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CUTC brings The Music Man back to the Virginia Theatre for its fourth run

Andrew Simek plays Harold Hill in CUTC's fourth installment of The Music Man

CHAMPAIGN – There’s trouble in River City coming to the historic Virginia Theatre August 3-6. The Champaign Urbana Theatre Company presents its fourth rendition of “The Music Man” which the company produces nearly every 10 years.

Illinois Newsroom’s Kimberly Schofield spoke with several people involved with the production to learn more about the musical the company’s traditions and what keeps people coming back to the show.

Producer Chris Kreps

Chris Kreps: The Champaign Urbana Theatre Company started in 1991. The very first production they ever did was The Music Man, I believe that they have since done it two other times prior so this will actually be the fourth production of The Music Man by CUTC. I know they did it as their 10-year anniversary. I was actually in that production in 2001. And they’ve tried to do it about every 10ish years, kind of as an anniversary to mark the start of the Champaign Urbana Theatre Company in ‘91.

Schofield: Kreps was in the second production with the CUTC as part of the ensemble and says the show’s opening number was innovative for a Golden Era musical.

Kreps: It’s kind of neat because it’s almost way before it’s time, it’s kind of almost a rap that’s performed that first song it’s a very rhythmical piece. It’s more about the rhythms than it is about the notes because it’s really just spoken in time to the music. That piece is called Rock Island.

Actor Mike Prosise

Mike Prosise plays Oliver Hicks, a member of the barbershop quartet, which is just one of the many reasons that Prosise appreciates the Music Man and CUTC.

Mike Prosise: I love it. I’m a sucker for the show. The story cooks along, it’s a lot of fun, the music is really good. And there are no real duds musically. They all kind of get you moving. And the reason I keep coming back to it is because a lot of companies do it. It’s something I enjoy. I was actually in the barbershop quartet when I did it in high school.

Schofield: Prosise also enjoys how the musical and the rehearsal process bring everyone together.

Prosise: Just the energy that you get from collaborating. And I gotta tell you, you know, with the state of the world and everything…the state of everybody’s live and everything…getting together. And having something to do that doesn’t have to have anything to do with your nine to five or your home life or anything. It’s like we get together and we have a mission together and we collaborate. And getting together where I can, you know, hang out with these people and create and I don’t have to get into the nitty gritty of, ‘Well, how was your day or how’s your life been?’ Those are hard questions to answer a lot of the time anymore, you know, because everybody’s got kind of heavy stuff going on. So I really like that environment of just kind of getting together with friends and creating.

Choreographer Whitney Havice

Whitney Havice was in the 2001 production of CUTC’s The Music Man as a featured dancer. This year marks her second run as the show’s choreographer.

Whitney Havice: The music so exuberant and joyful. Shipoopi is one of my favorite numbers. I kind of wished I was in the show this time around just so I could be in Shipoopi.

Schofield: With the show being so well known, Havice has to find a balance between sticking to tradition and putting her own unique spin on choreography.

Havice: One of the challenges whenever you produce it, is to kind of make it your own a little bit and put your own personality and energy into it. But you also want to pay homage to the original and to the moments that audiences kind of expect from the story and from the characters. I don’t like to repeat choreography. So even though I choreographed this show before I did not use the same choreography that I did previously. There are little moments people might recognize from the movie or from the original Broadway production that are kind of standard like you sort of have to put them in there because they’re sort of like cannon for Music Man choreography, but the rest of it is completely original.

Carissa Yau plays Marian Paroo in CUTC’s The Music Man

Schofield: Havice says there are many factors that keep bringing her back to this show.

Havice: The Music Man, the movie version, was one of my favorite musicals to watch growing up, and it kind of was responsible, along with some others from that era, of cultivating my love for musical theater. So it kind of has a special place in my heart. The music and the story just have such a sense of community and just hopefulness and joy. One of those rare shows where you work on it for weeks and weeks and by the end of the process, the songs are stuck in your head continuously. And in a lot of other shows, you’ll be like, ‘Oh, I’m so sick of this song. I’ve heard it 50 million times already.’ This is one of those shows where that’s not true. They can get stuck in my head but I don’t mind.

Schofield: And for Havice, participating in CUTC’s The Music Man for the third time means a lot more than just getting good songs stuck in your head.

Havice: The show is about a community coming together and kind of feeds back into the community of community theater in this town and with the Champaign Urbana Theatre Company itself, too, which has a special place in my heart because that’s sort of where I consider my theater home to be because I grew up doing shows with CUTC at the Virginia theater. It’s really special to be able to come back to the Virginia with this particular company doing this particular show, sort of like feeling at home.

Schofield: The fourth rendition of CUTC’s The Music Man runs Thursday, August 3 through Sunday, August 6 at the Virginia Theatre in downtown Champaign. Click here for more information.

Picture of Kimberly Schofield

Kimberly Schofield

Kimberly Schofield is the host of Morning Edition and covers arts and entertainment for Illinois Newsroom. When she is not covering the arts, she is performing in plays and musicals or running the streets of CU.

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