Summer Stage Wooster’s ‘The Music Man’ opens July 23

Summer Stage Wooster’s ‘The Music Man’ opens July 23

Image Credit: Marlane Kennedy

Community theater is a great way to discover all the talent right in one’s own community. Through the pandemic most theaters were forced to dim the lights and wait.

“There is nothing like live theater, and it was something the world was deprived of for a terribly long time, thanks to COVID-19. Let us entertain you again,” Guinevere Steensen said.

The local stage veteran — she’s been performing since she was 7 — will play Marian Paroo in Summer Stage Wooster’s upcoming production of “The Music Man.”

“The Music Man” will open July 23 at 7 p.m. at the Wooster High School Performing Arts Center. Performances will run for two weekends: July 23, 29 and 30 at 7 p.m. and July 24 and 31 at 2 p.m.

“’(The Music Man)’ is a golden era Broadway classic, chock full of favorite tunes, and is a fast-paced, fun, family-friendly show,” said Steensen, whose son, 10-year-old Aden, will make his stage debut in the show.

In fact, “The Music Man” is definitely a family affair as there are numerous cast members and technical staff and volunteers who have parents, children and even grandchildren involved in the show.

Choreographer Stephanie Musselman has two daughters and three granddaughters participating in a variety of ways. Musselman said the cast includes a good group of featured dancers including some from Ballet Wooster.

“’The Music Man’ has lively dancing,” said Musselman, who explained there are a variety of dance styles represented throughout the show including tap and a bit of square dance style moves, along with the Pick-a-Little Ladies and their Grecian urn scene.

“The Music Man,” with book, lyrics and music written by Meredith Wilson, premiered on Broadway in 1957 and won the Tony for best musical up against such shows as “West Side Story.” The album won the first-ever Grammy Award for Best Original Cast Album and stayed at number one on the Billboard charts for 12 weeks.

Uniquely, Wilson used the same tune for two songs in the show: “76 Trombones” and “Goodnight, My Someone” — which are written in two different time signatures. And one song, “Till There Was You,” was recorded by the Beatles on their album, “With the Beatles.”

Wilson’s widow told the New York Times that more money was made from this Beatles cover than from the show itself.

Todd Patterson is the artistic director of Summer Stage and founded the nonprofit in 2010. The Summer Stage mission includes providing the community with high-quality musical theater productions while offering the opportunity for local talent to perform. In addition to directing this year’s production, Patterson also will appear on stage in the role of Olin Britt, the bass in the barbershop quartet.

As seen in the many families participating in this year’s production, Summer Stage also is an opportunity for a shared summer experience whole families can get involved in.

“There is always something for everyone in a theater production,” Patterson said. “On stage, backstage, in the pit or front of house, we love to see families involved in any capacity.”

Summer Stage Wooster also functions as a booster group for the Wooster High School Drama Club.

“A portion of our ticket income and purchased theater materials go toward their club in order to ensure that they are able to have continued excellence in their productions during the school year,” Patterson said.

Additionally, the summer productions offer an opportunity for high school students to continue gaining experience in theater through the summer months.

The local production will feature a full pit orchestra, something most unusual for community theater.

And Patterson always adds his own touch to the productions he directs. He wouldn’t divulge any secrets. “Folks who have seen my shows in the past know that I always have some tricks up my sleeve to make the show special and a little different,” he said.

Stuart Daniel is cast as Professor Harold Hill in the Summer Stage production. Daniel started acting as a kid and eventually majored in musical theater. He’s returning to the stage in “The Music Man” after some years away.

“I can’t wait to be under the lights again,” he said. “’The Music Man’ is one of my all-time favorite musicals, so being cast as Professor Harold Hill is a dream come true, and I’m honored to be able to share my love for theater with the Wooster community.”

The role of the mayor of River City, Mayor Shinn, will be played by Roger Stinchcomb. The actor has participated in the last two Summer Stage musicals and last winter’s musical revue. “I have met some wonderful people through Summer Stage,” he said. “We all become like a family.”

It’s likely area residents may know someone in the cast or involved in the show. The cast has 65 members, ranging in age from 8-66, in addition to the orchestra members, backstage staff and volunteers, and those helping with running the front of the house.

Reserved seat tickets are available online at www.ticketpeak.co/summerstagewooster/events or at the door as available. Tickets for adults are $18, and students/seniors are $14.

A stuffed bear, decked out as “The Music Man,” will be raffled off during intermission of the closing show. Tickets will be available at all the performances and will sell for $2 each or three for $5.

Volunteers are always needed, now and during the run of the show. Those interested in volunteering or making a donation to the nonprofit can reach out to Summer Stage via its website. Donations by check may be made out to Summer Stage Wooster and mailed to Joel Kennedy, 2650 Oak Hill Road, Wooster, OH 44691.

“It’s a funny show,” Musselman said, “very uplifting. You’ll be singing the songs in your head for days after you leave the theater. It’s just a wonderful show.”