‘The Music Man’ strikes up the band at Caesar Rodney High School

From left, Ellie Blaier as Marian, Alexis Waddy as Eulalie Shinn, Garrett Geidel as Mayor Shinn and Ryan Adkins as Harold Hill in “The Music Man.” (Delaware State News/Marc Clery)

CAMDEN — The Wells Fargo wagon is a-coming through Caesar Rodney High this weekend as the school’s Stage Crew & Thespians present Meredith Wilson’s classic “The Music Man.”

Performances started Thursday and continue today and Saturday at 7 p.m. at the school’s auditorium on Old North Road in Camden.

The beloved musical, with well-known songs such as “Trouble,” “Seventy-Six Trombones” and “Till There was You,” concerns con man Harold Hill, who poses as a boys’ band organizer and leader and sells band instruments and uniforms to the Midwestern townsfolk of River City, Iowa, promising to train the members of the new band, selling the citizens that this is the answer to all of their woes.

However, he is no musician and plans to skip town without giving any music lessons. Prim librarian and piano teacher Marian Paroo sees through him, but when Harold helps her younger brother overcome his lisp and social awkwardness, Marian begins to fall in love and vice versa.

Ryan Adkins as Harold Hill, left, and Mason Taylor as Marcellus in “The Music Man.” (Delaware State News/Marc Clery)

Senior Ryan Adkins plays the slick, fast-talking Harold Hill.

“Harold is a challenging, fun role. He’s selling every second. He never stops selling,” he said.

“So everytime he is speaking, he is selling you on something. So that took a little bit to get used to. You had to stop talking like a human and start talking like a salesman. He has a lot of fast-paced songs like ‘Trouble.’ Everything he says is quick and on the fly. He has no idea what he’s talking about yet he is very good about having no idea what he’s talking about.

“He’s acting like he’s a big music man — a big band director — but he doesn’t know anything about music. He doesn’t know one note from another. But the things he says makes others think he does.”

Ryan, who was last seen on the Caeasar Rodney stage as Teddy Roosevelt in the school’s fall production of the comedy “Arsenic and Old Lace” said he was most intrigued by the changing arc of Harold Hill’s character throughout the show.

“In the beginning of the show, he is strictly on his con. But as the show progresses, he starts leaning toward Marian. He finds a girl in every town but there is something different about Marian,” Ryan said.

“As you watch the show, you get to see him develop into a different character than he was when you first meet him.”

That change is brought about by Marian, played by sophomore Ellie Blaier, who also had the lead role as a freshman in last year’s Caesar Rodney production of “Oklahoma!”

“I respect her a lot,” Ellie said of her character. “She knows what her viewpoints are and she sticks to them. She finds out the truth. She doesn’t believe what everyone tells her. She knows how to do her research.”

Although as the town’s librarian, Marian has a serious side, Ellie aimed to give her a soft side as well.

“It’s difficult to make her likeable as well as straightforward.” she said.

“But in scenes when she is talking to her younger brother, you really have to bring out how likeable she is, so the audience realizes that she is a nice character. and they say, ‘Oh I like her.’”

Neither of the two leads had seen the production prior to taking on the roles.

The show won five Tonys when it opened on Broadway in 1957 and then went on to great acclaim as a film in 1962, both memorably starring Robert Preston in the title role.

It had a successful Broadway revival in 2000 with Craig Bierko and was remade as a television movie in 2003 starring

Ryan Adkins as Harold Hill, left, and Ellie Blaier as Marian in “The Music Man.” (Delaware State News/Marc Clery)

Matthew Broderick.

While Ellie has watched very little of the previous productions, Ryan has seen a variety of versions.

“I’ve seen parts of the movie and the whole Matthew Broderick version on YouTube and even a few high school productions. I’ve mostly relied on the movie version since (Robert Preston) did it best,” said Ryan, who is president of the school’s choral department.

“But the idea is really to see individual versions for guidelines and then make the part your own.”

Director Keith McCarthy says the young actors are encouraged to bring themselves to each part they play.

“Every student is different. We’re not trying to emulate what anybody else does because every actor and singer is dfferent and tries to work with their own tool set,” he said.

“We’re trying to personalize the charcters for them. I think if you try to go too far one way or the other, actors struggle with that. Those other sources are great for getting some information but you want to be your own character.”

Mr. McCarthy said the “melodies are so famous and so well-written that the music takes care of itself” but the book is a bit tricky.

“It has been really trying to decipher the intent of the dialogue in certain situations. In certain cases, they use fragments of sentences. So in order to understand what’s hapenning in the scenes, the kids have to dive into that.”

Along with directing the show, Mr. McCarthy is also in the production as one of four members of the town’s school board who double as a barbershop quartet.

He is joined by fellow district teachers John Muller, head of the Caesar Rodney High theatre program and the play’s assistant director; Mike LeNoir, a music teacher at Star Hill Elementary; and Eric Kraus, a fifth-grade teacher at W.B. Simpson Elementary.

“We’ve been working for a couple of months to get ourselves together,” Mr. McCarthy said.

“The mayor is always trying to get us to do his bidding — to collect these papers as proof of who he is and what he’s doing.”

Ellie said the song ‘Lida Rose,’ which she performs with the quartet, is the highlight of the show for her.

“I feel like that one and really all of Marian’s songs are so well-written and fit my voice well,” she said.

Along with the four adults, there are 33 cast members from the high school in the show, 13 from the district’s elementary school, 13 musicians in the pit band directed by DuWane Sandlin and 10 crew members.

Rehearsals started in December before the holiday break and have gone nonstop since the new year.

From left, Garrett Geidel as Mayor Shinn and Ryan Adkins as Harold Hill and David Ransdell as Tommy in “The Music Man.” (Delaware State News/Marc Clery)

“It’s been a great time. It’s always a lot of fun. The cast is meshing, not that it hasn’t in past years, but it’s nice to be around everyone and the feeling is great,” said junior Garrett Geidel, who plays Mayor Shinn.

“I always enjoy being around everyone and watching the play develop as everyone works things out, myself included.”

Tickets will be available at the door only for each performance. They are $10 for adults and $8 for senior citizens and students.

For more information, contact the Caesar Rodney High School Stage Crew & Thespians Box Office at 302-697-2161.

Reach features editor Craig Horleman at chorl@newszap.com

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