'Music Man' to open Corn Stock summer season

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It seems like many people have a personal reason for loving the musical "The Music Man" and for wanting to be part of it whenever a local community theatre stages it.

That's the case with the timeless musical that will open Corn Stock Theatre's 60th season under the tent at Upper Bradley Park on Friday.

For director Peggy Hupp, it was during an earlier production of "The Music Man" that she began dating her husband Ken Hupp.

For Amanda Humphreys, who portrays leading lady Marian Paroo in the Corn Stock production, "The Music Man" was the first play she ever saw and it was then she knew Marian the Librarian would be her dream role.

For others, the Meredith Willson classic made most famous by Robert Preston and Shirley Jones in the 1962 film by the same name is simply the most fun one can have at a theatre, said Cindy Hoey, manager of Corn Stock Theatre.

"It was the perfect choice for opening this season," Hoey said. " 'The Music Man' is one of the most popular musicals ever and we wanted this season, our 60th season under the tent, to be kind of a celebration of what we've done in the past."

"The Music Man" opens the season Friday at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are on sale for $18 for adults and $12 for students and they can be reserved by calling 676-2196.

The show boasts a cast of veterans and several family units staging the popular musical, said director Hupp. "With a cast of 70, it's definitely a family show and a lot of fun," she said.

Hupp said she jumped at the chance to direct "The Music Man" because of its meaning to her. Not only did she and Ken start dating during the 2010 production of the show at Peoria Players, "The Music Man" was the first show she saw at Corn Stock, when it was done in 1965.

"Ever since then I've loved the music and dialogue. It's happy, it's witty. Every generation of performer gets excited for this show. You just can't get this kind of music anymore," she said.

Seasoned actor Charles Brown portrays Harold Hill, the fast-talking con man. "He doesn't miss a beat and some of that music can be tough," Hupp said.

Brown said "The Music Man" is one of his favorites. "I have always loved this show and considered it the nearly perfect musical. Roles for children, teens, middle age and older people... males and females... funny, serious, romantic... great music. Yes, it is one of my favorites," he said.

In Humphreys, Hupp said, she found "one of the most sweet and most realistic Marians I've seen. She is such a pleasure to watch.

Humphreys, who mesmerized audiences two seasons ago when she sang "Memory" during the Corn Stock product of "Cats," said she enjoys the fact her songs as Marian Paroo are almost all ballads. "There are some beautiful songs in this show that are so fun to sing. In fact, 'Goodnight My Someone' is the song I've always sung to my kids at bedtime," she said.

Other chief cast members include Bryan Blanks as Harold Hill's sidebick Marcellus Washburn, Jaret Ledford as Winthrop Paroo, Roz Helms as Mrs. Paroo, Dave Schick and Amy Wyckoff and Mayor and Eulalie Shinn, Rose Blume as Zaneeta Shinn, Ryan Foulk as Tommy and Anja Olsen as Amaryllis.

The 10-piece orchestra and the show music are directed by Adam Windish, with choreography by Michelle Loeffler and costumes by Sara Blume.

The 2013 season

"We think this is going to be a wonderful season. Just look at the slate. It's a family friendly season for sure, with great music, dancing, a timeless comedy with a professional actor performing with us. It will be fun," Hoey said.

The slate of shows is why, she added, season ticket sales are up from last year. Season tickets are still $66 apiece and can be purchased by calling the Corn Stock box office at (309) 676-2196.

"The Music Man" will run from Friday through Saturday, June 8. Individual show tickets are $18 for adults and $12 for students and are on sale now. Show time is 7:30 p.m. each night.

"The Music Man" is the story of Prof. Harold Hill, a con man who comes into River City to sell the children and their parents on the idea of a school band, complete with instruments and uniforms they are quick to give him money to buy. Hill intends to abscond with the money without delivering the goods; that is, until he falls in love with Marian Paroo.

Songs from the show include "Ya Got Trouble," "Gary, Indiana," "Marian the Librarian," Goodnight My Someone," "My White Knight," "The Wells Fargo Wagon," "Till There Was You," and "76 Trombones."

The second show of the season is the comedy "The Foreigner," which is scheduled for June 21 through June 29. Individual tickets for this show, a non-musical, are $12 for adults and $10 for students and will go on sale June 10.

Written by Larry Shue, "The Foreigner" tells the story of a British man named Charlie pretending to be a non-English-speaking foreigner in order to stay out of trouble when visiting the south with another British friend. The southerners, believing he can't understand them, don't hesitate to tell secrets in front of him.

Highlighting the show will be the performance of guest artist Steve Vinovich as Charlie, a role he has played professionally.

A native of Peoria, Vinovich has performed on Broadway and in many professional theatre venues as well as in many films and on television.

"Bringing Steve in as a guest artist is sort of our anniversary gift to our patrons. We wanted to do something special for our anniversary season and it was a happy coincidence that Steve was going to be in town for his high school reunion this summer," Hoey said.

"The Foreigner" also will mark the return to directing of Jeff Sloter, a Corn Stock veteran whose job kept him from directing for many years. A personal friend of Vinovich, he was asked to return for this show.

In the third slot "Anything Goes" will be staged July 12 through July 20. Individual tickets are $18 for adults and $12 for students and will go on sale July 2.

Directed by Travis Olson, it is the type of show, with a lot of big dance numbers (choreographed here by Erica Franken) that works well in Corn Stock's middle slot, Hoey said. "We specifically look for a fun musical with a lot of dancing for the third slot and 'Anything Goes' certainly is that," she said.

The popular Cole Porter musical with such songs as "Anything Goes," "You're the Top" and "I Get a Kick Out of You" the show is about the antics of several people about an ocean liner on its way from New York to London. There's a stowaway in love with an heiress, a nightclub singer and her dancers and the gangster hiding from the law.

In the fourth slot "The Wiz" will make its Corn Stock Theatre debut Aug. 2 through Aug. 10. Tickets will be $18 for adults and $12 for students and will go on sale July 22.

Directed by Bryan Blanks, "The Wiz" is a pop musical version of "The Wizard of Oz" with a mostly African American cast in the lead roles. The 1978 film adaptation starred Diana Ross as Dorothy and featured Richard Pryor as The Wiz and Michael Jackson as the scarecrow.

"It's no secret we've been trying to diversify with our shows, our casts and our audiences and last year's success of "Hairspray," with a very diverse cast, showed how well being diverse helps the theatre. We wanted to capitalize on that and bring some of those very talented performers back this summer," Hoey said.

In the fifth slot the musical "Company" will take the stage Aug. 23 through Aug. 31. Tickets will be $18 for adults and $12 for students and will go on sale Aug. 12.

Directed by Nate Downs, "Company" is a look at relationships told through the life of bachelor Robert, his relationships and those of his married friends. With music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim, the musical is done in a series of vignettes linked by Robert's 35th birthday party.

"This is the first time we've done 'Company' in the tent but it was done before at the Winter Playhouse. It's a smaller musical and it's more adult and sophisticated," Hoey said.

"It's going to be a great season. We're anxious to get started," she said.

About the Author
Paul Gordon is the editor of The Peorian after spending 29 years of indentured servitude at the Peoria Journal Star. He’s an award-winning writer, raconteur and song-and-dance man. He also went to a high school whose team name is the Alices (that’s Vincennes Lincoln High School in Indiana; you can look it up).