The Music Man was a three-hour production that swept the audience out of the day-to-day world into River City, Iowa, in the early 1900s. With a population of less than 3,000, it might have been Virden, Manitoba.
The Music Man ran six showings last week and producer/director Michelle Chyzyk says in review, “We are all feeling fantastic about such a wonderful team effort in the detailed shaping of this production. We felt we took a fresh loving approach and breathed life into a well-known classic and the wonderfully memorable characters. Many comments heard were, ‘I don't remember The Music Man being such a funny show!’”
Truly, the stage became a world of colour and comedy with a brilliance that could bring on tears, much like watching a close horserace can.
As the slick salesman Harold Hill (Brady Chyzyk) hawks musical instruments and band uniforms to small-town USA, everyone gets more than they bargained for.
Each performer on that stage was a star, but Chyzyk’s performance was amazing. He WAS Harold Hill and to sweeten the deal, he got to sweep his actual new wife Taylor Chyzyk (as Marian the librarian) off her feet.
But what’s a town mayor to do to keep order and protect his own (billiard room) interests? Just what Mayor Shinn (Michael Thiessen) did, with a flourish reminiscent of Shakespeare’s bumbling Polonius in Hamlet.
"Watch your phrasology!" he’d say. Such a stuffed shirt. Always reaching to control situations he sputtered, "Not one more poop out of you!" His wife Eulalie Shinn (Wendy Bancescu) jumps in, "I think he means 'peep.'"
The men’s barbershop quartet, the kids, the dance, the choir voices, and Taylor Chyzyk’s sweet solos - it was all there. The production came off as slick as … a travelling salesman’s patter.
The community gets behind Virden Theatre Production’s shows helping in every way imaginable. Business sponsorships help with expenses.
Chyzyk doesn’t yet know what the show’s bottom line looks like. She said, “Our sponsorship was lower this year and audiences a little smaller, maybe. Times are tough and expenses in mounting a production are continually increasing.”
However, in the show’s printed program director Dean Munchinsky points to an intangible beyond the sheer entertainment value. “One of the things I love most about our grand endeavour here is seeing relationships built…. We have pillars of our community learning the names, hopes and dreams of middle school, high school and beyond.” He credits Chyzyk’s leadership and her team leaders as instrumental in developing community among this theatre group.
Chyzyk is in tune with deeper values too. She says, “I will share how we truly measure the success of our shows. We ask the cast...
“Have you made a new friend or enhanced relationships with those you already knew?
“Have you felt appreciated/valued?
“Have you been challenged?
“Did you learn anything new about performing or about being a human in this world?”
She says the answers were a resounding ‘yes.’
“We are confident that we brought joy to so many in that building through six performances. Our crowds came from many different places. It is always wonderful to see how many experienced theatre-goers from Westman have our quality productions on their radar and attend each year.”
The reputation of Virden Theatre Productions is building. The town is a destination when the musical is on.
Michelle Chyzyk says, “We still hope to get to a place where local audiences come yearly, not even concerned about the title of the show - just counting that they will see the community talent (on stage and off) proudly on display.”