The Music Man
by Young Star Musical Theatre

Ethan Posey and Charlotte Shipley. Photo by Scott Reed. While a turn-of-the-century train chugs towards River City, Iowa, a bunch of traveling salesmen browse the newspaper (or, actually, it’s the play’s program on newsprint) till one of them begins harping on a certain swindling salesman named Harold Hill who’s giving all other traveling salesmen a black eye by going from town to town selling band instruments and uniforms, promising to teach them to play, but skipping out of town as soon as he collects final payment because he wouldn’t know one musical note from another. Higgins peeks out occasionally from behind his program as they blast his name. Then, finally, intrigued by the challenge that he would never be bold enough to try his shenanigans in Iowa, he boldly bids them adieu and tries exactly that – causing trouble in River City with a capital ‘T.’

The group at Young Star Musical Theatre in Prescott, Arizona does a fantastic job with this Meredith Willson slice of Americana. And, as with any production directed by Shmaine Shepherd, there are a lot of extra laughs to be had. Her double-cast show includes Ethan Kirschbaum and Ethan Posey as the bad-boy bandleader, with both Ethans doing a swell job. Kirschbaum has a good voice and style. His piano-teaching Marian who may expose Higgins or fall in love with Joshua Lutz and Chelsea Soto. Photo by Scott Reed. him is Chelsea Soto who portrays her character as a saddened and reserved Marian and sings her ballads beautifully. Posey is dynamic and amusing with a sense for melodrama such as mourning the death of one of his old pitches after someone actually invented the thing, or literally turning into carrion when singing those lyrics in Marian the Librarian – lying on the floor of the library as if laid out in a coffin. A piece of carrion that his Marian, Charlotte Shipley, promptly steps over. Charlotte displays terrific humor (mimicking her mother as the latter quote’s Henry’s oft-quoted college credentials), great emotions as we see her falling in love, and a gorgeous voice as we hear in her moving ode to her dream man in My White Knight.

Other standouts are many. Catherine Manning and Carlee Grow as Marian’s nosey mother who peeks out through the window to see how her daughter and “the professor” are getting along, and beaming at the thought of what a great Irish coronet player her young son Winthrop might turn out to be. Joshua Lutz is Winthrop, the painfully shy boy with a lisp who is afraid to say the name of Amaryllis, but by the end of it is so relaxed that he lets Mom know he’s going to show Amaryllis his dead frog while he casually swings the frog around by the leg. Terrific young actresses Lexy Shepherd and Abby Kirschbaum split the Amaryllis role and do so with great comedic, enthusiastic, and sassy skills.

Charlotte Shipley, Elizabeth Aranda, Mychael Semprun, and Marney Henze. Photo by Scott Reed.Leading the town of River City is quite a pair. Mychael Semprun is the town’s phraseology-challenged Mayor Shinn, and he gives a hilarious interpretation of the role, gleefully conducting the kids as they sing a patriotic song, doting shamelessly over his wife no matter how terribly she sings, struggling as much with his eyesight as with his tongue-ties. Just fun to watch. Kaitlynn Ramsey and Marney Henze share their husband as Mrs. Shinn, both hams who like to sing out loud badly and try to show off by counting in the Indian tongue equally badly. She is the mother of amusingly outspoken teenage rebel daughter Zaneeta (Kayla Kite and Audrey Roberts who spins endlessly in the big 76 Trombones number) who is dating the town hoodlum (Tommy Utts), and little daughter Gracie (Bailee Petrovsky and Elizabeth Aranda) who delivers a good brief solo along with Winthrop when the Wells Fargo Wagon rolls into town bearing gifts. Mrs. Shinn is surrounded by her excitable posse of Pick-a-Little ladies who eagerly gossip, and who exuberantly try to shake their legs like the bunion-plagued Mrs. Shinn does to such acclaim from a smooth-talking salesman. They even get excited to conduct the intermission raffle.

The ensemble as a whole is in the moment throughout and do a nice job egging on the Wells Fargo Wagon, doing the crazy new dance called The Shipoopi led by Marcellus (Ben Auer) and featuring some fun, clever choreography on a tightly packed stage, and delivering a triumphant 76 Trombones number led by Harold Hill with a spirited song and dance to beat the band.

Performs April 3 - 12, 2008

Rob Hopper
National Youth Theatre

~ Cast ~
Supporting Cast: Jill Ainley
Supporting Cast: Owen Alvarez
Gracie Shinn: Elizabeth Aranda
Salesman, Farmer, Jacey Squires Marcellus: Ben Auer
Supporting Cast: Dallon Bertoch
Salesman, Mrs. Squires: Jesse Blum
Salesman, Ethel: Analise Cavner
Alma (Farmer's Wife Oliver Hix): Breanne DeMenna
Maud: Krista Evers
Charlie: Will Grace
Supporting Cast: Hattie Grace
Supporting Cast: Haley Green
Supporting Cast: Rylie Green
Mrs. Paroo: Carlee Grow
Winthrop: Connor Hague
Eulalie: Marney Henze
Supporting Cast: Rachel Kaplan
Amaryllis: Abby Kirschbaum
Salesman/Harold Hill/Constable Locke/Olan Britt: Ethan Kirschbaum
Pick-a-Little Lady/Zaneeta/Ewart Dunlap: Kayla Kite
Supporting Cast: Kylie Lethbridge
Winthrop: Joshua Lutz
Maud: Rebekah Lutz
Mrs. Paroo: Catherine Manning
Supporting Cast: Kyala Parsons
Gracie Shinn: Bailee Petrovksy
Salesman & Ewart Dunlap: Lizzy Place
Mrs. Squires, Ewart Dunlap, Pick-a-Little Lady: Ashley Place
Salesman/Harold Hill/Constable Locke/Olin Britt: Ethan Posey
Eulalie: Kaitlynn Ramsey
Alma-Farmer's Wife/Oliver Hix: Brittany Reed
Zaneeta: Audrey Roberts
Supporting Cast: Janelle Roderick
Salesman-Ethel: Carly Rotolo
Supporting Cast: Madison Rotolo
Mayor Shinn: Mychael Semprun
Amaryllis: Lexy Shepherd
Marian Paroo: Charlotte Shipley
Pick-a-Little Lady: Franasca Silva
Supporting Cast: Emily James Smith
Marian Paroo: Chelsea Soto
Supporting Cast: Michaela Stock
Supporting Cast: Karalyne Tru
Tommy: Tommy Utts
Supporting Cast: Caroline Ward
Supporting Cast: Shelby Williams
Pick-a-Little Lady: Ashley Wood

Director: Shmaine Posey
Musical Director: Debbie Place


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