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Sooner Theatre uses The Music Man to teach acting and show production

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A 1957 Tony Award-winning musical is being brought back to life, thanks to a local theater. Norman’s Sooner Theatre produces Meredith Willson’s The Music Man June 22-26 as a part of its annual summer camps.

The Music Man is a play about a con man who tries to put one over on an Iowa town by convincing people to buy instruments and uniforms for a boys’ band. He plans to skip town with the money he robs, until he has his heart stolen by a local librarian who, by the show’s end, steers him back onto the straight and narrow.

“We chose The Music Man because we wanted to offer this age group a classical musical,” said Jennifer Baker, Sooner Theatre executive director.

Baker works directly with students on this production. She enjoys escaping the business side of the theater and returning to directing and choreographing.

“The theater is what I do, and I love the show,” said Gracie Hughes, a camper who portrays librarian and piano teacher Marian Paroo.

Another camper, Jack Baldwin, said he decided to join the production because it would look good on a resume.

This summer, the theater will see around 300 campers during 23 different camps. Students from third to eighth grades are participating in this camp.

“Our production camps, The Music Man and Into the Woods, actually take campers through the entire process of mounting a show, from audition to blocking, music and choreography, costuming, learning about hitting marks for lighting, sound,” said Nancy Coggins, Sooner Theatre public relations and development director, “everything it takes to put together a show from beginning to performance.”

Sooner Theatre lets children participate in full-scale productions all year on a first come, first served basis. However, summer programs require an audition.

“I think it’s important that we offer the experience of having to prepare for a real audition as well as holding the actual audition itself,” Baker said.

Coggins said some attend the camps in hopes of stepping out of their comfort zones, while others simply join to spend time with friends. For some students, the camps can even help develop skills they can use in pursuing a future career.

The camp offers mentoring, training and experience for kids and young adults interested in performing but often also serves as a learning center for other things.

“The benefits of working with these young people are never-ending. We see kids gain confidence, learn to find their voices, face their fears [and] try new things,” Baker said. “Seeing just one life changed for the better from being part of a musical is all it takes to keep our small staff going. That’s why we do it. ”

However, working with youths can sometimes be challenging. Baker said the rehearsal schedule was a struggle. Although some scenes only required a set amount of actors, she wanted to make sure all students experienced the camp’s activities.

“You want to make sure that everyone is actively engaged in the rehearsal process the whole time; it’s how they learn,” Baker said. “I’m always impressed with our camp staff and how much they squeeze into a short rehearsal.”

Learn more at soonertheatre.com.

Print headline: Music camp, Sooner Theatre teaches youth about acting and show production with its summer production of The Music Man.

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