For 31 years, the North Riverside Players has delivered high-quality, high-energy theater to local audiences, offering a family-friendly approach to stage entertainment in the western suburbs.
And according to Cheryl Pold, a member of the North Riverside Players board of directors, bringing a light-hearted show to the stage this spring was top of mind.
Call this spring’s production of “The Music Man” their glimmer of hope in the midst of the seemingly never-ending gloom of cultural and political news.
“The thinking behind our musical was that with everything a little bit crazy in the world right now, we wanted to do a classic family musical that everyone could enjoy,” said Pold, who is directing the show. “It has a big cast, fun music, is well-known and is a show to bring people back to the theater for a feel-good kind of show.”
One of American musical theater’s most cherished treasures, “The Music Man” follows fast-talking traveling salesman Harold Hill as he cons the people of River City, Iowa, into buying musical instruments and uniforms for a boys band that he vows to organize —despite the fact that he doesn’t know a trombone from a treble clef.
An instant smash when it premiered on Broadway in December 1957, “The Music Man” won five Tony Awards, including “Best Musical,” and has been ranked by The Smithsonian Institution as one of the “great glories” of American popular culture.
“At the Players, we try really hard to make sure that when anyone comes to do our shows, they have fun,” Pold said. “If someone had a great time in a show, they’ll want to come back again to act or help out. We’ve tried to really concentrate on the fun to build our base and have grown our base wide and have talented people come participate in our shows.”
As with most productions, cast and crew from “The Music Main” hail from across the Chicago area.
Pold, of Orland Park, has been with the North Riverside Players for 14 years, doing everything from choreography and directing to costume and set design.
“People are involved from Chicago to Naperville and Schaumburg and everywhere in between,” she said. “We’re not just a community theater — we have regional flair.”
Not only does “The Music Man” promise to be a family-friendly production, it’s a family show on the inside as well.
Playing the lead adult role of Harold Hill is Gerald Kelel, a resident of Chicago’s Portage Park neighborhood. He stars alongside his 12-year-old son, Cameron, portraying Winthrop Paroo, and his 6-year-old daughter, Avery, acting in the ensemble.
“Getting to share this experience with my kids is amazing,” he said. “I am so excited that my children might potentially share my love of performing [and] I am just enjoying the experience and helping them along the way.”
The musical marks his seventh production with the troupe, while Cameron will be hitting the North Riverside stage for a second time.
Gerald, who studied musical theater in college, says starring in a production alongside his children has been a great way for the family to connect on a creative level.
In one of the show’s final scenes, Gerald’s character gets to tell his son’s character how great of a kid he is.
“I don’t need to do any acting to put emotion behind that scene for sure,” he said.
For Cameron, acting has been a great way for him to meet new people.
“As a theater kid, you meet a lot of new and exciting people that can become long-lasting friends,” he said.
And, of course, starring on the big stage alongside his dad has been a great family bonding experience outside the home.
“I don’t do as many things with my dad as I used to and I’m trying to spend more time with him,” he said. “This show has given me a great opportunity to do that.”
With so many platforms competing for attention these days, Pold says she and her colleagues at North Riverside Players hope audiences will seek out a live theater experience.
“We want to pull people away from their phones and all the streaming services and come and be enveloped in that world of live theater with people looking right at you as they’re singing and dancing and take you out of that electronic world for a few hours,” she said. “We pull out every stop to make sure not only our cast members have a good time, but our audience members too.”
“The Music Man” runs for two weekends, April 28-30 and May 5-7, at the North Riverside Scheck Village Commons, 2401 Desplaines Ave.
Friday and Saturday performances are at 7:30 p.m., and the Sunday matinees are at 2:30 p.m.
For ticket information, visit nrplayers.com or call 708-512-7015.