FORTVILLE — The story may be about a man pretending to be someone he’s not, but there’s no lack of authenticity behind Mt. Vernon High School’s preparations of the famous musical.
The upcoming production of “The Music Man” features costumes used in a past Broadway run. It also marks the return of a live orchestra accompanying a musical at the high school in years. A cast and crew in the triple digits have been working to perfect the show over the past several months, including two seniors who have forged a friendship performing together since they were freshmen.
The musical, which became a hit upon its debut in 1957, is set in the fictional town of River City, Iowa in 1912. Con man Harold Hill arrives posing as a traveling salesman with promises of teaching children to perform in a marching band. He knows nothing of music, however, and has every intention of skipping town with the payments he receives.
Lindsay Davis, director and choreographer of the production and head of Mt. Vernon High School’s theatre program, said more than 100 students have been working on “The Music Man” since January.
The show is filled with big musical numbers, romance and laughs, she said.
“It’s just good, old-fashioned fun and comedy,” Davis said in the high school’s auditorium Monday evening as her cast and crew prepared for a dress rehearsal. “It’s musical comedy at its finest.”
The school rented costumes from the production’s 2000 Broadway revival.
“We have full-out, head-to-toe marching band costumes every cast member wears,” Davis said.
And just offstage, a group of young instrumentalists will play the music the actors will sing to.
“We finally have live instruments,” Davis said, something she thinks has been absent from productions at the school since 2018.
COVID-19 complicated that in the past, she said, as well as the stage not being set up to accommodate a pit orchestra. Live music has formerly been provided on a loft and backstage, but those routes always required using microphones.
“Now we actually have live acoustics, so we’re excited for that, to see them out here,” Davis said.
She encourages audience members to stick around for a surprise at the finale.
Daimon Anderson plays Harold Hill and Benjamin Dostalek plays Marcellus, whom the actor describes as Hill’s “goofy friend.”
Playing pals isn’t a stretch for the two, as “The Music Man” marks their seventh production together since they arrived at Mt. Vernon High School.
“We’ve been playing goofy friends for a while,” Anderson said shortly before his microphone check at the rehearsal.
“I would go as far as to say we method-act,” he bantered.
Sophomore Katie Bowsher plays Marian Paroo, River City’s librarian and music teacher as well as Hill’s love interest.
“She is looking for love, but is also afraid of it, is kind of standoffish to everyone,” Bowsher said.
Anderson said Hill is one of his favorite characters he’s ever played.
“He’s fun,” Anderson said. “He runs around, and he’s really high-energy for pretty much the entire show. It’s very fun to do — jump around on stage and just generally be charming.”
Dostalek said he enjoys the creative liberties he gets to take with his character.
“He’s not in the show a whole ton, but any time he is, he’s a pretty big focus when he’s onstage,” he said.
Dostalek finds the show hilarious and is confident audiences will too.
“I think there are so many good jokes in here,” he said. “Some I’m still finding out are jokes. I think people need to come multiple times because then they’ll be able to understand all the jokes.”
Bowsher’s favorite part of the show is the depth of its characters.
“You get to find all these different families and different people in the town, and you get to follow all these different characters,” she said. “There’s just so many stories going on.”
Anderson seconded his cast-mates’ perspectives.
“Along with the humor, there’s also a lot of introspectiveness and personal growth that comes from certain characters,” he said. “It’s very cool.”
If you go
What: “The Music Man”
When: 7 p.m. Thursday, Friday and Saturday; 2 p.m. Saturday and Sunday
Where: Auditorium at Mt. Vernon High School, 8112 N. 200W, Fortville
Tickets: Online (mvhs.booktix.com) — $16 for adults, $12 for 18 and under; At door (cash or check only) — $20 for adults, $16 for 18 and under