'76 Trombones' lead to stage

In Music Man, 61 cast and orchestra members and 18 scenes bring an Iowa town to life.

Published May 4, 2007

NEW PORT RICHEY - Meredith Willson's masterpiece, The Music Man, is so big and booming that it demands a big and booming cast.

That's what director Marie Skelton has in the production opening Thursday at Richey Suncoast Theatre for a three-week run.

"We have 54 people in our cast and seven in our orchestra, " Skelton said. That includes 14 kids ages 6 to 12, 17 teenagers and 23 adults on stage - sometimes all at once.

The Music Man takes place in the early 1900s in River City, Iowa, a family-friendly town, so the cast includes several real families.

"For that town look, it should be families, " Skelton said.

For example, Chip Wichmanowski plays the fast-talking Professor Harold Hill, a traveling con man who stops off at River City, ostensibly to organize a boys band, but in reality to trick the people into buying overpriced musical instruments and band uniforms that he may or may not deliver.

Wichmanowski's daughter Ali plays little Amaryllis (a role she shares with Hannah Hall), the piano student of Marian Paroo (Heather Graves, Baroness in The Sound of Music), the local librarian who catches Hill's ever-roving eye.

There are 11 other families with two or three members in the show, plus a few others in the crew.

Besides giving a realistic look to the show, such casting also brings in new performers.

"I'm always trying to get as many people involved and trained as possible, " Skelton said.

That includes her assistant director, Liz Onley, who recently played the lead in the musical Anything Goes and now wants to learn directing.

"I am so happy with everyone, " Skelton said. "They are doing such a wonderful job."

The Music Man has been a lot of work.

"There are 18 scenes, and it's been an interesting challenge to keep the show flowing, " said Skelton, who also designed the sets and lighting. "I hate those long blackouts."

The story moves from the big town square, where Hill proposes a boys band for the town in Ya Got Trouble, to the town library where Hill romances Marian in Marian the Librarian, to the Paroos' parlor, where Marian teaches piano, as her mom (Lynn Yarbrough, Ida in Honk!) worries that she may never have a beau (If You Don't Mind My Saying So) and her little brother Winthrop (Adam Brawer, young Patrick in Auntie Mame) fights shyness and a prominent lisp as he sings Gary, Indiana.

The show is sparked by Hill's comic sidekick Marcellus Washburn (Bob Marcela, Moonface Martin in Anything Goes), who wants Hill to forget the nice girl and skip town before his plan is discovered; the pompous Mayor Shinn (Rich Aront, Speed in The Odd Couple); his wife, Eulalie Mackechnie Shinn (Diane Ramos, Glinda the Good Witch in The Wizard of Oz), leader of the women's dance troupe praising One Grecian Urn; Gracie Shinn (Samantha Ramos, mouse in Cinderella), their daughter; and Tommy Dijilas (Cody Carlson, sailor in Anything Goes), who has a crush on young Gracie.

Steve Ailing (choral director, Cinderella) will direct the chorus and join Drew Lundquist, Jim Wanker and Mark Pinals in the Men's Barbershop Quartet. Stella Gaukhshteyn leads the orchestra.

If you go

'The Music Man'

Where: Richey Suncoast Theatre, 6237 Grand Blvd., New Port Richey.

When: Thursday and weekends through May 27. Shows are at 8 p.m., excepts Sundays at 2:30 p.m.

Tickets: $15, reserved seating. Box office is open 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Wednesdays through Saturdays and an hour before each show. Call (727) 842-6777.