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Murray Arts in Park’s “The Music Man” brings together high school drama teachers

Jul 26, 2017 03:48PM ● Published by Julie Slama

Last summer, Murray High School theatre director Will Saxton decided he wanted to direct a Murray Arts in the Park musical.

After contacting Murray City Cultural Arts Director Mary Ann Kirk, the conversation turned to Saxton directing this summer’s “The Music Man,” which kicks off Tuesday, July 27 and runs through Wednesday, Aug. 2, excluding Sunday.

“The Music Man” will be the first show in the newly remodeled amphitheater in Murray City Park, with parking available at 495 E. 5300 South. Tickets are available in advance at the Murray Parks office, 296 E. Murray Park Ave., at $10 for adults and $8 for children and seniors or online at mcreg.com with a small convenience fee. A family night rate of $35 with dependent children is available on Monday, July 31 only.

Meredith Willson’s six-time Tony Award-winning musical comedy follows fast-talking traveling salesman Harold Hill as he cons the people of River City, Iowa, into buying instruments and uniforms for a boys’ band that he vows to organize — this, despite the fact that he doesn’t know a trombone from a treble clef. His plans to skip town with the cash are foiled when he falls for Marian, the librarian, who transforms him into a respectable citizen. 

The role of Marian Paroo is played by ShaRee Larsen and Cottonwood High theatre director Adam Wilkins will play Harold Hill.

“This production features a unique blend of local Murray talent,” Kirk said. “It is the first time Murray Arts in the Park has had two popular local drama teachers in Murray boundaries in key roles in a single summer musical — that has never happened before in the 25 years I have been here. It is an opportunity for our community to witness the kind of teaching talent we have in our own local high schools.”

Wilkins remembered watching “The Music Man” as a child.

“I love ‘The Music Man,’” he said. “I watched it with my grandma when I was little. I love the story of a big city guy trying to convince the small town about his ways, but it’s the small town that changed him.”

Wilkins, who keeps his acting skills polished by “practicing what I preach,” auditioned for the part in May. This is his first time portraying Harold Hill.

Saxton said he, along with the show’s music director and choreographer, were considering six men for the part, but narrowed it to Wilkins after call-backs when they had him sing and read together with those auditioning for the role of Marian. He also had to read and dance individually.

“This is our first time working together in a production,” Saxton said. “Adam is an incredible, great actor who is so professional. He thinks about his character and practices so he’s prepared for rehearsal. He’s a great example to all the actors — and students — in our cast. He works really hard and brings energy so his character comes to life and drives the story forward.”

Saxton also recognizes Wilkins as a talented director so Saxton to block one scene.

“I knew he could do it, but in doing so, he bonded with another co-star of the show, so they became partners in the creative process,” Saxton said.

Wilkins said that he’s happy to “take a back seat” to follow Saxton’s vision.

“Will is a good director,” Wilkins said. “I’m a huge fan of him as an educator and a director. He outlines his vision and then listens to his actors and let’s their voices be heard. He’s the kind of director you hope for as an actor. I have watched Will’s methodical ‘let’s let the scene play out’ approach and I hope to take away that working process — one that is more trusting that it will turn out.”

Wilkins said that he felt it is important to demonstrate to his students that he’s still involved in the community theatre.

“It’s important as an artist, to show students what options they can have beyond their high school acting career. For me, when I act, I become a better director. When I direct, I also become a better actor,” he said.

Saxton, who has directed three other Murray Arts in the Parks production, also is a fan of community theatre.

“I love doing the shows on the amphitheater stage under the stars. There’s a satisfying experience to be outside in nature at a different venue than the high school, with all its challenges. We also expect to have a different audience, with our community theatre audience combined with supporters from both high schools. It’s just been a great collaboration with everyone — Mary Ann is amazing and we have a talented cast and crew,” he said.

Joining the two high school teachers is Cottonwood High School’s Madison Howell doing costumes as well as a couple students from both high schools and six Murray High alumni.

The 1957 musical is appealing to all ages as well as all audiences, Saxton said.

“It’s the traditional River City, but it never gets tiring, never gets old, never fails to entertain no matter how many times you see it,” he said.

This production is produced with special permission by Music Theater International and is financially supported in part by Salt Lake County Zoo, Arts, and Parks, and Utah Division of Arts and Museums.

The next Murray Arts in the Park production will be Rodgers and Hammerstein’s “Carousel” opening Friday, Aug. 11.  

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