Things to Do

'The Music Man' strikes up the band in Milford

By Craig Horleman
Posted 7/3/24

MILFORD — The Second Street Players are getting the band back together and a whole lot more, as they present Meredith Willson’s “The Music Man” in grand style, starting July …

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Things to Do

'The Music Man' strikes up the band in Milford


MILFORD — The Second Street Players are getting the band back together and a whole lot more, as they present Meredith Willson’s “The Music Man” in grand style, starting July 12 at the Riverfront Theater.

The staple of musical theater debuted on Broadway in 1957 and notably spawned a hit 1962 movie with Robert Preston and Shirley Jones.

It follows fast-talking traveling salesperson Harold Hill, as he cons the people of River City, Iowa, into buying instruments and uniforms for a boys’ band he vows to organize, despite a complete lack of musical knowledge. But his plans to skip town with the cash are foiled when he falls for Marian Paroo, the librarian.

The production’s 40-member cast, plus a seven-piece band on stage, perform such classics as “Ya Got Trouble,” “Seventy-Six Trombones,” “The Sadder but Wiser Girl for Me,” “Pick-a-Little, Talk-a-Little” and “Till There Was You.”

Second Street director John H. Hulse calls it “a quintessential American show.”

“We’re hoping to bring to Milford everything that they’re expecting. We haven’t changed the story. There’s some timeless music, great characters and lots of fun.”

The large cast ranges in age from 8 to actors in their 70s.

“We have a lot of parent-kid combos, and we have one set of brother-sister-mother. And it’s just a nice bunch of people and a kind of a family affair here. We’re looking forward to bringing in 76 trombones and then some.”

The Hill character is played by Chris Ennis of Greenwood, who is new to Delaware within the past year. A morning radio host for The Bridge in Milford, he made his debut with the Players earlier in 2024 in “On Golden Pond.”

“When I met (Mr. Ennis), we were going over the upcoming season. I said, ‘I’m directing ‘The Music Man.’ He said, ‘I’m your Harold Hill,’ and I kind of laughed because other people were auditioning. But he really blew it out of the water, and he’s just such a nice guy and very talented, too,” Mr. Hulse said.

Mr. Ennis, a Midwest native, said it’s a dream role.

“It was one of the first musicals I was ever introduced to. I’ve had the advantage of watching Robert Preston do this role for years. So, I’ve memorized the role and a lot of the songs since I could walk, I feel like,” he said.

“But, even as much as you can prepare for that, there’s still so much more that you need to really mentally take into account.”

He said the fast patter of the dialogue and some of the songs can be a challenge.

“If you don’t take the right breaths, you’re not going to get them out. That’s my biggest fear, is being up on stage in the middle of a performance and not getting out the words and then getting off beat,” he said.

“It’s really dependent upon the ending of a phrase, and it’s very much beat-driven kind of music.”

In writing the music and lyrics, Mr. Willson may have been ahead of his time, according to Mr. Hulse.

“It could be said that it’s the first use of rap, with how fast some of the songs are,” he said.

Mr. Ennis has enjoyed working with the diverse cast.

“This group of young men and women are putting their hearts into this production. I love being able to see this next generation because it’s going to be the generation that I’m going to be sitting in the audience watching perform and doing things when I can’t do it anymore,” said the 48-year-old.

For one of those youngsters, Benjamin Rose, 9, of Lewes, it’s a second role with the Second Street Players. He played Tiny Tim in last year’s musical production of “A Christmas Carol.”

In “The Music Man,” Benjamin is the shy Winthrop Paroo, the brother of Marian. It’s a character made famous by Ron Howard in the film.

The youngster said he is fond of his time on stage, though he is still getting used to the dancing.

“Most of the things I’ve done have had a few pinches of choreography, and most of it has been pretty simple. But, as I go with this, they’ll say, ‘It’s not OK. Let’s take this back.’ You’re either staying at where you are or adding more. We’re not taking stuff out. And I’m kind of still learning all of it,” he said.

Diane Trautman is the musical director for the show, while Devon Spencer Lynch is its choreographer.

The part of Marian is played by Lorraine Leavel, a well-known theater actor and teacher from Milford. Just as it was with Mr. Ennis as Harold, she has always wanted to portray the librarian.

“I remember listening to the cast recording when I was in high school and just falling in love with it and the music and the actress who originated the role on Broadway, Barbara Cook,” Ms. Leavel said.

“She originated a lot of things that I’ve always really admired. And so, this immediately went on a bucket list, and it’s just never happened. So, I said, ‘Well, this is my chance.’ I’m very excited,” she said.

Mr. Hulse said he marvels at her ability to bring the character to life.

“I’ve known Lorraine for years and years. I’ve been cast in shows with her and opposite her, and we’ve co-directed before. So, I just knew that she was fantastic. I never precast, but her audition was phenomenal,” he said.

“She can bring the rafters down, and she has a lot of experience. It was a tough decision because there’s lots of other very talented people around.”

Ms. Leavel, meantime, is savoring the chance to tackle some classic Broadway songs.

“There’s definitely some challenging pieces in this. Some of them are classics that I feel like everybody has heard, or at least you hear the tune, and you go, ‘Oh, yeah, I know that.’ But musically, there are some very difficult parts in this,” she said.

“Some of my songs have some technical things, just as far as the way the song is composed and breath control in the range of notes and things like that. Even the script has a lot of very clever wording and clever dialogue that you really have to think about, with the turn of phrase and how things are put together, because there’s a definite pattern to what’s happening. And it’s fun and challenging all at the same time.”

“The Music Man” will have performances at 7 p.m. July 12, 13 and 18-20, with matinees at 2 on July 13, 14, 20 and 21. The theater is at 2 S. Walnut St.

Tickets are $27 for adults and $26 for seniors, students and members. To purchase tickets or learn more, visit or call 302-422-0220.

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