*This story first appeared in The Budget’s June 20, 2018, Local Edition.
By Ellie Zumbach
While Holmes Center for the Arts is usually busy in the summer because of dance camps and art classes, it has been busy for a whole new reason over the past few weeks.
This summer, the Center is putting on its first-ever musical. Meredith Wilson’s “The Music Man will play June 30 at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. and July 1 at 2 p.m. at the Ohio Star Theater in Sugarcreek. Tickets are available by calling 330-473-2879 and will also be sold at the door.
The Holmes Center for the Arts has been in existence for three years. The mission for this non-profit organization is to provide educational and performance opportunities in the arts in a positive, encouraging environment, and offering a musical is one way to fulfill that mission.
“We want to bring our commu- nity together and make a difference in Holmes County through the arts.” Executive Director Holley Johnson said. “We have been incredibly busy the last three years, rising to the goals we have set. In addition to classes in art, music, dance, and theatre for over 200 students a year, we have performed the Nutcracker for two years. We organized a production of Thorton Wilder’s “Our Town” last summer, and this Easter we performed Handel’s “Messiah” with a 50-person choir and 15 musicians. A musical was the next logical step and something we always intended to do. We really just were waiting for the right person to direct a musical.”
Johnson thought John Harris might be the perfect guy for the job. After Harris retired from the East Holmes schools, the center was in contact about possible projects that could be done together. When Johnson asked him if he would be interested in helping create their first musical, he instantly suggested “The Music Man.”
“It was the first musical I ever had a role in,” Harris explained. “I played Winthrop in 1972, and I’ ve directed it three times since. The sheer power of this musical in both its story and music is phenomenal. It took Meredith Wilson eight years to write this masterpiece. I can only hope we do him justice.”
Even though he loves the musical, he decided to help with the show for another reason. “I have a strong belief in Holley [Johnson], and for the amazing things she has accomplished since founding the Center for the Arts,” he said. “Her enthusiasm is contagious.”
“The Music Man” follows traveling salesman Harold Hill as he cons the people of River City, Iowa, into buying instruments and uniforms to form a boys’ band that he plans to organize. However, Hill doesn’t know one thing about music and plans to skip town with the cash until his plans are ruined when he falls for Marian, River City’s beautiful but stubborn librarian. A one-of-a-kind score with songs such as “Goodnight My Someone,” “Ya Got Trouble,” and “Shipoopi” is sure to keep the audience tapping their feet. It includes dances that showcase the young talent at Holmes Center for the Arts.
The cast includes John Harris as the fast-talking Harold Hill and Laurie Cerniglia as the librarian Marian Paroo. Other members of the Paroo family include Lisa Lang as Mar- ian’s mother and Chase Coblentz as Marian’s little brother, Winthrop. The antagonist, Charlie Cowell, is played by Matthew Coblentz. Mayor Shinn and his wife, Eulalie, are played by Dennis Hostetler and Merry-Lynn Sigrist Straits. Their daughters are played by Brooke Pringle and Alexis Lang. Members of the dueling school board turned into a harmonizing quartet are Gary Hanna, Jared Blazer, Pat Weaver, and Tim Anderson. Shane Byler is Hill’s accomplice, Marcellus Washburn, and Matthew Havener is the town’s bad boy as Tommy Djilas. A group of squawking Pick-A-Little Ladies is Christina Keim, Georgia Jaeb, Ellie Zumbach, Hannah Beach, Jennifer Wood, Amber Andreason, and Julissa Coblentz. Natalie Thorpe is Amaryllis, and Erik Marmet is Constable Locke.
Members of the ensemble include Arlo Alexander, Daniel Beicher, Gavin Chase, Brodie Chase, Kaylee Chase, Mya Coblentz, Emma Coblentz, Ethan Curtis, Hanna Havener, Sarah Hostetler, Kadence Howell, Kylie Lapp, Eric Marmet, Evan Maxwell, Victoria Martin, Allison Mullen, Olivia Mullet, Christian Sanko, Ella Sommers, Emmalai Steiner, Gabriella Woods, Chantrelle Chase, Nathan Chase, Luke Havener, Claire Farquhar, Sarah Rose Farquhar, Lydia Johnson, Laney Thorpe, Michael Gisinger, and Jacob Gisinger.
Behind the scenes, John Harris is the director while Jaime White is the music director and Lydia Fedor is the choreographer.
The show is presented by Commercial and Savings Bank. Scenery sponsor is Dutchman Hospitality, and Orchestra sponsor is Guggis- berg Cheese Factory.
“I don’t think ‘art’ is about the object created, nor the performance itself – but is more about how that object or performance affects us as human beings,” Harris explained. “Anyone who has seen the artwork in the Sistine Chapel or experienced the bond of practicing and perform- ing a musical knows what I’m talking about.”
He noted that musicals are much different as there are many moving parts and needs. “You need actors, singers, dancers, musicians, and even visual artists to create the scenery. We know that we have extremely talented people in Holmes County,” Harris said. “I’m not going to say it was easy to round them all up, but we did it and we are so excited for the community to come watch this show with over 60 talented performing artists from Holmes County. Thus far, we have exceeded everyone’s expectations of what Holmes County can do in the arts, and we don’t intend to quit pur- suing excellence in the arts for the people of this community and for the guests that come to visit.”
Harris encouraged everyone to get a ticket. “Don’t miss this show,” he said. “It’s going to be heart-warming, fun, and a joy to watch.”
Holmes Center for the Arts is located at 164 North Washington Street in Millersburg. For more info about the musical, how to get involved, or other classes and events the center offers, visit www.holmescenterforthearts.org.