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Unionville Theatre Company's rehearsals
of the Music Man are in full swing!

(Feb. 17/07)  The Unionville Theatre Company is in high gear, with rehearsals and preparations for The Music Man literally in full swing. GuidingStar.ca spent an exhilarating evening at their rehearsal space at the Markham Fairgrounds on Tuesday, February 13.

   The curtain rises at the Markham Theatre For Performing Arts on February 21st, with four evening performances until February 24th. There will also be two matinees, on February 24th and 25th.

   Last Tuesday evening was bitter cold with predictions of heavy snow.  I located the huge exhibition building that is used for Tuesday and Thursday night rehearsals, parked the car, approached the door in the winter dusk wondering what I would find when I opened. 

   What a captivating scene I stepped into!  Before me stood the striking set of River City. Volunteers were already at work, doing some final touching up.  Many of the cast had arrived too.  In a far corner costumes hung on racks beside the free standing change rooms duly marked ‘boys’ and ‘girls’.  A young lady stepped out looking like someone from the early 1900’s, as indeed she should. 

   I was greeted by Carlene Flynn, the producer, with whom I had spoken on the phone, and met stage manager Rob Cline.  Busy organizing a row of orchestra instruments that would be props later in the evening was director David Bertram.

   The icy cold outside meant it would take a while for the huge hall to warm up.  I approached a group of four gentlemen still keeping their warm coats on and asked if they were parents of some of the cast members.  Haha...no.  This was the barbershop quartet.  You see what I mean, it was all so overwhelming.

   When everyone had arrived, the younger members of the cast put themselves through a vigorous pre-rehearsal warm up, including a tongue-in-cheek version of “Let’s Do The Time Warp Again”.  Some, but not all, of the actors were required to rehearse in costume that night and so this spirited aerobics session had some of the 1910’s sprinkled through it.

Producer Carlene Flynn, Set Designer
 Graham Dewar and Set Dresser Kathy Crupi

Director David Bertram
   Over the bustle David Bertram called the cast forward for some instructions and a pre-rehearsal pep talk.  Then the mobile set representing the train carrying the loveable scoundrel Harold Hill towards River City was rolled in and the rehearsal had begun. 

   Over the course of a delightful evening I witnessed and enjoyed how youthful talent and enthusiasm, mature experience, hard work by volunteers, parental support, painstaking attention to detail, and high energy, have come together to create a spectacle that is not to be missed when it hits the stage at the Markham Theatre
   How did it all begin?

   First of all, the UTC had the genial idea of chosing The Music Man for their 2007 show.  Meredith Willson had a long career as a musician, music director, conductor, and  composer.   The Music Man was first performed on December 19, 1957 and ran for 1,375 performances.  It won eight Tony Awards, including Best Musical Author, and Best Composer and Lyricist, for Meredith Willson.  You will enjoy songs that have long become familiar, and loved, such as Seventy-Six Trombones, Shipoopi, and Till There Was You, to name only a few.

   Bringing The Music Man successfully to the stage in 2007 requires the right people overseeing the production, from its conception to the final curtain.

Rob Cline
Stage Manager


   Carlene Flynn has been on the Board of Directors of Unionville Theatre Company for two years and is taking her first turn as producer.  Her community involvements over the years are too numerous to list but include the Markham Guild of Village Crafts and the Markham Fair Committee.

    Director David Bertram is a graduate of the Royal Conservatory of Music and the University of Toronto.  He has toured internationally as a base soloist and locally has performed frequently with the Tapestry Chamber Choir. His long experience working with young people includes ten years as conductor of the York Region Children's Choir. He now teaches voice privately. 

Steve MacQuarrie
as the Mayor

Marc Harwood and
Tess Barao

   An evening spent watching David Bertram in rehearsal with performers of a wide age range confirmed the great respect and affection his charges, young and not so young, have for him.

   Doug Manning has been a member of UTC since 1999 and has received two Thea awards as Musical Director.

   Choreographer Yuri Vrazhkin is new this year to UTC.  Yuri is a graduate of the National Ballet School in Kiev, Ukraine and toured extensively with the world famous Virsky Dance Company.  Since settling in Canada he has been performer, choreographer and teacher.  His most recent choreographic work was for the Canadian Ballet Theatre’s The Nutcracker, performed this past December at the Winter Garden Theatre in Toronto.
Phil Wiseman and
 Kim Ramon

   When the call for auditions went out in October, one hundred and twenty-five aspirants came to try out for forty-five parts!   It was decided to have a double cast for most of the roles, two actors doing alternate performances of the same role.  Thus, there is the ‘Red Cast’ and the ‘White Cast’.  But there are also several roles that will be performed by the same actor throughout.

   The Company has two rehearsal spaces.  On Tuesdays and Thursdays the large exhibition building at the Markham Fairgrounds is used.  Here the set is also worked on and is now largely complete and set up.  Thus the cast can act in a space that will correspond to the stage at the Markham Theatre.  The final touches are all that is needed now and several volunteers quietly worked at these tasks during the rehearsal.  At this location the cast performs with the accompaniment of taped music.

Liisa Davis as
Eulalie Mackechnie Shinn

Alex Simpson as Winthrop, Amy Forsyth as
Amaryllis, and Kathleen Wilson as Mrs. Paroo
 
   On Sundays, rehearsals are held at Crosby Arena on Main Street Unionville when the cast works with the live orchestra.

   One begins to grasp the tremendous logistics involved in putting on such a mammoth production, and of the huge time commitment, especially demanding for this predominantly young cast.

   It includes some performers who I am sure we will see a lot of in the coming years, starting with the two talented young men who will alternate as Harold Hill. 

   Marc Harwood is only 16 years old but already has an impressive resumé with UTC, including roles in Peter Pan, The King and I and Anne of Green Gables.  Marc shares the role with Philip Wiseman.  Phil is in the final year of the AY Drama Program at Unionville High School.  His past credits with UTC include The King and I and Anything Goes.
Steve Cline Hudson Scott David Sisson Dominic Mangialardi

Assistant Stage Manager,
Caela Kavanagh

   Harold Hill falls in love with Marian, the town librarian.  And how could anyone resist the Marian played by Tess Barao and Kim Ramon?  Tess wowed the auditioners with her voice and acting ability and is sure to captivate her audiences.  It was Tess who was rehearsing Marion the evening I was there and her voice brought a hush over much of the activity going on around the stage area.  Kim Ramon is already quite a veteran of the stage, having performed in The Wizard of Oz, Cats and Singing In The Rain, five productions already with UTC, and thirteen in total. 

Jeff and Susan Pybus


   And who is “Professor” Harold Hill?  Well, he is a con-man who sells band instruments and plans to make big sales in River City by convincing the citizens he can teach their children to play in a marching band.  What he doesn’t plan on is meeting and falling love with Marian, the town librarian.  A good side of him comes out. But, of course, he’s put to the test.  This happens when his old friend Charlie Cowell shows up in town.  Will his gift to River City be the love of music that has taken it over?  Or will he skip town and leave it all behind?

Jill Kooymans, Madeline Mason, Angela Scalera, Caela Kavanagh, Chantal Mirenzi and Stephanie Seto

Louie Mangialardi, Thomas Jestin, Rosie Mak,
Sarah Gowe and Amy Forsyth

   And who are these townspeople who get caught up in Harry Hill’s schemes?

   Well, there’s Mayor George Shinn, played by Steve MacQuarrie, who for the last eighteen years has been the Vocalist/Bandleader for a 50’s dance band “Steve Lee and the Ride”, a perfect casting for this role.

   His wife, the impressively named Eulalie Mackechnie Shinn, is played by the equally impressive young comedic actress and singer Liisa Davis.  She’s no stranger to UTC productions, having played in Peter Pan, and most recently as Mrs. Blewette in Anne of Green Gables.

   Steven Cline will play all the shows as the hard-nosed Charlie Cowell, a big change from his role last year with UTC, as Matthew in Anne Of Green Gables.

   Well, the cast is just a too big for me to tell you about everybody but before I leave them, let’s get back to those bundled up gentlemen who, you’ll remember, were not parents of cast members.  They turned out to be loveable townsfolk of River City, and a barber shop quartet to boot, who will charm you with their harmonisations.  I can’t add up the aggregate years of performance experience in these four, namely Jim Leckey, Dale Sue Ping, Ron Turner and David Widenmaier.

   And I’ll mention two other actors also a little bit closer to my age than most of the cast, namely Graham Dewar and Wayne Murray.  They appear at the beginning of the play as traveling salesman riding the train.  As soon as they finish rehearsing their parts they get right back to work on another of their tasks which has involved them, since the outset, in the building of the wonderful set. 

Barber shop quartet's Ron Turner, Dale Sue Ping,
Jim Leckey and Dave Widenmaier
with Steve MacQuarrie

 

   In addition to acting and set building Graham is also the President of the Board of Directors of UTC and has the job of overseeing the budget of about $40,000 that goes into putting on the musical.

   In Graham’s words, “the UTC is a non-profit community theatre focused on, but not limited to, youth.”   And as with every community theatre, its success is due to the countless hours volunteered by so many people.

   After all the evening’s hard work, the rehearsal adjourned—the next day being St. Valentine’s---with the young male singers serenading the girls with a love song of UTC composition and the gift of  a flower to each girl. 
  

 

  And let’s not forget the many parents who had now arrived, driving through the snowfall, to pick up their kids, a duty they had performed probably more times than they can count.

   UTC enjoys the corporate sponsorships of Nava Restaurant and Bar, and also of Brix Napa Valley Grill and Wine Bar.

Clennie Mangialardi
costume designer

Cathy Edwards and Christine Ramon Deborah Jestin
Wayne Murray Ricardo Regalado and Joe Edwards
Sydney and Bill Keir Courtney Keir uses a pause
to do homework

   However, UTC depends mainly on ticket sales to cover its operating costs.  So, don’t miss a great night of entertainment, produced and performed right here in Markham.

   Once again, the show has four evening performances from February 21 to 24, starting at 7:30 p.m. and, in addition, two matinees, on February 24 and 25, at 1:00 p.m, at Markham Theatre For Performing Arts, 171 Town Centre Boulevard.  The box office phone number is 905-305-7469.

   GuidingStar.ca congratulates and salutes everyone involved in the Unionville Theatre Company’s production of The Music Man. 


 

   Grant Weaver      

The cast loves rehearsing but can't wait
to be in costume and on stage.

 


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