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April 2, 2014

Photos, Preview, Cast List: Mohawk to present ‘Music Man’

NEW CASTLE — There may be trouble in River City but the cast of “The Music Man” is more like a family affair.

The production at Mohawk High School brought together a group of friends and further tightened an already close bond.

And while the setting is 1912, the music for this piece of Americana is iconic and timeless.

Leads Joel Perry, who plays Professor Harold Hill, and Brianna Crawford as Eulalie McKecknie Shinn belted out “A capital T and that rhymes with P and that stands for pool,” and the obvious camaraderie shows.

Perry’s good friend — both in the show and away from the classroom — Mitchell Long is Mayor Shinn, and when conversing casually while discussing the musical, a lot of joking and friendly jabs occur.

All kidding aside, “The cast is like family because you spend so much time together,” Crawford said.

“We’ve developed a bond for one another,” Perry pointed out. “They’re my brothers and sisters.”

For Briese Yeager, who is a featured dancer, new friendships have been made.

It’s the first time directing for Ashley Graziani, who stepped in this year after Jim McKim retired. McKim directed the musicals at Mohawk for more than 30 years.

Graziani said she knows she has big shoes to fill.

“He did a wonderful job,” she said, adding this show was a perfect fit matching students with roles.

It’s a large cast of about 80 and that includes junior and senior high, and 12 elementary students. “It’s a big undertaking,” Graziani said.

That’s an understatement.

Zippy and tongue-twisting dialogue, humor, memorable music and jazz-like dance numbers create a “what-else-do you-need?” format. Oh, there’s the catchy phrases you just don’t hear anymore, too — like crimenenny and darn tootin’.

Long said that because the musical was written in the 1950s, it was difficult for him to get into that time frame and language.

Jamie Rafacz who portrays Marian Paroo, the introverted librarian, pointed out she is the opposite type so it was also tough getting into the character.

“I’m an outgoing person,” Rafacz said. “It’s a lot of fun to play someone different.”

The traveling salesman who is noted as a “swindling two-bit thimble rigger,” — a phrase Perry rolls off his tongue easily — is a role he relishes.

“I’m like him in that he is very humorous and the character knows how to lighten up a room.”

“Joel is kind of a clown,” Crawford said. “And his character distracts the townspeople from their routine lives.”

The mayor of River City is an uptight guy who doesn’t like change, Long said.

“I’m not uptight but I’m not a fan of change or surprises,” he added.

His wife in the show, played by Crawford, said her character is extroverted.

“Other than being the town gossip, I fit the character well,” she explained, adding she and Rafacz are also good friends.

When asked if she is a bubbly person, Rafacz quickly interjected with an emphatic “yes.”

The choreographer is Jamilyn Maiorano, first-grade teacher in the district and dance line adviser, and elementary band teacher Jason Zeh is directing the orchestra. 

Yeager, who took dance lessons for 14 years and has ballet, jazz, tap and hip-hop under her belt, is pleased that there are a lot of big dance numbers including “Seventy-six Trombones” and “Shipoopi.”

Dance numbers lean toward jazz and swing, which Yeager said is a good fit for her and shared that “I like the style of dance.”

“I see them dancing and they put a lot of effort and time into it,” observed Long, who doesn’t dance in the show. “It’s a big production.”

The music covers a lot of ground from upbeat to slow and even haunting.

“Til There was You” is of the lovely variety and a favorite of Perry, but he is also partial to “Seventy-six Trombones,” and “Ya Got Trouble.”

Crawford enjoys “Pick-A-Little” and “Shipoopi” — songs that grab the audience and make the show fun to watch.

The energy of the latter makes it fun to perform, said Yeager. “I put everything I have into it.”

Graziani agrees.

Her favorite is “Seventy-six Trombones” because “it incorporates the entire cast. I can’t get enough of it.”

“Marian the Librarian” is a very entertaining song, according to Rafacz who has also been a dancer since she was very young, and gets to sing and dance.

The drops and costumes are rented but all the sets are being done in house under the direction of backstage director, Barb Maravola. One of those includes a 16-foot-long train, which appears in the opening scene.

There’s been a lot of helping each other out for this tight-knit cast.

“It’s a huge blessing to be able to use the gifts God gave us,” Rafacz said.

The show will end, but the friendships will continue, said Yeager. This is her last musical as she graduates this year.

As Perry mentioned, “You don’t have to be blood to be family.”

By the end of “The Music Man,” the trouble in River City is over, too.

So with rhythm and rapport, music and merriment, it’s a guaranteed good time.

And that’s for darn tootin’.

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