“The Music Man”

Reed-Custer Theatre Department set to stage musical
Ann Gill

     What’s old is new again, and in the world of theatre, it’s called a revival.
    This weekend, students at Reed-Custer High School are not only reviving a classic piece of musical theatre, but a part of the school’s theatre history.
    As the theatre department approaches its 25th year of producing musicals, an all-student cast will bring back “The Music Man,” the first musical to be staged in the school’s auditorium.
    Director James Reinbacher said the idea of staging Meredith Wilson’s six-time Tony Award winner was under consideration for next year’s 25th anniversary show, but moved up a year because they had the right group of students.
    “It’s one of my favorite musicals ever, so we just decided to go with it, it wasn’t a hard sell,” Reinbacher said.
    “The Music Man” follows a fast talking con man by the name of  Harold Hill, a role being played by senior TJ Sforza, who said he sees a bit of himself in the character he plays on stage.
    “Hill is a con man, but yet he’s charming and I feel like I can charm people. I have a smooth personality so (the role) comes naturally,” he said.
     Sforza is no stranger to the stage as this, his senior show, is his 13th production. He first took the stage as a fifth grader playing a  munchkin in the high school show, so he finds it exciting to have local fourth and fifth grade students take the stage this weekend.
    Reinbacher said the entire cast seems to be enjoying working with the younger students.
    “Overall I believe they love the whole show, but anytime they get to be with the little kids they really enjoy it,” the director said.
    For senior Alyssa Faurot, one of the highlights of this year’s production is the choreography, especially the high energy number known as “Shipoopi.”
    “It was a lot of work and a lot of fun,” she said, noting she likes all of the dance numbers in this year’s show that is set in River City, Iowa.
    Hill arrives by train from Rock Island, Illinois with the intention of coning the townsfolk into buying musical instruments and uniforms for the boys band he intends to start. Really he plans to take their money and move on to the next town, but that all changes when he meets the librarian, Marian.    
    Freshman Kayla Lockhart will take the stage as Marian, and Faurot said her performance is sure to blow audience members away.
    Of his stage partner, Sforza adds, “as a freshman, she’s super talented.”
    Sforza, Lockhart and Faurot will take the stage this weekend with 25 of their peers and a children’s ensemble comprised of 10 Reed-Custer fourth and fifth graders.
     The shows original Broadway run was in 1957, and most students in the cast had no idea what the show was about when they stepped into the audition room. Sforza was one of them, and to this day he hasn’t seen a single scene of the show, saying he likes that the content is fresh and new to him.
    Unlike Sforza, Faurot knew a little about the show as she sang “Till There Was You,” for a solo and ensemble contest.
    Heading into rehearsals she was a bit nervous if she’d land a role in the production, given Reinbacher was new to the program.
    In fact, he’s the fourth director in four years, but he knows the program well, having been a part of it as a student at Reed-Custer.
    The one constant in the program is pit director Addie Dennis, who serves as the school’s instrumental music director.
    “I look up to Mrs. Dennis, it’s been a rough couple years for our program with new directors and she’s the one who’s always here through the changes. She’s a constant at our school,” Sforza said.
    Reinbacher hopes to provide some additional stability to the program as he plans to stick around, he even has next year’s production in mind.
    The director said moving from performing to directing has been a rather smooth transition.
    “The people I am working with are the people I worked with as a performer,” he said, noting the creative team that includes Dennis and vocal music director Kevin Mangan has developed a good friendship.
    What he enjoys most is the students he gets to work with.
    “The highlight is definitely working with these children every day. They keep me grounded in a way,” he said.
    Sforza believes the addition of Reinbacher is the turning point for the theatre department.
    “This is probably the biggest show our school has done in years and its success is due to the creative team, fresh faces like James. It think this is what is going to get us back on track,” the senior said.
    The director firmly believes the success of the show and ultimately the program is in the hands of the student actors, and he makes it clear he’s incredibly proud of the work they have put into the show from choreography rehearsals to set building.
    “It’s important for me to give them responsibility, because overall it’s their program. I’m just here to guide them. This has been a collaborative process and they have some good ideas,” Reinbacher said.
    Point to anything on the stage and the director can tell you who was involved in its creation, from the library book shelves to the paint color on the footbridge.
    “Being involved in the various stages gives them a sense of pride and ownership and they have put a lot into this and I’ve been very impressed,” Reinbacher said.
    Audiences will get  a chance to take in all facets of the production when the curtain goes up on Friday, March 8 at 7 p.m. Additional shows are Saturday, March 9, at 7 p.m., and Sunday, March 10 at 2 p.m. in the Reed-Custer Auditorium. Tickets, available at the door, are $5 per person. Senior citizens and RC students with an ID enter for free.
    “I think kids will definitely enjoy this show, people who know the show will have their opinions on it and will enjoy it and I know all our parents will love seeing us on stage,” Faurot said.
    Taking the stage with Faurot, Sforza and Lockhart are Jake Ehrsam, Jesse Hernandez, Logan Sharper, Tyler Wenberg, Jessen Valone, Payton Neu, Jake Tazelaar, Chayton Domrzalski, Emily Anderson, Emma Tonkovic, Megan Haley, and Leah Tomano, who serves as the dance captain.
    Also, Cheyenne Towe, Darby O’Shea, Ember Van Duyne, Amber Piemonte, Vanessa Votta, Liz Fetzner, Megan Davis, Abbie Haley, Jessica Boyd, Sylvia Carter, Julia Mills and Savannah Ley.
    Children’s ensemble members include Reese Brown, Joe Burgess, Abigail Cousins, Aubrie DeBoard, Julia Eaker, Leah Milton, Tristan Randall, Colton Waldvogel, Austin Wietting and Skylar Wilkins.
    The creative team is further comprised of choreographer Kim Scerine, children’s director Austin Rupert, and Cirsten West, costumes.