KW Record – Feature Article
Valerie Hill Record staff, Thursday May 3 2012 Read Article
Music Man Marches into New Hamburg
NEW HAMBURG — The New Hamburg Community Players is a feisty little theatrical company that, when it gazes into a mirror, sees the Stratford Shakespeare Festival staring back.
Self-confident? You bet. A bit ambitious? Perhaps. Yet after 28 years of bringing large-scale theatrical productions to this small town west of Kitchener, the amateur group has earned the right to feel proud. And on May 10, they will do it again when the curtain rises on The Music Man.
“We love it, the audiences love it,” said the company’s artistic director Brent Roth. “We wanted something that would be a draw. Music Man is a very fun show. It’s something audiences can relate to. The cast loves it because there’s lots for them to do.”
Indeed with more than 60 cast members, an orchestra of 18 plus another 20 or so doing everything from costume design to set building, The Music Man is a community effort with sons and fathers, aunts, uncles and grandparents all pitching in.
Despite the amateur status of the Community Players, The Music Man, indeed all the annual shows the company has performed in the past couple of decades, have been produced at a level often unexpected by audiences.
“Every year we get better … it’s an evolution,” said Roth, who has been with the company for 22 years, including 12 as its artistic director. “People that haven’t seen any of our shows, they’re pretty impressed.”
The Music Man follows last year’s production of Tim Rice’s Aida in scope and crowd appeal, with music familiar to most everyone. Two tunes in particular make for terrific ear worms: Ya Got Trouble and 76 Trombones. You just can’t get any more high spirited than that.
Community Players, which donates some of its proceeds to charity, has performed The Music Man twice in its history but Roth said the company has grown and improved since then and will bring an entirely new feel and look to the production. And he promises that leaving at the end of the night you will be “humming a tune, tapping your toes, almost marching out of the theatre.”
The Music Man follows the story of Harold Hill, a travelling salesman and con artist who dubs himself a professor after descending on River City, Iowa, a small town he immediately identifies as ripe for a swindle. Professor Hill devises a cunning plan: convince the locals that their boys need a wholesome activity such as a marching band to keep them from the evils of the new pool table in town and he’s just the man to do it, even though he’s musically inept.
Step two of the plan involves collecting the funds raised for uniforms and instruments then skedaddling on the first train out of town, pockets stuffed with cash.
Of course love interferes and Hill’s plans go awry.
The Music Man first entered the public’s perception in 1957 as a Broadway musical, garnering five Tony awards before being made into a Hollywood hit in 1961, starring Robert Preston. Though the musical’s characters seem larger than life, Roth said it is important not to reduce them to the level of caricatures. He is certain this particularly production “will showcase what we do best.”
The Community Players launched in 1984 as a youth group at Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church, moved to the community centre at the New Hamburg Arena and after outgrowing that space, moved onto the hockey rink surface. With each musical production, that old rink is transformed into Trinity Theatre, a sort of Brigadoon that appears seemingly out of nowhere and just as quickly disappears.
How very theatrical, just like the Community Players.
The Community Players presents
The Music Man
May 10 – 13, 8 p.m., with 2 p.m. matinees Saturday and Sunday
Trinity Theatre (New Hamburg Arena), 251 Jacob St., New Hamburg
Tickets $28 adults, $18 children, $26 students and seniors
1-800-827-7524 or visit thecommunityplayers.com