For big dance numbers, incredible music, and a story about redemption, step right up to see Shippensburg high school Drama Club’s rendition of “The Music Man” on March 8, 9, and 10.
The club’s spring musical, directed by Luke Reed, follows the story of a stubborn, small-minded town transformed by the unlikely union of a fast-talking con man named Harold Hill and a spinster, piano-playing librarian named Marian Paroo. Hill cons the town’s residents into buying instruments and uniforms for a boys’ band that he promises to organize, even though he doesn’t know a thing about music. Hill’s plans to skip town with the cash are foiled when he falls for Paroo, and he shows that people can change for the better.
Reed said he thinks “The Music Man” has a very deep story, because it shows how people can make good on their promises and redeem themselves.
The spring musical features more than 80 high school students in the cast, production team, or pit orchestra.
“It serves many, many students,” Reed said, noting the musical has a lot of dance numbers. “It's one big number after big number after big number.” Characters will have instruments at times, and even marching band and color guard members will share the stage by the end of the two-hour long musical.
The club members auditioned for the roles after Thanksgiving break and rehearsals began a week later, Reed said. They rehearse on weekdays after school, putting in long hours to learn the choreography, music, and lines.
“Theater is about really hard work,” said Lyman during a recent rehearsal. The senior is playing the lead male role of Harold Hill in the musical, and he said they are having a lot of fun putting it all together.
“It’s a totally different kind of play. It’s really fun and crazy at times,” he said.
Lyman admitted it was difficult at first to play a sleazy con man who takes advantage of people, which goes against his general nature.
“I find it a little bit sleazy at first, which is tough for me as a person, but he does care about the people,” he said. “A lot of fast words and he’s a slick salesman, but he’s a little more than that.”
He said Hill’s story is a story of revival and redemption, where he finally makes good on his promises.
Playing the lead female role opposite Lyman is junior Mady Rosenberry as Marian Paroo. The two have played opposite each other several times before, building a rapport that is entertaining to watch.
Rosenberry’s character knows a lot about music, and she figures out pretty quickly that Hill is a fraud. However, she sees that Hill is creating hope and joy in the town, and she notices her shy younger brother, who has a lisp, begins to come out of his shell once Hill befriends him. Paroo begins to fall in love with Hill, and she hopes he follows through with his promises instead of leaving town like he has in the past.
Rosenberry has played prominent roles in prior plays, but “The Music Man” will be the first time she plays a lead role.
“It’s amazing but very nerve-racking, because I want to do very well,” she said. Luckily, she already knew all of the songs from “The Music Man” even before the Drama Club selected it for the spring musical, because she likes the musical a lot.
“It’s a big redemption story,” Rosenberry explained. “The guy who isn’t always good redeems himself, which you don’t see a lot.”
She added that Marian’s character changes as well over the course of the play.
“She’s more of a closed-off kind of girl. At the end, she puts everything on the line, and puts herself out there,” Rosenberry said.
She said the hardest part of the musical was probably learning all the dance choreography in the big numbers.
“They’re very hard, but with practice, they come,” she said, adding that Reed, who is also the musical’s choreographer, does a great job.
Senior Allison Findley will be taking on the part of Marian’s mother, Mrs. Paroo. The spunky Irish character wants Marian to get married and settle down, and wants her son, Winthrop, to fit in.
Findley said nailing an Irish accent has been tough, admitting she sounded Pakistani and then Russian, but watching films with Irish characters has greatly helped.
She said “The Music Man” is about building a community based on music bringing people together. She noted the musical itself is very inclusive, with many students having the opportunity to shine.
“Everyone has their ‘thing,’ whether it’s a little line or dance,” she said.
Findley also serves as a dance captain for the club along with senior Paige Cavanaugh. In that role, they both can lead small groups to polish dance moves while Reed works on another aspect of the show.
“I like dancing and helping people out to dance,” Findley said. “Dance rehearsals are definitely the most fun.”
Cavanaugh agreed that rehearsals are a lot of fun.
“It’s a lot of work, but it definitely has a good payoff. I really do enjoy it,” she said. “Once it all comes together, it’s the best feeling ever.”
Cavanaugh plays the part of Eulalie Mackecknie Shinn, who is Mayor Shinn’s wife and the town gossip.
“I’m like that mom in town who knows everyone’s business,” she said, laughing.
She said Eulalie is characterized like a bird, whose gestures and poses resemble a bird. Even her neck swivels around to whatever grabs her attention at that moment. The character also has a “flock” of women, the “Pick-A-Little Ladies,” who follow her around and often cast judgment toward the Paroo family.
“I absolutely love working with the Pick-A-Little Ladies. Our Pick-A-Little flock scene is fun,” she said, adding the number even includes a flying V formation. “It's really fun and really funny.”
Senior Cameron Wilson’s character, Marcellus Washburn, also adds comic relief to the musical.
“He’s a huge goofball, but he is loyal to his friend, Harold Hill, and girlfriend (Ethel Toffelmier, played by Michaela Cameron),” Wilson said. “I love just getting up on stage and making people laugh.”
His character’s big dance number occurs in Act 2 when he sings “Shipoopi” and teaches kids in town a dance. Wilson said it is his favorite part of the musical. “It’s a fun number and a lot of people are involved,” he said.
Sophomore James Logan said he has been having a lot of fun learning his part of Olin Britt, who sings in an a cappella barbershop quartet. He said he has been behind the scenes in previous plays, and this would be the first year that he is on stage.
“It's a really fun experience so far,” he said, adding he hopes to be on stage more in his junior and senior years.
“It’s the singing and the fact that I get to hang out with friends after school,” he explained. “I like it. It’s very interesting to see it come together.”
More than 20 students in the pit orchestra will essentially accompany the cast on stage to build upon music’s key role in the story. The orchestra has been rehearsing about two times a week to prepare for all the big tunes in the musical.
Robert Maag, high school band director and pit orchestra conductor, explained, “The orchestra plays for the entire show, basically accompanying the singers on stage. The music itself is part of the story line for the show. Think of it as a ‘conversation through singing.’ That’s about the best description of the music as I can come up with.”
He noted the orchestra will actually be on the stage for this musical. “Luke Reed, the director, will be incorporating the group in some small ways throughout the show,” Maag said. “We are planning a big finale, which will include other members of the school marching band playing the show’s most popular song, ‘76 Trombones.’”
He continued, “I am looking forward to the finished product. It is always exciting when everything finally comes together at show time!”
Trombone player Luke Britcher, a junior, said it will be exciting to play in the pit orchestra. As a member of the marching band, he said he really enjoys the music. He said he especially likes “76 Trombones,” because it’s a fun song and he has the melody a couple of times in it.
“We’re going to sound really good,” Britcher said. “Everyone should come out and see ‘The Music Man.’ Everyone is working hard – the cast and the pit – it’s going to be good.”
The Drama Club will perform “The Music Man” on March 8, 9, and 10 at 7 p.m. in the high school auditorium. Saturday, March 10, will also have a showing at 2 p.m.
There is a cost for tickets to see the show. Students and senior citizens receive a discounted price. Children age 4 and younger get in for free.
Tickets can be purchased online at: sashsmusicman.brownpapertickets.com or at the door starting one hour before the show.