know with the newer actors to get everyone on the same level.”

Another casting challenge that is unique to the show was finding enough men to fill all the roles.

“The Music Man has quite a few male vocal parts,” Bascom said. “One of the hardest things we had to cast was the barbershop quartet. Rob and I had to pool our collective resources and send out e-mails to other theater groups we know to look for the four men. Not only did they have to be able to act and sing, but they had to learn the harmonies that are so important to the show.”

Other changes to this production will include an extended stage, with wings built out and multiple levels of acting space, as well as an extended schedule. The show will run three consecutive weekends, June 10, 11, 12, 17, 18 and 19, and 24, 25 and 26.

Dionne says he’s not daunted by the three-weekend run of the show.

“We’ve had what I would consider a very short production schedule, and we did that on purpose,” he said. “Normally, with a show this size, you’d have an eight-week rehearsal schedule, but we’ve done it in six weeks, because we want to keep it fresh. We don’t want the actors to get bored. We want them to feel the energy of this show right through the third weekend.”

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