BY NICOLE LUNGER
"76 Trombones" lead the way to Rockford for the Community 4 Theatre group’s production of "The Music Man," opening Friday, July 6 at the Rockford High School Theatre.
The musical composed by Meredith Willson became a Broadway hit in 1957 and has since remained a timeless favorite for audiences of every age.
"It’s a story about finding yourself," said director Jack Neveaux of Excelsior. "Harold Hill thinks he’s a flim-flam artist, and comes to Iowa because he sees a challenge there. When he gets to the town, he’s met with Iowa stubbornness and so he finds what needs to be fixed and stirs up some trouble."
Although this will be Neveaux’s first time directing a musical for the Community 4 Theatre group, "The Music Man" is a familiar show for Rockford theatre patrons. This will be the third production at Rockford High School.
"Every year it’s different, with new people, sets and directors," said actor Laura Smith, who has participated in Rockford theatre performances since she was five.
This will also be Smith’s third time performing in "The Music Man," having played the roles of Mrs. Paroo, Amaryllis and now Ethel Toffelmier.
"One year, my whole family was in the show – my mom played Marion; my dad, Professor Hill, and my sister and brother were also in it," said Smith.
Casting families together is one of the highlights of doing community theatre. In fact, Tom Sullivan from Crystal, who plays Prof. Hill, says his daughter Harmony, 8, was his primary incentive to join the fun.
Before acting with the Community 4 Theatre group, Sullivan was a music teacher at the Orono Discovery Center and did some acting at the Paul Bunyan Playhouse in Bemidji.
Sullivan points out one of the challenges of community theatre is the variety of acting and musical experience. One of the cast members, John Cornell, sang in the Minnesota opera for many years. Rodger Ezell, from Iowa, sang in the U.S. Army and has performed the Willson classic four times – and to note, Meredith Wilson himself was in attendance at one of these.
"And half of the cast is kids, which doesn’t make things easy," said Sullivan. "Jack’s done a stellar job working with them. It really speaks to the talent and dedication of this cast when we can overcome those struggles and put on a great show."
Several cast members have gone above and beyond their role as actors for this show. Jenni Charrier, from Orono, plays Marian the Librarian and is also in charge of the props, manages the public relations and organized a garage sale to raise money for the show.
"We chose this show because it’s challenging and this community has a lot of talent, and also because our audience has a more sophisticated musical taste."
The show runs 7 p.m. July 6-7 and 12-13 and an American Sign Language-interpreted performance is 2 p.m. July 8. The theatre is located at Rockford High School 7600 County Rd. 50, in Rockford. Ticket information can be found online at 4communitytheatre.org or by calling the box office at 952-449-8302.
If You Go:
The show performs at 7 p.m. July 6 – 7, 12 – 13 and an ASL performance at 2 p.m. July 8. Rockford High School 7600 County Rd. 50, in Rockford. Info: 4communitytheatre.org or 952-449-8302.