‘Music Man’ ready for opening night


Rachel Genthe

Cast members rehearse in Burbank Hall in advance of the show’s Nov. 25 opener.

Celine Gossage, Staff Writer

The Santa Rosa Junior College Theatre Arts department marches to the beat of the drum with its upcoming production of the Music Man, slated to open on Nov. 25.

Set in a small town in Iowa during 1912, the musical tells the story of Harold Hill, a con man who goes from town to town duping townspeople of their money, but finds his plans interrupted when he falls in love with a young librarian.

“He’s pretending he’s this great music director and he’s not, he’s a total con man,” said John Shillington, director of the musical.

Trevor Hoffmann, who plays the role of Harold Hill, says, “Hill’s basic gig is going to a town, find or invent a social problem, stir up the water to catch some fish and then spring it on the town that he’s going to fix everything by organizing the youth of the city into a marching band.”

The musical often pokes fun at Iowans, where writer Meredith Wilson grew up. “It’s a very rigid community that’s very cantankerous and always wanting to argue about everything,” Shillington said.

When Harold arrives in a small town in Iowa, he inadvertently reawakens the townspeople and brings the world alive.

“He takes them from a black-and-white, rigid right-and-wrong existence to this other world,” Shillington said. “What Harold does is he gets you to go outside because outside is where the magic happens.”

“It took me ages to understand that there was anything bad about Harold Hill,” Hoffmann said.

Maureen O’Neill plays the role of Mrs. Paroo, the Irish mother of Marian and Winthrop, who also find their lives changed by Harold Hill.

“Winthrop is the little boy [who] is very shy and closed off in the beginning and Harold really opens him up and that is what wins Marian’s heart,” O’Neill said. “I’ve been told by a number of people that I am the youngest Mrs. Paroo that they’ve seen before.”

O’Neill has had several roles where she’s been cast as the mother. She worked with a voice coach to fine tune her Irish accent for the role.

“Being the mother of the roles lent itself to being the mother of the cast in some ways,” O’Neill said.

Hoffmann said Shillington has pushed him to stretch himself mentally for the production. “John is a director who’s going to go straight for how you feel, straight for the heart of the matter, straight for the human-to-human interrelation.”

Shillington says he’s experimenting with breaking the fourth wall in his production of the Music Man. “I treat the audience members like they’re Iowans and that Harold Hill is actually talking to you when he’s trying to con you.”

Hoffmann fell in love with the musical when he was 5 years old. “All I understood was he starts singing and suddenly other people can sing, he starts dancing and suddenly other people can dance. It was musical theater instilled into one show.”

O’Neill grew up loving the musical as well, until she got into more serious plays and thought the musical was something that lacked substance.
“It was really through doing auditions and seeing how much depth John had as a director that I realized we’re going to discover a whole new layer for this production,” O’Neill said. “This is the kind of production where it doesn’t feel forced because there’s so much behind it.”

Hoffmann said, “You watch this musical and there is immediately something magical about it. A lie can be beautiful if you’re super committed to it.”

Shillington hopes with his production the audience will have the ability to participate in the experience. “Jubilant, thrilled, they want to join the band as well and just realize how amazing this moment is that we have music in our lives,” he said.

Hoffmann added, “It’s very special even though we know it already, it’s still special because there’s still stuff to find in it and still some stuff to learn.”

Shillington described why he loved this muscical. “I think the play has a great heart behind it about people who start opening up to the mystery of life, which is the magic of music that connects us all.”


The musical will run in Burbank Hall weekends from Nov. 25- Dec. 11, with both afternoon and evening performances. The production dates and times are Nov. 25, 26, Dec. 1, 2, 3, 8, 9, 10 at 7:30 p.m. and Nov. 27, Dec. 3, 4, 10, 11 at 1:30 p.m. General Admission is $22, student and senior prices are $16, and admission is $12 for children 12 and under.