So I will lead with family. I have two family members in the cast: my husband, Steve, plays Oliver Hix, a member of the barbershop quartet; and my sister-in-law Beth is Eulalie MacKecknie Shinn, the mayor’s wife. My two older kids, Louisa and Sebastian, are in the tech booth running lights and sound. And there’s another family connection to the production as well – inside the theater lobby is an exhibit I have put together about my real-life music man ancestor, my great-grandfather G. Oliver Riggs. I spent most of the day yesterday getting it ready – so be sure to look for it!
|My great-grandparents and their daughter, Rosalie, in 1912, the year Meredith Willson’s The Music Man is set.|
Opening night already is sold out, but the musical runs over three weekends, so get your tickets now! You can order them online through the arts guild’s website; click here.
|The poster for the NAG production, which opens this Friday|
I remember the excitement of the lights going down and the orchestra music beginning, magically transforming the high school gymnasium into River City, Iowa, for the next two 1/2 hours. I also remember watching Lesley and thinking, “Why am I not up there? I can play the piano, and I have braids!”
That production was on my mind last week when I experienced another once of those eerie research coincidences where G. Oliver’s life intersects with mine. I had noticed that the new book Bemidji, by Cecelia Wattles McKeig, includes photos of G. Oliver and his Bemidji Boys’ Band. One of the captions noted that a former boys band member, Joe Plumer, had been well known in the Bemidji music scene, so I mentioned it to my dad in an email. Turns out, Joe Plumer was the father of Bonnie, my mom’s bridge club friend who had played Marian.
Crazy! So I called Bonnie and found out a little more about her dad. He was born in 1908 and joined the band at age 12. He played both clarinet and saxophone and was in the band during its famous trip to St. Paul in 1922, when it played for a week at the Minnesota State Fair and was introduced in front of the grandstand as “The Best Boys Band in the World.”
|Photo from the collection of the Beltrami County Historical Society|
I don’t know if her dad was ever shy, like Winthrop, but I am sure that the boys’ band experience was formative for him, just as it was for so many young men in the 19-teens who were charmed by the sights and sounds of a big brass band and the promises of a music man.