Theatre group experiencing the roots of The Music Man in River City

From visiting Meredith Wilson's boyhood home to hearing Mason City High School band students perform '76 Trombones', a group from the Chanhassen Dinner Theatre gets in touch with the place that inspired it all before hosting their own production of the famed musical

Posted: Jan 28, 2020 2:16 AM
Updated: Jan 28, 2020 9:32 PM

MASON CITY, Iowa - It's long been ingrained into the North Iowa culture: The Music Man.

The story of Harold Hill has lit up Broadway, the silver screen, and the focus of countless North Iowa Band Festivals. And you might be able to recite the songs from the musical from memory.

For the Mason City High School band, performing songs from The Music Man, like 76 Trombones, is a tradition every year. Junior Shaye Theobald is a drum major.

"I love the song, it's a great song. I love the arrangement too."

On Monday, she and her bandmates performed in front of a prestigious audience: the director, lead actors and producer of the Chanhassen Dinner Theatre in Minnesota, who will be hosting their production of the show. She feels fortunate to be in a town that values its rich musical heritage.

"Mason City has a lot of tradition. The band has gone back so far and it's awesome. I love it here."

Brynn Meyer plays clarinet, and echoes Theobald's statement.

"It's really a big part of the culture in Mason City to be able to perform in the band and do the Band Fest parade. The music in Mason City is what brings us all together, I believe."

Michael Brindisi wears many hats; since he joined the theatre in 1971, the President, part owner and artistic director has participated in four productions of the Meredith Wilson classic. Coming to Mason City to embrace the roots of the Music Man was beyond fun.

"It was fantastic. I was really knocked out by the way they played it. The chart and the way they played - it was fantastic."

The Music Man is a recurring chapter in his theatre career; he starred in one production after high school, direction a version of it in Albert Lea, and has directed twice at the Chanhassen Theatre.

"Right up there with 'Fiddler on the Roof' and 'My Fair Lady', those are my three favorite musicals."

And he continues to find the story inspiring.

"Look what happens to Harold Hill. He gets off that train and his life has changed."

Also in attendance at today's performance was Neal Justin. A member of the Class of 1986, the entertainment critic for the Star Tribune grew up and attended high school in Mason City, and also has some singing experience.

"We had barbershop, church choir, show choir. I was lucky to be at this school because music is such an integral part."

He's with the group from Chanhassen as part of a tour of different sites that are integral to the life of Wilson, and recognizes the unique position Mason City and North Iowa have in music history.

"I don't think you appreciate it until you leave and you recognize the great music teachers that are here, the great music opportunities, stuff like the Mohawk Follies. Not every high school has that."

Megan Johnson plays the flute, and is humbled by the group's appearance in the audience, and being able to learn exactly what goes into planning for a show.

"It's cool for them to learn from us, and we learn from them of how they get to play it and what they're doing to prepare for it."

Shows for the Chanhassen Dinner Theatre's production of The Music Man begin February 28th and runs until September. As part of a weekend trip in April, the Mason City High School band will get to see a performance of it.

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