The Music Man takes to the Vilar stage
Strike up the band and hold onto your bowler or parasol, as the exuberant, classic musical, The Music Man, marches into town.This weekend (Aug. 9-10), more than 50 children will take to the Vilar Center for the Arts stage in Beaver Creek, presenting a rousing rendition of The Music Man (Junior).Why is this musical such a perennial favorite? Besides the fact this Meredith Wilson and Franklin Lacey play embodies the American ideal of pie-in-the-sky dreams coming true, it has romance, great music, rollicking dance scenes and a host of lovable characters."One of the reasons I chose this play is that it is such a classic American music theater piece. It’s like a snapshot," explains Music Man director/choreographer Beth Swearingen-Kuntz. "It’s a show done in a time of innocence that is really refreshing. And the music is wonderful. You’d be hard pressed not to know every song."The beloved musical centers on the irascible character of Professor Harold Hill, a fast-talking, scoundrel who’d gladly sell his grandmother for some quick money. When Hill, played with slick charm and smooth lines by Anthony Scully, arrives in the small town of River City, Iowa, he quickly mesmerizes the entire town into buying his idea of creating a band, complete with shiny new instruments and flashy uniforms. An idea he has no intention of bringing to fulfillment.The turn-of-the-century town of River City, struggling with the new-fangled ways of the dawning century, while at the same time holding onto the values and decorum of the past, quickly grabs onto the idea of a band to captivate its restless youngsters.Hill quickly becomes the local hero. Until, that is, he encounters some formidable resistance in the form of the town’s spinster librarian, Marian. Although Hill is used to leaving a trail of broken hearts behind him in his slimy schemes, he meets his match in the upright Marian, played with practical sweetness by Nadia Kontogiannis. Mayor Shinn, played with commanding strength and proper pomp by Fred Epstein, also has his doubts about the town’s new darling and goes about proving them.Sean Pack turns in a strong performance as Hill’s slick sidekick, Marcellus Washburn, and Catherine Gerken adds a wonderful, prim and farcical humor as the mayor’s wife, Eulalie. Jonathon Windham, as Tommy, and Ashley Woodworth as the mayor’s daughter, Zaneeta, endow the play with a wonderful innocence and high-energy talent, and Whitney Simmonds is delightful as Marian’s feisty mother, Mrs. Paroo.However, the show may well be stolen by Trevor Davidson, who plays Marian’s reticent and lisping kid brother, Winthrop. It’s hard enough to talk with a lisp, but Davidson not only adopts an admirable one, this nine-year-old remains wonderfully engagingthroughout."Trevor came into tryouts and blew us away," says The Music Man’s executive director, Annah Scully. "He had the character down."All of the children, from the youngest elementary students to the high school students, put in fine performances, with tons of energy and a surprising amount of talent."It’s really a great group of kids, who are really talented and great to work with," says Swearingen-Kuntz.Swearingen-Kuntz, a Broadway veteran, is diligent in making sure each child, even the youngest novice, plays a character and has a chance to take center stage. "It’s really important to me when I direct these shows to find a place for each child to shine."And they do. "Another reason I chose The Music Man is that there are so many, fun, quirky characters that gave me a chance to utilize the talents of so many kids."The Vail Performing Arts Academy’s version of the Music Man is a junior version, edited slightly for younger cast members, but includes all the favorite lines and music. And the academy singled out the Buckman/Blount Community Performance Fund, and its many sponsors, for making The Music Man (Junior) possible.
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