Trombones, conniving salesmen and a barbershop quartet are marching in to Montezuma-Cortez High School next week, for the high school theater department’s opening weekend of “The Music Man.”
The winter musical is a time-honored tradition, with past productions at the school including “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang,” “Once Upon a Mattress” and “Annie.” This year, the department chose Meredith Willson’s quirky comedy “The Music Man.”
“It’s a large cast production,” said Nicholaus Sandner, the show’s director and head of the drama program. “It has a lot of really recognizable music. It’s really high-energy, lot of good character parts.”
The plot follows the ploys of con artist Harold Hill, who travels the Midwest claiming to be a band director in order to sell instruments and uniforms. It takes place in River City, Iowa, a stop on his con tour.
Auditions and casting were in December, with the hope of giving actors winter break to practice their lines and music, said musical director Marla Sitton, who teaches choir at the high school. This is the eighth year that she and Sandner have directed the annual musical.
Opening night will be March 8, and the next week will be a flurry of dress and tech rehearsals for the whole crew.
This year’s musical has a large cast with a wide range of ages, Sandner said.
“This one really does have an entire community, so we have to build up the families and try and make it as believable as possible,” he said.
There are 64 cast and ensemble members, 17 musicians in the pit orchestra and 17 crew members. Several elementary and middle school students and a handful of community members are involved.
The dancing sequences have been a challenge, especially because of their time period, according to the directors.
“The dance moves in this are based around dances of 1912, turn-of-the-century sort of dances,” Sandner said.
The set pieces are also large, compared with previous years’ productions, and can be difficult to move in between scenes. However, the theater department invested in some new casters after some hazardous moving conditions during last year’s “Noises Off,” Sandner said, which has helped.
The show’s main characters, Harold Hill and town skeptic/love interest Marian the Librarian, are played by sophomore Jadon Cruzan and freshman Madison Sitton.
Both have been involved in theater since middle school or before. Cruzan says he’s more of an actor but enjoys honing his singing skills. He is a tenor, making Harold Hill’s baritone range a challenge at times, but he loves the character.
“I absolutely adore Harold Hill,” Cruzan said. “I’m just a cool dude. And normally, I play characters where I’m more timid and stuff. But this allows me to be able to stand my ground. It’s great.”
Sitton is a fan of the prim librarian she plays.
“I really like Marian as well, because in a way, it kind of relates to me because she’s kind of shy, but at the same time she’s not,” she said. “But she’s just really cautious.”
Sitton is more of a singer and comes from a “singing family,” including mother, Marla Sitton, the musical director. Marian the Librarian has a few lengthy solos in a high singing range, leading to some intense breathing practice for Sitton.
One of the greatest challenges for them?
“We have a kissing scene,” Cruzan said. “That was rough.”
Other than that, it’s been pretty smooth, though line-memorizing is still in the works.
Performances will take place in the Ralph E. Vavak Memorial Auditorium at M-CHS on March 8, 9, 15 and 16, with 7 p.m. performances each day night and additional 2 p.m. shows on March 9 and 16. Tickets are $10 for adults, $6 for students and seniors, and free for children 5 and under.
For more information, visit the high school drama department’s website.