Deaf actor James Caverly, who plays Theo Dimas in Hulu's Only Murders in the Building, will be Harold Hill in the Olney Theatre Center's summer production of Meredith Willson's Tony-winning musical The Music Man, which will play the Maryland venue June 17-July 24 with an official opening June 23.
Deaf performer Sandra Mae Frank and Lyric Theatre of Oklahoma Artistic Director Michael Baron will co-direct a company featuring Deaf, hard of hearing, and hearing artists. All performances will be performed in ASL and spoken English and open-captioned.
Caverly was an aspiring actor—and a staff carpenter in Olney Theatre’s scene shop—when he saw Deaf West’s 2015 production of Spring Awakening on Broadway. He subsequently approached Artistic Director Jason Loewith about the prospect of a Deaf-centered musical at Olney, and in March 2019 a week-long workshop brought together a mix of 25 Deaf and hearing artists for a production of The Music Man.
Participants in that workshop returning to work on the upcoming production include music director Christopher Youstra, choreographer Karma Camp, and Director of Artistic Sign Language Michelle Banks. Banks has also translated the English script for The Music Man into ASL and gestural language and provides artistic contributions informed by their experience of Deaf Culture. Along with Frank and set designer Ethan Sinnott, Banks is one of three Deaf artists on the creative team, leading a company that is 50% Deaf or hard of hearing and 50% hearing actors. More than a dozen sign interpeters are being employed for the rehearsal period.
The cast will also feature Adelina Mitchell (A.D. 16) as Marian, Vishal Vaidya (Groundhog Day) as Marcellus and also the vocalizations in the songs of Harold Hill, Florrie Bagel (Peter Pan) as Ethel Toffelmeier and the Marian understudy, Heather Marie Beck (Joseph…) as Alma Hicks, Amelia Hensley as Eulalie Shinn, Matthew August as Tommy, Gregor Lopes as Olinn Britt, Andrew Morrill as Mayor Shinn, Anjel Piñero as Woman #1, Mervin Primeaux-O'Bryant as Maude Dunlap, Nicki Runge as Mrs. Paroo, Christopher Tester as Oliver Hicks, and Dylan Toms as Ewart Dunlop with ensemble members Jay Frisby (Miss You Like Hell) and Sarah Anne Sillers (Singin’ in the Rain). Swings include Sophia Early, Aarron Loggins, Jane Enabore, and Stephen Russell Murray.
Youstra will conduct a 10-piece orchestra that also joins in on the barbershop quartet for “Lida Rose."
The creative team also includes costume designer Rosemary Pardee, lighting designer Jesse Belsky, Olney resident sound designer Matt Rowe, projections designer Sean Preston, and stage manager Ben Walsh.
A revival of The Music Man—starring current Tony nominees Hugh Jackman and Sutton Foster—currently plays Broadway's Winter Garden Theatre.