With his eyes on the locals’ wallets, Professor Herold Hill has come to town with the intention of convincing parents to allow him to set up a community boys band at their expense. Better known as the plot behind the classic, The Music Man, a musical hit written in the 1950s, this hilarious look at the magic of music is coming to Chilliwack’s G.W. Theatre for a series of performances in May.
Written by Meredith Wilson, The Music Man takes place in the early 20th century and follows the sly workings of Hill, a travelling salesman who promises to whip the communities boys into a successful marching band if the parents pay him for the instruments and uniforms.
An instant hit when it took to Broadway in 1957, the musical won five Tony Awards and ran for an astounding 1,375 performances. Channeling that level of intensity, a local all-ages cast has spent hundreds of hours rehearsing for their nine-show run of The Music Man, a rendition that’s sure to delight audiences.
|Elizabeth Seaman dressed for her role as Marian Paroo.|
“It’s set in 1912,” said Randy Newbury, who directs and acts in Chilliwack’s presentation of the musical. “We tried to keep the piece as period as we possibly could, and I think we did a good job.”
“Everyone’s been working so hard to make it a success,” added Susan Newbury, who is not only the production’s costume designer, but also acts in the play. “We have quite a (diverse) cast, and members who have come from as far as Abbotsford.”
The Music Man marks the fourth year where the G.W. Graham Theatre and Newbury Art Concepts (NAC) – a creative agency co-founded by Randy and Susan – have worked collaboratively to put on a classic performance for the Fraser Valley.
In 2013 they put on The Murder Room, Bye Bye Birdie in 2014, and Oliver, The Musical in 2017, which had more than 60 cast members. Producing these large scale shows locally “is important because it gives people a different venue to express themselves,” said Randy. “And that’s a wonderful thing.”
Last fall, Newbury Art Concepts held public auditions to fill the variety of roles within The Music Man: at the end of the three days of auditioning, there were 52 cast members – the youngest still in elementary school – scheduled to begin rehearsals in January.
“Doing the show this year is a full-circle moment,” Randy said. “I’ve been working in the theatre since I was 15-years-old.
“I met my wife, (Susan), in the theatre – we did The Music Man, that’s where we met. We just celebrated our 25th wedding anniversary, and so doing this show’s been incredibly refreshing. It carries a soft spot in our hearts.”
And although The Music Man has been around for more than six decades, its music is still catchy, its dialogue engaging, and its themes still relevant.
“(It’s) similar to what fine arts is today – it’s about introducing kids to fine arts,” explained Randy. “(And) the overall effects of how the city responds to it is incredibly poignant in today’s society.”
As for the upcoming performances in Chilliwack, Randy said they’re sure to be “fun and joyous. This production is something that my wife and I and the school are all very passionate about. It’s a show that many people who love classical theatre will absolutely enjoy.”
The Music Man, which runs from May 2 to 12, has a preview show on May 1, at 7:30 p.m. “Admission is by donation,” said Randy. “And all proceeds from that night will go towards an (existing) arts scholarship at G.W. Graham.”
Tickets for all other shows are $15—$12 for students and seniors—and can be purchased at G.W. Graham Middle-Secondary School, The Dogfather, or online at NewburyArtConcepts.com.