It is something special — just for you.
Just as pint-sized Gracie Shinn gets the mythical town of River City excited about the arrival of the Wells Fargo Wagon, so too will the audience anxiously anticipate each scene as a star-spangled cast presents “The Music Man.”
For the first two years of her directorial career, West Jefferson Drama Director Rachel Armas has teamed with choreographer Danielle Fredette and accompanist Jacob Boyer to wow audiences with their collaborations.
Once again this directorial dream team has joined forces to present the quintessential musical classic as has been true in the past, the stage will be filled with a talented and hardworking troupe of thespians (from both the Middle and High Schools, as well as Norwood Elementary) to present a wonderfully-complete musical production.
Shows are Friday, March 9 and Saturday, March 10 at 7 p.m., as well as a Saturday matinee at 3 p.m. in the West Jefferson High School Auditeria. Tickets are $10 for adults and $5 for students. The Dinner-Theatre for Thursday is sold out.
Armas is assisted by College Intern Autumn Sammons and Student Stage Manager Grace Shields.
From welcoming everyone all aboard in the opening train scene with the scheming salesmen to a preciously-tender moment on the footbridge with Harold and Marian — and everything in between — this show hits all the right chords.
As a gem of the show, Reese Nawman concludes a spectacular high school career with his smooth-as-silk portrayal of slick-talking con man Harold Hill in the title role. Nawman plays the storytelling role to a “T” (that rhymes with P — and so on) combining charisma and tongue-twisting lyrics to surely mesmerize all those in attendance.
As Harold quickly does, the audience will likely fall in love with Rachael Brown as Marian. As another gem of the show, Brown takes the audience on Marian’s emotional rollercoaster — from cynicism to sincerity — with convincing theatrical maturity.
Together, stage veterans Nawman and Brown nicely show the growing attraction between Harold and Marian — as Harold finds himself hoodwinked by the spinster’s charms. That cat-mouse attraction game is perfectly played out in the show’s best number — “Marian the Librarian.”
Nick McGlothlin is a pleasure to watch as lovable bumpkin Marcellus Washburn, Hill’s former scamming sidekick. McGlothlin uses his aw-shucks personality (and spry dancing feet) to lead the action-filled “Shipoopi.”
Tender-hearted tough kid Tommy is portrayed very well by both Chris Wilhoit and Michael Catapano, in a double-cast role. Wilhoit and Catapano each combine street-wise moxy with innocent mischievousness.
Isabelle Swindall is delightfully goofy as Tommy’s girl, Zaneeta. Amusingly annoying, Swindall will keep the audience laughing and anticipating her every entrance.
Nathaniel Dersom is hysterical as the vocabulary-fumbling Mayor Shinn, quirkily combining mannerisms and “frazeology.” The verdict is in, and Loraine Stone (with Hope Schwind in the role Thursday) has some sidesplitting comedic moments as the stately Eulalie Mackecknee Shinn, including a dramatic (near) death scene.
Exuding shamrocks and pots of gold, Nicole Evans is lovely as the motherly (and quite Irish) Mrs. Paroo. Schwind (and Clara Drummond on Thursday) is a joy to watch as the at-times overzealous player piano player Ethel.
As the secret (but not for long) — and final — gem of the show, the crowd is sure to be entertained by the harmonious tones of the school board turned barbershop quartet. At times Keystone Cop-like, the foursome of Mitchell Brown, Patrick Krischak, Wesley Miller, and Andrew Weber provide some memorable musical moments. Krischak and Weber in particular conclude stellar theatrical careers as part of this melodious group.
A few of Norwood’s youngsters show they have bright futures, but who are unfortunately on stage too briefly.
Third-grader Ethan Roberts will tug at the ladies’ heartstrings as the lisping Winthrop. The audience will be pleasantly surprised at the big voice this child possesses.
Alexa Bogenrife lights up the stage with her cute-as-a-button smile as the spunky Amaryllis. Her duet with Brown in “Goodnight My Someone,” provides a poignant musical moment.
Simply put, Avery Friessen is adorable as little Gracie Shinn, leading the cast in joyful anticipation of the Wells Fargo Wagon.
Deserving special mention in a small role is Casey Cunningham as shifty anvil salesman Charlie Cowell. Cunningham grasps perfectly Cowell’s lecherous ways and becomes one of the show’s most memorable characters, despite his limited time on stage.
Drake Hudson adds a terrifically-unique aspect to the show in his statuesque performance.
A strong ensemble features cast members taking on many roles — from salesmen to band kids to train conductors to townspeople. Whether singing, dancing (in several of the fine numbers choreographed by Danielle Fredette) or serving a different function on stage, their enthusiasm will dictate the audience’s energy level. The Teen Dancers deserve extra kudos, especially for the toe-tapping Library Scene
Special attention should be paid to the “Pickalittle” ladies and their chirpy personalities. Their costumes, along with those of the Wa Tan Yee girls, are the show’s best, thanks to coordinators Lisa Weber, Lindsey Friessen, and Loriena Roberts.
Once again, creativity abounds in the effective utilization of very limited stage space including a plethora of set pieces by Don Arnold, Mark Boyd, and Roger Jeffers. The set painting artistry of Alba Evans and Patrick Dunkley enhance some scenes exponentially.
Orchestra Conductor Ben Nelsen and outstanding pianist Boyer lead a talented band combo, which adds greatly to the show’s atmosphere.
This musical is a production in the fullest sense of the word as everyone adds his/her own special qualities to make this a fun evening … one where you will be sure to be humming the songs all the way home.
Jeff Gates has been reviewing Madison County theatrical productions for The Madison Press for more than 20 years. A member of The Music Men of London Barbershop Quartet, he is a founder of Madison County Arts Council and a member of the London City Schools’ Fine Arts Hall of Fame.
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