Listen for it? Can you hear it? It’s the sound of Americana. The sound of marching bands, blaring brass, sliding trombones! Meredith Willson’s masterwork The Music Man returns to the Phoenix Stage in Symphony Hall the weekend of September 10-12. The Music Man marks the first musical theater collaboration between the Phoenix Symphony and Phoenix Theatre. Joining forcing to create a magical, unforgettable evening of musical comedy theater are the Symphony’s Music Director Michael Christie and PT’s Producing Artistic Director,Michael Barnard. Can you hear those 76 Trombones a little more clearly now?
Messrs. Christie and Barnard are currently creating the magic that will wow Phoenix audiences in the first ever semi-staged reading of a Broadway musical in Symphony Hall. Semi-staged concert readings of musicals have long been a staple of the world’s philharmonic organizations. New York City Center Encores! Great American Musicals in Concert was established in 1994, dedicated to performing the scores of rarely heard musicals in semi-staged concerts. To date Encores! has presented fifty-seven productions of which four have been so successful that they subsequently transferred to Broadway (Wonderful Town, Finian’s Rainbow, Gypsy). Maybe you have heard of the musical Chicago? Yup, the current Broadway revival is an exact duplicate of the concert reading that played the stage of City Center in the spring of 1996 (minus the scripts, of course).
Can we expect any less from Christie and Barnard? There’s no worries there.
PT Artistic Driector Michael Barnard
The Examiner recently had the distinct pleasure of chatting with Michael Barnard, Phoenix Theatre’s Producing Artistic Director and director of the forthcoming musical event of the Phoenix season, the semi-staged concert of Meredith Willson’s The Music Man with the Phoenix Symphony. Today we will talk about The Music Man. Tomorrow, we will see what Mr. Barnard has to say about what the Valley can expect next season at Phoenix Theatre.
Q: What glorious way to celebrate Phoenix Theatre’s 90th season, a collaboration with Phoenix Symphony. What can Valley audiences expect to see with The Music Man?
A: What they are going to get is a semi-staged concert version of The Music Man. The full orchestra takes up a fair share of the stage and we will be using three skeletal facades that will be placed in front of the Symphony. Each of the facades will represent a different locale in the musical’s River City. We will be using the stage apron for our staging. Everyone is going to be dressed in period costumes for the show. All of Willson’s book will be played out but the score will be edited in order for the production to be play out in two hours and fifteen minutes, including intermission. Basically, the dances and certain reprises have been eliminated from the score. The concert cuts come for Music Theatre International. It may be pared back from the original but the audience is going to get a great evening of classic entertainment. We have assembled a wonderful cast and it is going to be simply stunning to hear Willson’s great score played by the Symphony. We are also planning a couple of surprises for the audience at the end of the show, so it should be pretty exciting.
Phoenix Symphony Maestro Michael Christie
Q: Who is designing the sets and costumes?
A: The costumes are being done by Broadway Costumes out of Chicago. Greg Jaye, who is on our staff at PT, is designing the facades.
Q: Will the semi-staged concert mirror the formula established by City Center Encores?
A: I think that the City Center Encores concerts have evolved over the years and are now far more elaborate. This is going to be a Symphony concert. The script, essentially, will be memorized and the production will be lightly staged. You will hear all of the songs and see ninety-five percent of the script performed. This is going to be closer to what is done with the NY or LA Philharmonic.
Shirley Jones & Robert Preston in the 1962 film
Q: Personally, I can think of no better way to honor the weekend of 9/11 with such an iconic American work. Will there be any reference to the anniversary?
A: We have talked about it with the Symphony and we will definitely acknowledge it in some way, especially on the actual day.
Q: This is the first of three planned collaborations. Any thought to what will be presented in the future?
A: We have bounced around a number of ideas but have not settled on any as of yet. I am afraid that if I mention one, it might eventually be the wrong one. It’s a long process. Whatever show we consider to do in concert we need to first get the rights to perform it before we can share our choice with the public. I have learned the hard way to wait until everyone has signed off on a project.
The Grammy Award winning original cast album
Here is a list of the phenomenal talented Phoenix Theatre has assembled to recreate Willson’s masterwork The Music Man with the Phoenix Symphony: the principals: Walter Belcher (Marcellus Washburn), Johanna Carlisle (Mrs. Paroo), Chris Eriksen (Charlie Cowell), Rusty Ferracane (Harold Hill), Lauren Gasic (Zanetta Shin), Kaitlynn Kleinmann (Marian Paroo), Sterling Liska (Tommy Djilas), Christopher Moffit (Winthrop Paroo), David Rogers (Mayor Shinn), Tregoney Shepherd (Eulalie Shinn), Zoe Zamora (Amaryllis).
Members of the chorus: Lucas Coatney, Emily Mulligan-Ferry, Dzifa Kwaku, Christoper Moffit, Kathi Osborn, Mark Stoddard, Cydney Trent, Adam Vargas, Jodie Weiss and Toby Yatso.
For a more detailed history on The Music Man, see: Phoenix Theatre and the Phoenix Symphony to make beautiful music together.
Photos courtesy of Phoenix Theatre and the Phoenix Symphony, unless otherwise noted.
Single tickets for The Music Man will go on sale to the general public on August 1. To become a subscriber and/or to purchase tickets for this incredible evening of the best of Broadway, please call the Phoenix Symphony Box Office at (602) 495 1999 or visit them on line at their Web Site.
The Phoenix Theatre is about to open its extraordinary 90th season with a spectacular array of great musical and comedy entertainment. Subscriptions and individual ticket sales for all of the Phoenix Theatre upcoming shows are available by phone at (602) 254-2151 or ON LINE.
Read about Phoenix Theatre’s 2010-11 season, The 2010-11 Season at Phoenix Theatre, Part One and Next Season at Phoenix Theatre, Part Two.
Phoenix Theatre 100 East McDowell Road Phoenix 85004
Phoenix Symphony Hall 225 East Adams Street Phoenix 85004