Olney Theatre Center’s production of Meredith Willson’s The Music Man, featuring an ensemble and creative team of Deaf, hearing, and hard-of-hearing artists, plays its final performance July 24. The Maryland production, originally due to begin previews June 17, was delayed due to multiple cases of COVID within the company; performances began June 24 prior to an official opening June 29.
Deaf actor James Caverly, who plays Theo Dimas in Hulu's Only Murders in the Building, stars as Harold Hill. Deaf performer Sandra Mae Frank and Lyric Theatre of Oklahoma Artistic Director Michael Baron co-direct. All shows were 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 this production included music director Christopher Youstra, choreographer Karma Camp, and Director of Artistic Sign Language Michelle Banks. Banks also translated the English script for The Music Man into ASL and gestural language and provided 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 were employed for the rehearsal period.
The cast also features 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 conducts 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.
For ticket information click here.
Check out new production photos below: