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Strike Up The Band for 'The Music Man'

Alliance Theatre's Summer Stars stages play July 30-Aug. 1 at Chantilly High.

Featuring a cast of 77 people, a crew of 30 and a 10-member orchestra, The Alliance Theatre's Summer Stars enthusiastically presents "The Music Man."

A paean to small-town America, the story follows professor Harold Hill, a fast-talking salesman, who cons the people of River City, Iowa, into buying instruments and uniforms for a band he vows to organize. Trouble is, he doesn't know a thing about music and he plans to take the money and run — that is, until he falls for Marian, the town librarian.

Centreville's Jim Mitchell plays Hill in this boisterous, spirited musical, and he says audiences are going to love the show. "It's a classic love story," he said. "And everybody knows this music — it's one of the great, American classics of the stage."

Show times are Friday, July 30, at 7:30 p.m.; Saturday, July 31, at 2 and 7:30 p.m. and Sunday, Aug. 1, at 2 p.m. at Chantilly High. Tickets are $12, adults, and $8, children under 12; group rates are available. For reservations, call 703-263-2085 or e-mail pbkallman@allvantage.com.

Summer Stars is a six-week theater program teaching acting, voice and dance to students ages 7 through high school. It culminates in a performance in a show along with adult actors, and this year's production is "The Music Man."

Alliance co-founders Elaine Wilson and Pat Kallman are respectively directing and producing the musical. Greg Conrad directs the live pit orchestra, and Meredith Young is accompanist. Six families have siblings in the cast, and nine children have parents in the production.

Mitchell, for example, appears with his son Pat — who plays a salesman on the Rock Island Railroad — and daughter Tara, a dancer. And Suzy McCarthy, playing Marian, learned her dance routines from the show's choreographer, her daughter Christy Slosky.

Chantilly High students Marley Monk and Kevin Jones built most of the sets — a train and colorful town buildings. And Rachel Carson Middle School lent its band uniforms. Kallman said things are really shaping up: "The kids started rehearsals, the day after school ended, and adults started three weeks earlier."

Mitchell — whose acting credits include Scrooge, Captain Hook and Daddy Warbucks, plus Fagan in last year's Alliance production of "Oliver!" — describes his character as "a traveling salesman who doesn't really have anything to sell, but sells it, anyway. He likes the challenge."

"IT'S A BLAST," said Mitchell, who even shaved off his beloved beard for this role. "It's the most complex part I've ever played because there's dancing involved, and that's a new experience for me. And with most shows I've done, there's a certain amount of down time. But in this show, I'm on stage almost the whole time."

But he likes playing Hill because he's different from previous characters he's played. "I like the fact that he's kind of the bad-boy-gone-good, by the end of the show," he said. "And I love working with these kids and with Elaine — she's a tremendous director. She and Pat have got a great thing going here, and it's a real joy to work with two of my kids, too."

Mitchell's favorite number in the show is "Trouble" (in River City): "It's a huge production number and, for me personally, is the most challenging thing I do in the show because it's so fast-paced."

As Marian, McCarthy is performing her first role with Alliance, but has done local community theater for many years, teaches choral music at Lake Braddock Secondary School and directed musical theater there. She describes her character as an old maid who takes care of the library, is very intelligent and teaches music.

"It's a role I've always wanted to play," said McCarthy. "I've been singing the songs since I was 6. My parents played the music all the time, and I learned it. And I'm having so much fun meeting new people who love theater. It's the best way to spend the summer."

She says she identifies with Marian because of her own music teaching and directing background. And, she said, "I'm real excited to be on the other side of the footlights, for a change." McCarthy said the hardest part was learning her lines, and the best part was getting to know all her singing partners and developing a rapport with them.

Her favorite number in "Music Man" is "Shipoopi" because her daughter choreographed it and "it's fun to have her tell me what to do, for a change." She said the audience will love the show's energy. "And how can you not fall in love with all those kids up there?" asked McCarthy. "It's an all-American play and a feel-good story."

DIRECTOR WILSON says her cast members are all doing beautifully and the leads are terrific. "Jim Mitchell is an absolutely wonderful person for the community," she said. "He's loved by everybody in the cast. He has a very energetic, exciting personality — and that is Harold Hill — and a beautiful voice, too. And Suzy McCarthy is one of the most talented teachers in Fairfax County. She's a fine director and a creative performer and her voice is spectacular."

Wilson's also pleased with how well the youth in the production are coming along. "It is a very large show, and we've used the young people in special spotlights where they have their own chance to shine," she said. "And when the townspeople turn on Harold Hill, we'll have cast members going through the audience, talking to people, and looking for him there. So we've directed it with the young audience in mind."

Heather McElwain, 16, a Westfield High junior, plays Zaneeta Shin, the mayor's daughter. "She goes against her father's will to date Tommy — a boy beneath her class and a troublemaker," said McElwain. "It's a lot of fun because Zaneeta is from a family with loud voices and her sister is always telling on her and Tommy."

She likes her character because "she's bouncy and bubbly like I am, but has levels of emotions. And she's always saying, 'Eee gads!'" Like McCarthy, she likes the number "Shipoopi" best because it's so upbeat.

Jake Ashey, 14, a Chantilly High sophomore, plays Tommy. "He's the troublemaker of River City," he said. "He has a crush on Zaneeta, but he's from the wrong side of the tracks. He's a good guy, but causes a little bit of mischief."

Ashey said his role is very physical "because of all the dancing and running on and off stage," but he likes the different relationships his character has with the mayor, Zaneeta and Hill. "The audience will love the show because it's very well rehearsed," he said. "And we have a lot of talent — even a real barbershop quartet which performs around the nation and is very good."

Adult Mike Cash — who played five roles in "Oliver" — portrays Hill's sidekick, Marcellus Washburn. "They used to be con men together, but Marcellus went straight because all those close calls made him crazy," said Cash. "He's kind of a halfwit and a simpleton, but high-strung, nervous and exciteable. I play him with a Southern accent, and he's one of the biggest hams in the show."

CASH LOVES the part because, he said, "I can be the perfect idiot." And he said the audience is in for some fabulous entertainment: "There's so much talent on that stage, people should come see the show twice!"

Melanie Mika, a kindergarten assistant at Centre Ridge Elementary, plays Washburn's girlfriend Ethel Toffelmier. "She's goofy and an airhead and I love it," said Mika. "It's perfect for me because I'm that way in the classroom at school. And Mike and I have a great time together — I just want to laugh out loud on stage."

She's one of three Centre Ridge staff members in the show, including sixth-grade teacher Kathy Young and LD aide Gloria Brown. "This play is really going to be fantastic," said Mika. "It's well-produced and directed, Greg Conrad is a wonderful music director and we've even learned singing technique with a voice director."

Kevin Clay, 11, a Virginia Run Elementary sixth-grader, plays Winthrop, Marian's little brother. "He's a shy boy who's ashamed of his lisp," he said. "He doesn't understand why his father died two years ago and he's always sad. You never see him talking 'til Harold Hill comes along."

The talented Clay previously played Oliver and Tiny Tim so, he said, he's used to playing the shy kid. He especially likes his lisp and singing the song, "Gary, Indiana," because "the funny lisp is in it and it makes people laugh — and I like that." As for the show, he said, "The costumes are really good, and the quartet, music and acting are really cool."

Heidi Kalbskopf, 13, of Chantilly plays Gracie Shinn, Zaneeta's younger sister. "She's a tattletale and spunky and happy," said Kalbskopf. "I love her character, and we have so much fun at rehearsals." This is Heidi's first major production, and she's thrilled to have so many lines and be in all the main dances.

Emily Price, 12 1/2, of Chantilly plays Amaryllis, who takes piano lessons from Marian and has a crush on Winthrop. Her favorite part of the show is "where we dance like Indians and I get to play the tom tom. A firecracker goes off behind the mayor's wife, and we scream and duck down."

Adult Janice Zucker plays Marian and Winthrop's mother. "She's outspoken and wants to marry off her daughter and thinks professor Hill is her last chance," said Zucker. "She's elated when he gets Winthrop to sing, dance and speak." She's pleased she mastered an Irish accent for her role and says it's fun "playing somebody feisty."

Just-retired Centreville High math teacher John Totten portrays villain Charlie Cowell, an anvil salesman who's on to Hill and tries to warn others. "It's neat because I get to yell and scream a lot," said Totten. But the best part, he said, is "kissing Suzy [McCarthy]. It's a long kiss, too, and I had to explain that to my wife."