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, has delayed its official opening due to multiple cases of COVID within the company.
Originally scheduled for June 23, the opening will now take place at the Maryland venue June 29. The first public performance, originally scheduled for June 17, is now set for June 24.
Says Olney Theatre Artistic Director Jason Loewith, “For the third time in seven months, COVID has forced us to cancel multiple performances of major productions, at a cost of hundreds of thousands of dollars to our institution. Thankfully the affected artists are all recovering, but the cost of these closures is hard to calculate on loss of audience faith. I know that many non-profit regional theatres are facing similar cancellations, added COVID expenses, loss of revenue, and looming deficits. Nonetheless, telling live stories in extraordinary ways is what we exist to do, and we remain passionately committed to sharing this project, which has been in development at Olney Theatre Center for the past four years. We can’t wait to experience it with our audiences.”
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 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 summer 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 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.
A revival of The Music Man—starring Tony winners Hugh Jackman and Sutton Foster—currently plays Broadway's Winter Garden Theatre.
For ticket information click here.