Thursday, March 27, 2008

‘Music Man’ marches into Century High

Meredith Wilson’s classic musical to start next week

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Tom Fedor⁄The Gazette
Eric Kneller (center) as professor Harold Hill, rehearses Century High School’s version of ‘‘The Music Man” Tuesday the school in Sykesville.
Next stop, Eldersburg – err River City, Iowa!

Century High’s Drama Club will present Meredith Wilson’s ‘‘The Music Man” at 7 p.m. starting April 3 in the school’s auditorium, 355 Ronsdale Road, Eldersburg.

Tickets cost $8 and are available at the box office inside the school from 4 to 6 p.m. Friday, Monday and Wednesday.

The play focuses on the people of fictional River City, Iowa, based on playwright Meredith Wilson’s birthplace Mason City, Iowa.

Harold Hill, a con-man salesman, scams parents to buy instruments for their children. But, Hill has a soft spot for a local gal.

Drama teacher Cathy James selected the play based on recommendations by choreographer and Century grad Rebecca Shorr, saying that the school has the talent to put on the ensemble musical.

With ‘‘Music Man’s” 50th anniversary of its Broadway debut passing in 2007, the musical is a classic one to present, she said.

‘‘I just think it’s phenomenal music, and it’s that kind of strange love story,” she said. ‘‘It’s not boy-meets-girl, falls in love. It’s a kind of a different take.”

The play also features elementary and middle school-aged siblings of the cast to fill out the roles of children, James said.

Though the play takes place in the early 20th century, the phrases used in the play might as well be a foreign language, she said.

‘‘We tried to look a lot of them up and see what they meant, like ‘I feel like a Quaker on a Sunday,’” James said. ‘‘We had to explain to them that a Quaker meant that you did nothing and sat and meditated and that’s what Quaker’s probably did on Sundays.”

Some of the words in the play are not in the dictionary anymore, she added, and others appear to be Midwestern colloquialisms.

‘‘At least in Elizabethan, you can find the words someplace,” she joked.

The musical is also the first for Century choir director Heather Caporaso. Caporaso is in her first year teaching after graduating from the University of Delaware last year.

Though Caporaso loves musicals, it took working with the high school actors and singers to get her to like ‘‘Music Man.”

‘‘Before I started working with these kids, ‘Music Man’ was my least favorite musical, hands down,” said Caporaso, who taught the musical to middle schoolers while student teaching. ‘‘... I like their interpretation and I know the kids who have the two leads really well. ‘‘

C.J. Benoit, 17, of Sykesville plays Jacey Squires in the barbershop quartet, who is in a feud in the beginning of play, but becomes friends with Hill later in the play.

C.J. hopes that the cast and crew can nail the final steps and notes in the play to put on a good show.

‘‘I have good faith in the crew, the directors and everybody that we’re going to pull this through,” he said.

C.J. also appreciates what Caporaso has taught him – namely how to harmonize throughout a song.

‘‘I’ve mostly done stuff like country and blues, but I never really had the need to do something in a barbershop quartet,” he said. ‘‘Until recently, I didn’t know how to sing in harmony with everybody else.”

Emi Illig, 16, of Sykesville, portrays one of the many townspeople in the play.

‘‘Even though I don’t have a huge role or anything, I just enjoy being a part of it and working with it,” she said.

As long as the play has existed, its parodies might be more familiar to the younger crowd.

‘‘The Simpsons” famously parodied the musical in ‘‘Marge vs. the Monorail” where a salesman comes to town to convince Springfield that it needs a monorail. The ‘‘Family Guy” also featured episode where foul-mouthed animated father Peter Griffin and the New England Patriots performing ‘‘Shipoopi.”

Robbie Carroll, 17, of Eldersburg wishes he could see more parodies of the play to appreciate it.

‘‘It would get us to laugh at it, at the same it would help us explore how we could change it just a bit,” Robbie said, who portrays a townsman in the play.

C.J. said that adds respect to how timeless the musical is.

If you go

What: Meredith Wilson’s ‘‘The Music Man”

When: 7 p.m. April 3-5 and 11-12 and at 2 p.m. April 5

Where: Century High School’s auditorium, 355 Ronsdale Road, Eldersburg.

Cost: $8 and are available at the box office inside the school from 4 to 6 p.m. Friday, Monday and Wednesday.

For more information: Visit or call 410-386-4400.