River's Edge Players” “Music Man” features hometown family ties
By Ed Karvoski Jr., Contributing Writer
Hudson – The “Hometown” theme of the River's Edge Arts Alliance (REAA) 2013-2014 season continues with its community theater company setting the stage in the fictional town of River City, Iowa, in 1912. The River's Edge Players (REP) will present “The Music Man” at the Hudson High School (HHS) Auditorium with performances Thursday, June 26, through Saturday, June 28, at 7 p.m.; and Sunday, June 29, at 2 p.m.
Directing the show is Sarah Worrest, who returned to the local theater scene after studying at New York University's Tisch School of the Arts. This marks the ninth musical she's directing with REP.
“When I moved back here from New York, I wasn's sure how long I was going to stay,” she shared. “But I really do love being in my hometown.”
When Worrest was a sophomore at HHS, she performed in “The Music Man” with the Southborough Players, the now-defunct group that ran for about four decades.
“The Music Man” cast features about 50 performers, ranging in age from 6 to mid-70s, from 11 communities including Hudson, Marlborough and Northborough. Directing the music is Kathrine Waters, choral director and music teacher at Algonquin Regional High School. The choreographer is Denise Day of Shrewsbury.
“This cast has so many actual families in it,” Worrest noted. “And that's what a town is like; your family connecting with other families.”
Portraying the featured role of Ethel Toffelmier is Kathleen McKenzie, director of theatre at HHS. Among the children's ensemble are her sons Jacob, 6, and Evan, 8.
“Kathleen's character plays the pianola,” Worrest explained. “It's hysterical to me that there's a character in the show whose job is to play a piano that plays itself.”
Worrest believes that McKenzie's students can learn a lesson from seeing her onstage.
“She really sells the character,” Worrest said. “Even though this is a community theater group, she's coming to the job to be in character 100 percent of the time. Her students will be super impressed.”
In addition to biological families, this cast includes school-family connections. In the role of Ewart Dunlop, Worrest cast her former teacher Paul Johnson, who retired as HHS's choral and drama director after 32 years.
“We have a really good rapport because we'se known each other for such a long time,” Worrest said. “He has been my teacher, directed me and led me in choirs. Now I's directing him. I's so pleased to work with him in this different capacity.”
Worrest cast Paul's son, Zack, in the role of Oliver Hicks. While attending HHS, Worrest performed in numerous productions directed by Paul's wife and Zack's mother, Lynne, who is this show's producer.
In the lead role of Harold Hill, Worrest cast Matt Rimkus. They performed together last year when each participated in the 25th-anniversary reunion show of the Summer Drama Workshop (SDW), another program of REAA.
“Matt has the right charisma for the part,” Worrest said. “That's really important because he's playing a salesman who convinces an entire town to buy instruments when he doesn's know how to play them. And Matt sings like a living angel. His voice is gorgeous.”
While attending HHS, Rimkus was a student of Paul's, and was directed by him and Lynne in SDW.
Worrest is thrilled to direct “The Music Man” during REAA's “Hometown” season.
“It's the story of a hometown that is very much changed by an outsider,” she said. “But it's also the story in which that outsider is changed by this hometown community.”
Tickets will be available at the door. To purchase tickets in advance, call 978-562-1646 or visit upwitharts.org.
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