The mercury may be towering toward one hundred, but the temperature inside Ursinus College’s Kaleidoscope Center is nice and cool. That’s where you’ll find Facetime Theatre’s impressive production of Meredith Willson’s THE MUSIC MAN, which opens Thursday and runs a mere four performances over three days.
The musical is the culmination of an intensive two and a half week Summer Stage program and features a whopping 79 student performers from fourth grade through college. “We should have topped the cast at 76,” joked co-director Jessica Potts, referencing the musical’s most famous number. The truth, though, is that due to popularity the theatre did have to institute a cutoff. “We had 25 students on the wait list,” Potts said.
I had the opportunity to drop in on part of the final dress rehearsal and immediately was greeted to the sweet sound of a barbershop quartet beautifully harmonizing “Lida Rose”. It quickly became clear that this was much more than your typical summer theatre production. This was no surprise to me, as I had covered last year’s memorable rendition of OLIVER for STAGE. OLIVER, which had a cast of 55, was Facetime’s first Summer Stage musical. So, what has the organization been up to over the past year?
“We have begun the process of finding a building to potentially buy and renovate,” Potts, of Devon, replied. “We are looking into what we would need to do in order to launch a capital campaign to reach that goal.” The massive cast size and the wait list make it clear that the theatre has exploded in fame, so much so that the organization already is planning two separate Summer Stage programs for 2014. FIDDLER ON THE ROOF and TARZAN will be featured. The program clearly shares similarities with Upper Darby well-renowned Summer Stage. Indeed, Upper Darby’s most illustrious former member, Tina Fey, is a promoter of Facetime.
With respect to THE MUSIC MAN, Potts is most proud of how each student takes his or her moment to shine. “They understand that being a part of the ensemble is just as important as being a lead role,” stressed Potts. “They take their smaller parts and run with them.” That is not to say that the leads are not notable. Liam Snead is delightfully charismatic as swindling salesman Harold Hill. As his love interest Marion, Jamie Dougherty features a pleasant soprano voice. The supporting roles also stand out, including a very funny Owen Howson as the smarmy Charlie Cowell, who makes the most of each movement on stage.
Perhaps most impressive, however, is that most of the students playing the principal roles do double duty, also working as Facetime interns. Dougherty, for instance, is the “activities intern”, which put her at the center of improvisation exercises early in the rehearsal process. “The interns’ involvement is mostly with the younger students,” Potts explained. “In addition, they work on specific areas of the production (costumes, tech, design, set, etc) as where [co-director] Kate [Nice] and I focus on the directing itself.”
As mentioned, THE MUSIC MAN is being performed in the Kaleidoscope Theatre at Ursinus College, a spacious, professional venue that allows Facetime to utilize the college’s dynamic lighting and sound equipment. The musical’s set is fairly simple, making full use of a cyc backdrop, although the larger set pieces come straight from Walnut Street Theatre’s production.
Don’t let the parade pass you by. From my observations, this is not a show to miss.
THE MUSIC MAN
Music & Lyrics by Meredith Willson
Book by Meredith Willson and Franklin Lacey
Co-Directed by Kate Nice and Jessica Potts
July 18 – 20, 2013
Facetime Theatre (at Ursinus College)
Kaleidoscope Center (off of 9th Ave.)
Collegeville, PA 19426