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‘The Music Man’ performs in LA

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By Kirsten Laskey

The Atomic City Children’s Theater is making its debut this weekend. About 30 students and two directors have been working since October for this opportunity to show the community what they can bring to the stage.

See their work on stage during the production of “The Music Man,” which will be held at 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday at Duane Smith Auditorium. Admission is free.

The cast is made up of fifth- and sixth-graders from the Los Alamos Public School District as well as from the community. Greg Ahlers and Ashrini Vaidya play the principal characters Harold Hill and Marian.

Julia Fair, who co-directs the musical along with Daren Savage, said although “The Music Man” was their first choice, they did switch to another musical, “Oliver!” However, because the ending of “Oliver!” was slightly problematic and not exactly age-appropriate, the directors decided to return to their original selection.

Besides, “The Music Man,” Fair said, “Is one of the best musicals of all time.”

Savage agreed. “Everyone knows it,” he said.

With “The Music Man” being their first production, Savage said it took a lot of work but “as for the end product, I think everybody will be very surprised about the high quality of the show.”

He added the students have had a hand in everything, from acting to painting the sets.

The students were also exposed to other aspects of theater, too.

“For me, teaching the kids the creativity and responsibility aspects of a production are very important,” Fair said. “There are many aspects of this that they don’t get in schools, which helps them to be successful in school.”

She added the young thespians are getting excited to show what they have learned to the community.

Several of the performers saw “The Music Man” as an opportunity to spend time with friends and make new ones.

Barranca Mesa Elementary School sixth-grader Isaac Wiens said he enjoyed “Being with my friends more.”

Additionally, playing duo roles as a salesman and Tommy in the play provided him the opportunity to pretend to blow someone up as his character mischievously lights a firecracker under the Mayor’s wife.

Margaret Wright, another  Barranca Mesa sixth-grader, added, “I like meeting new people and getting closer to friends that you don’t see very often.”

She also commented of “The Music Man,” “I like the dancing that’s in it and the songs.”

Fair and Savage applaud their cast for the work they have done. Savage said this production provided them an opportunity to get to know the students. “(It’s) a good way to get to know them outside of school.”

He added everyone had “come a super-long way since we started.”

Savage and Fair are both employees in the district, but they also bring performance experience to the table.

Savage had a 20-year career as a professional dancer, and he did theater in high school and college.

Fair works as a music teacher at Barranca and is close to receiving her master’s in music education. It is not only the directors and the students who have invested in this production. The parents participated, too.

“We could not have done this without the parents,” Savage said.

Fair commented even some members of the Olions Thespian Club at Los Alamos High School pitched in.

Atomic City Children’s Theater is funded by a grant from the state, Savage said. James Telles, director of Human Resources, applied for the grant. The grant totals more than $100,000.

A portion of this money helped bring theatrical equipment, which included light and sound equipment, to the elementary schools.

Also through the grant, Fair said music and art teachers have access to some of the money to do different activities such as artists in residence programs.

With one musical under its belt, the theater company is looking toward its next project, which is “George M!” The play will be open to fifth- and sixth-graders at Piñon and Chamisa Elementary Schools.

Auditions will be held at 11 a.m. Feb. 21. For more details, go to www.atomiccitychildrenstheater.com.