Michael Herman with children

Photos by Avital Cohen
It’s hard to believe that the Broadway hit The Music Man was first staged back in 1957. Not surprisingly, it was an instant sensation. Now Meredith Willson’s celebrated musical is the 2018 season’s production by the Light Opera Group of the Negev – LOGON – Israel’s veteran English language theater group.

Made into a highly acclaimed 1962 film starring Robert Preston, the show’s famous numbers include “Ya Got Trouble Right Here in River City”, “Seventy Six Trombones”, “Till There Was You” and “Wells Fargo Wagon”.

The fictional town of River City, Iowa, in 1912, is based in large part on Willson's birthplace, Mason City, Iowa, and many of the musical’s characters are based on people in the town he knew.  The show pokes affectionate fun at the unyielding Iowa bull-headedness that melts when Harold Hill comes to town.

LOGON staged The Music Man back in 2001 to enthusiastic audiences. Many of the children who performed in that production returned to LOGON as teens and adults to become some of the company's staple performers.

Now, 17 years later, LOGON hopes to introduce this wonderful show to a new generation of theatergoers.

As with LOGON's production of Annie last year, once again there are lots of children performing in The Music Man.  LOGON's long-time director Yaacov Amsellem has many years' experience working with children on stage, and loves working with them.

  Michael Herman as Harold Hill in LOGON’s The Music Man

“Children have a certain naïve approach to acting that makes them appear natural,” he explains.

“It’s something that adult performers achieve only after many years studying acting. Kids add energy to the performance. Their enthusiasm shows on stage, even when it slides into less than perfect behavior,” he adds.

Amsellem, a veteran member of the professional Negev Theater, points to another challenge in staging The Music Man.  It could be tempting, he says, to portray the show's River City townsfolk as gullible, small-town rubes, to make them objects of derision.

But in Willson's introduction to the script, he pleads the director not to make fun of the characters.  "Music Man was intended as a Valentine not a caricature," Willson states. “The humor of this piece depends on its technical faithfulness to the real small-town Iowans of 1912 who certainly did not think they were funny at all”. 

“As someone who lives in the country's ‘periphery’ I’m certainly sensitive to this attitude,” remarks Amsellem, who says he often endures condescending remarks from Tel Aviv theater colleagues.

This year LOGON is celebrating its 37th anniversary, making it the oldest existing English language theater group in Israel.

Founded in 1981 in Omer near Beer Sheva, the group, which draws participants from the south of the country, performed only Gilbert & Sullivan operettas for its first 14 years.

Deciding it had exhausted the G&S repertoire (and perhaps its audience), LOGON began producing Broadway musicals, which the company now stages every year in performances throughout the country.

LOGON is the only English language theater group whose ticket sales support local charitable organizations such as ESRA.

New Year resolution: To buy tickets!

ESRA will be selling tickets for the following venues from January 1st:

■Netanya, Matnas Ir Yamim, Thursday, 22nd February, 058 781 9829

■Modiin, Heichal Hatarbut, Tuesday, 27th February, 054 420 8550

■Kibbutz Yagur, north of Haifa, Wednesday, 7th March, 058 781 9829

■Raanana, Yad Labanim, Tuesday, 13th March, 09 748 2957

Other performances: Beer Sheva, 14/2, 18/3; Rehovot, 19/2;Givatayim, 26/2; Jerusalem: 5/3

All performances commence 18:30.

Tickets via LOGON hotline 08 641 4081 or www.negevlightopera.com

Enquiries: negevlightopera@gmail.com

 

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About the author

Patricia (Patti) Golan

Patricia (Patti) Golan is a veteran journalist who has lived in Israel since 1969. Among other positions, she was the Middle East correspondent for the Christian Science Monitor, Radio and Voice of...
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