U of C Operetta performing classic musical

By Sean Sullivan

For fans of musical theatre, the University of Calgary Operetta Company is finally putting on the classical Broadway musical The Music Man from Meredith Willson.

While the titles of such songs as Seventy-six Trombones, My White Knight, Lida Rose and (Ya Got) Trouble may not be immediately recognizable by some, director Colleen Whidden says these songs have become ingrained in North American culture.

“I think that people will come and go, ‘Oh, that is where this piece if from,’ ” Whidden says. “Most people would have heard snippets, either in movies or in commercials.”

The University of Calgary Operetta Company was started in 2006 by Whidden and functions as a course for students of the School of Creative and Performing Arts, but is also open to all university students and members of the community who are interested in auditioning.

The company has put on several full-length musical theatre and opera performances in the last eight years including West Side Story, Miss Saigon, Titanic: The Musical, Guys and Dolls, Children of Eden and Seussical.

The Operetta Company’s performances consistently feature large casts of up to 50 or more singers and actors and orchestras of up to 30 musicians. Colleen Whidden says she doesn’t want to do anything halfway.

“I always pick musicals that have a big chorus,” Whidden says. “If I’m going to do it, I’m going to do it [right].”

The Music Man is the story of con-artist Harold Hill, played by Mike Sorberger, who convinces the citizens of River City, Iowa to buy instruments and uniforms for a boy’s band he has no intention of organizing. Things get complicated when he meets the local librarian Marian, played by Madeleine Suddaby, who sees through him.

“The storyline is classical musical theatre,” Whidden says. “Boy from the wrong side of the tracks, girl repels boy, then they end up, of course, falling in love. Then the happy ending.”

Suddaby, who was involved in the Operetta Company’s production of Guys and Dolls in 2012, says the musical is one of those shows most performers always want to do one day because of how well known the songs are.

Suddaby says, however, that the role of Marian, the stock “Ingenue” character — a young, pretty, optimistic female lead typical to older theatre — isn’t a role she normally would consider playing.

“But when I read Marian I read her as feisty and very stubborn and incredibly intelligent,” Suddaby says. “And not as easily mesmerized or hoodwinked as some people in the town.”
Suddaby is one of a number of community performers who Whidden says bring professional experience into the productions for the benefit of university students.

“The music department really wants to branch out and get people involved in singing, dancing and drama, no matter if they take it as a course credit or if they don’t,” Whidden says. “There are people from kinesiology, from engineering. We have one from medicine, some who are faculty.”

The Music Man will be running from Jan. 9 to Jan. 17 in the University Theatre. Tickets are $15 for students.

Tickets can be purchased here.

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