Some musicals hold up really well over time and “The Music Man” is one of them. If you haven’t seen it in awhile and could use the kind of contagious energy boost only youths can offer, you’ll soon have your chance.
Adam and Courtney Walsh, owners of The Studio Rockford (and self-confessed theater geeks) are grooming 140 local students ages 8 to 19 to present the lively musical later this month.
“It’s a very upbeat, fun and colorful show,” says Adam. “We’ve both taken part in performing it several times and have attended many renditions of it and it just never gets old.”
Eight public performances will be offered during the weekends of March 13 and March 20 at Maddox Theater, Rockford University, 5050 E. State St.
“The Music Man” tells the story of charming-but-wily con man Harold Hill, who poses as a band leader to convince Midwestern townsfolk to purchase uniforms and instruments from him. Although he promises to coordinate a big show, he secretly plans to take the money and run until skeptical librarian Marian Paroo awakens his better nature.
“It’s all very, very light-hearted,” says Adam.
Favorite songs include “Seventy-Six Trombones,” “Trouble,” “Lida Rose,” “Goodnight, My Someone” and “Pickalittle (Talk-a-Little).”
Except for lead roles, the show is double cast to allow more children to participate.
“We’re very blessed to have kids in place who can carry off these roles so well,” says Adam. “Some of them need very little direction – they just have this wonderful natural talent.”
Nurturing kids’ talent and confidence through creative arts, both performing and visual, was the reason the Walshes launched The Studio Rockford in 2014. They employ local musicians to teach private music lessons and personally direct four productions each year. Auditions are open to all local children ages 8 to 19 and no prior experience is required.
This summer, The Studio Rockford will offer two more shows. The first is “Frozen Jr.,” presented by children ages 8 to 12. Then, an original musical written by the Walshes titled “The Girls of Summer,” a tribute to the Rockford Peaches professional women’s baseball team, will be performed by children and adults age 14 and up. Auditions will be in May.
This past fall the Walshes began offering dance lessons coordinated by Chelsea Gallivan, who has choreographed all of The Studio Rockford shows since 2014.
The Studio Rockford also offers summer camps, this year in August.
“We strive to put on very good shows but the quality of experience for the kids is our main focus,” says Adam. “We want them to enjoy it and to love learning and to gain confidence. We don’t shame kids. It’s all about positive reinforcement.”Courtney adds, “We created The Studio because we want kids to have a safe place to be creative, to belong, to figure out who they are.”
During the course of every show, the Walshes coordinate some 100 parent volunteers who help to build sets, host parties, sew costumes, oversee the green room during shows and more.
The Walshes are parents to three children of their own – Sophia (18), Ethan (10th grade) and Sam (6th grade.) Adam is a musician and Courtney is the author of 11 novels. Her first one, “A Sweethaven Summer,” made the 2012 New York Times Bestseller list.
Both graduates of Bradley University, the Walshes worked in Rockford churches coordinating childrens’ music and ministry for 11 years before working for a publisher in Loveland, Colo. After moving back to Rockford, they felt called to work with children again, this time in a setting where they’d have full creative control. They quickly outgrew their basement home studio and leased a space at 7326 N. Cherryvale Mall Dr.
Together they’ve written several full-scale musicals, including “The Great American Tall Tales,” “Hercules” and “Grimm’s Fairytales.”
“I think the main thing we like to tell people is that, if you have kids or know kids who are always putting on shows in the backyard, making jokes, performing with a hairbrush microphone … or who love to paint or create things – send them our way,” says Adam. “We’ll figure out what they love to do and stick a spotlight on them so they can shine.”
See “The Music Man” on March 13 at 7 p.m.; March 14 at 2 or 6 p.m.; March 15 at 2 p.m.; March 20 at 7 p.m.; March 21 at 2 or 6 p.m.; or March 22 at 2 p.m.
Admission is $13/advance, $15/door; children 12 and under $11/advance, $13/door; and seniors 55-plus $11/advance, $13/door. Learn more at thestudiorockford.com. ❚