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Music Man arrives here in River City


The  Hays CISD district musical, Music Man, is a graduation of sorts. Twelve of the students, who started with Oklahoma! four years ago, have played some role in each of the annual district musicals since then and are graduating this year.

And according to Don Riecss, Hays CISD Performing Arts Center (PAC) Director, whose inspiration and work have made the musicals possible, Music Man is the perfect culmination.

“It’s just a good, wholesome, hometown musical,” he said. “It is absolute fun, a story of the simple times and the simple life. You’d be hard pressed to find anyone who has never heard of Music Man or many of the lines and songs in the play.”

The play has won more awards, from Tonys to Emmys to Grammys, than any other American musical and is the second most popular rented musical (after Sound of Music) in the country.

This year’s production includes about 125 students from schools throughout the district–elementary school to high school–who have acting and singing roles, and Hays High School band students who will sit in the “pit” underneath the stage. And in keeping with the district tradition over the past four years, there will be a big surprise ending.

“Everyone will leave clapping and cheering and having a good time,” Riecss promised.

The story, written by Meredith Willson, is set in River City, Iowa, involving Harold Hill, who poses as boys’ band leader, selling band instruments and uniforms to local citizens before leaving town with their cash. Marian, the town’s librarian falls in love with Harold as he helps her younger brother. Hill, who tries to bring a boys marching band to the town, risks getting caught in his con to win Marian’s heart.

The story took Willson eight years to write and arrived on Broadway in 1957, Riecss said, running 1,375 performances, “which was unheard of back then.”

The Hays CISD production of Music Man will be “complicated,” he said.

“Every scene is a full-stage scene which presents challenges with our fly system,” he said. “We are limited as to how much can go on and off the stage in a short period of time.”
Riecss says, though, that the students have risen to the challenge.

“They have really stepped up,” he said. “They have built terrific props. I am amazed at what they’ve done.”

About a dozen middle school students and a handful of elementary school students join the cast this year, and as in years past, teachers and staff are participating in singing, dancing and set building capacities. Even Hays CISD graduates, who participated in past musicals, are helping out, he said.

Music Man will be Feb. 5, 6 and 7, at 7 p.m., with an additional mantinee on Saturday, Feb. 7 at 2 p.m. All seats are reserved, tickets are $10 each. To purchase tickets or for more information, please call 268.8443. Tickets are available for purchase in advance at the Performing Arts Center office between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. All performances will be at the PAC’s Gerald Babbitt Auditorium.