Vail Valley: Songs spoken more than sung
Vail, CO Colorado
VAIL, Colorado –In the 1950s, when “The Music Man” –which opens Friday at Vail Christian High School –made it big on Broadway, the concept of a song being spoken more than sung was novel. The Tony-award winning show is considered one of America’s great musicals, and some consider the songs a form of prehistoric hip hop, a genre today’s teenagers are much more familiar with.
“I would agree,” said Kieran Hurtt, a Vail Christian High School senior. Hurtt plays the part of Charlie Cowell in the school’s musical, which opens Friday night. “I think the fact that it’s somewhat of a rap does make it easier for us to learn. And even if you’re not a fantastic singer, you can still do these songs pretty well.”
In the 1962 film version of the production Robert Preston plays the part of Harold Hill, a traveling salesman who shows up in River City, Iowa hoping to con the residents. Posing as a traveling band instructor, Hill plans to convince the townspeople to pay him to create a boy’s marching band. The local tavern brought in a billiard’s table and Hill’s song “Ya Got Trouble” is a musical exposition about the dangers of pool. Preston doesn’t really sing the song, nor does he just say the words. Instead the clever lyrics come out at a rapid-fire pace:
“Ya got one, two, three, four, five, six pockets in a table./
Pockets that mark the diff’rence/
Between a gentlemen and a bum,/
With a capital ‘B’,/
And that rhymes with ‘P’ and that stands for pool!/
And all week long your River City/
Youth’ll be frittern away,/
I say your young men’ll be frittern!/
Frittern away their noontime, suppertime, choretime too!”
Vail Christian High School students have been rehearsing the musical for a few months now.
“The songs are a lot of fun,” Hurtt said. “It’s not music you hear on a daily basis, but that kind of adds to the character of the musical.”
The musical is also challenging, especially for lead characters, like Steil Beagley who plays the part of Harold Hill.
“The hardest part about this play has been memorizing my songs and lines,” he said.
“We went through some rough times learning the songs, knowing the beats,” he said. “Harold (Beagley) has a lot of words in his songs. Memorization and timing – those are the most difficult things.”
Learning the correct technique is really important, said Nicole Halverson who plays the part of Mrs. Paroo in the musical.
“A lot of students are not used to musical play songs in general. It’s not like just randomly singing a song you hear on the radio. It takes a lot of practice to get the right sound. Once you get the hang of it though, you get used to it and you get it stuck in your head for the next week,” she said.
Beagley, who graduates next month, said this is the biggest role he’s ever had in a school production. Ironically, he almost opted out. When the school announced The Music Man as the spring musical, Beagley was skeptical.
“I wasn’t going to do it because I didn’t know anything about the musical,” he said. “A few friends convinced me to do tryouts. Then I got the (lead) part. I was thinking of giving it up but people convinced me to stick with it and I’m glad that I did.”
Halverson said performing in The Music Man has given her the confidence to pursue a lead role next year, when she’s a senior.
“Doing this character has definitely brought me up to the next level,” she said.
That’s just one of the many benefits of taking part in high school theater, said Taylor Kundolf, the music director for the production.
“It helps them discover a little about themselves that they may not have known about before. These students might not go into acting or performing, but a lot of them will go into professions that might require them to get up in front of people and speak coherently and cohesively. They’re learning skills that can absolutely apply to situations down the road.”
The show’s director, Rayla Kundolf (Taylor’s wife), didn’t choose The Music Man, but agreed to direct it because she likes the musical, which she called “wholesome.”
“It’s a time period that romanticizes the simplicity of life,” she said. “It’s got these wonderful, old-fashioned love songs.”
“What I like about Music Man is it has such a continuity of sound and it’s all happy,” Taylor said. “It’s a nice, uplifting musical and it’s fun.”
Whether or not people are familiar with the Broadway musical or the film adaptation, it’s likely they’ll recognize at least some of the songs.
“Like the song ‘Til There Was You,’ the Beatles had an amazing success with a recording of that, and so many people think it’s a song they wrote and really it’s from this musical,” Taylor said. “And ‘Goodnight My Someone,’ most people know it but don’t know where it came from. There’s just really good, hummable songs in it.”
High Life Editor Caramie Schnell can be reached at email@example.com or 970-748-2984.