Children’s Theatre strikes up the band with ‘The Music Man’

From left, Belle Shade as Marion Paroo, Josiah Rich as Harold Hill and Logan Williams as Marcellus Washburn in “The Music Man.” (Submitted photo)

DOVER — A phony traveling salesman is coming to Dover this weekend for The Children’s Theatre Inc.’s rendition of the 1957 Meredith Wilson musical, “The Music Man,” coming to the Schwartz Center for the Arts this weekend.

The Broadway classic was a choice met with mixed enthusiasm from theater regulars like Bella Shade, a 14-year-old portraying the role of Marian Paroo, the love interest of the questionable main character Harold Hill played by 13-year-old Josiah Rich.

She will split the part with Alexandra Cseke. Bella will perform Saturday and Alexandra Sunday.

“To be honest, ‘The Music Man’ has never been one of my favorite shows to watch so I was a little uncomfortable going into it,” Bella said. “But I have a lot of singing parts and it’s definitely a lot more fun to be a part of the show.”

In the tale, Harold Hill poses as a boys’ band organizer and leader and sells band instruments and uniforms to the River City, Iowa townsfolk, promising to train the members of the new band. But Harold plans to skip town without giving any music lessons.

Prim librarian and piano teacher Marian sees through him, but when Harold helps her younger brother overcome his awkwardness, Marian begins to fall in love with Harold.

The show has one of the largest casts The Children’s Theatre has ever used, a whopping 66 actors ranging in age

From left, Josiah Rich as Harold Hill, Shantai Napolitano as a townsperson, Rachel Sawicki as Eulalie MacKecknie Shinn and Alexis Waddy as Alma Hicks.

from 8 to 18.

“We love having a diverse mix of children, a blend of experienced child actors with many neophytes,” said director Sharon Crossen, who also directed the show for Polytech High School in 2011.

“While there are five seniors, there are also seven third-graders, and many and all grades in between. The three leads (Bella, Alexandra and Josiah) are extremely talented eighth-graders.

“Josiah Rich, who played the title role in my ‘Oliver!’ musical as an 8-year-old, now at 13, stars as Harold Hill. He is doing an incredible job! His talent and total commitment to this huge role never ceases to amaze us.”

Like Josiah, many of the young actors have been with the Children’s Theatre for many years.

“It’s funny to look at some of the new kids and think that I was probably just like them when I first came here,” said 11-year-old Jesse Rich who plays businessman Oliver Hix.

The large cast has been a challenge for the director and cast alike.

“It’s a lot of fun but with so many people, it gets loud in here really easily so we always have to be worried about being quiet enough when it’s not our turn to rehearse,” said 13-year-old Landon Lewicki, playing businessman Jacey Squires. “But having so many kids is also what makes this show a lot of fun to be in.”

Alexandra Cseke sings in “The Music Man.”

Previous to this one, the largest show Ms. Crossen had ever directed included 55 children.

“It is challenging to have a cast this large. It is especially difficult for those who have to costume all these kids. Some characters have five costume changes,” she said.

“Without the help of my two outstanding assistant directors, Ami Leaming and Melissa Edwards, and the parent monitors, we could not do a show of this magnitude. What no one ever sees is the hard work of parents behind the scenes, who create sets, act as stage crew, and costume our actors, then transfer the production from our rehearsal site to the Schwartz Center.”

Classic songs include “(Ya Got) Trouble,” “Seventy-Six Trombones,” “Shipoopi,” and “Till There Was You.”

“After seven weeks of rehearsals, our audiences will see a complete Broadway show that should excite them as much as it excites the kids performing it. The show has color, energy, wonderful music and clever lyrics, and engaging characters. Everyone should enjoy it,” Ms. Crossen said.

“The Music Man” will be staged at 7 p.m. Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday at the Schwartz Center, 226 S. State St.

Tickets are $10 and can be purchased by visiting schwartzcenter.com, calling 678-5152 or at the door.

Ashton Brown is a freelance writer living in Dover.

There are 66 cast members in The Children’s Theatre’s production of “The Music Man.”

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