By Mike LaBella
---- — Three Haverhill women who have been involved with creating theater in Greater Haverhill for more than a decade teamed up to create a stunning stage production of Meredith Wilson’s “The Music Man.” For all three, putting their different sets of skills to use was a labor of love.
Presented by the Haverhill-based theater group Spotlight Playhouse, the show opened last weekend at Haverhill High School with final performances taking place this weekend.
“This is the first production team I’ve worked on that is all female,” said Brenda Pothier, the show’s choreographer. “We all work together very well and I’m really proud of the production we put together.”
“We got a standing ovation on Saturday,” Pothier added. “The energy was high within the cast and the audience was very energetic.”
The show’s all-female production team also includes a woman as music director and another as assistant choreographer.
As producer of “The Music Man,” 26-year-old Meghan Cary was in charge of finances and advertising, a job that suited her skills.
“I made sure there was money to purchase costumes and the set, and also contacted the media and made announcements for auditions and shows,” Cary said. “I also coordinated all of the advertising — which took up a big chunk of time.”
Cary wasn’t able to get 76 trombones, which is the name of a song that “Professor” Harold Hill sings to entice the townspeople into funding a marching band, but she did manage to get about 15 brass and woodwind instruments on loan from the Timony Grammar School in Methuen, with help from cast member Mary Ellen Grelle.
“In the final scene, Professor Hill puts together a band, so in order to be dramatic we needed our band to have uniforms as well as instruments,” Cary said. “They actually play the instruments along with our 14-piece orchestra.”
Cary got the theater bug from her mother Deb Cary, one of the founding members of Spotlight Playhouse.
Cary has been involved with community theater in Haverhill since she was 11, including as a teen actor with Pentucket Players, then with Spotlight Playhouse. She co-produced last fall’s production of “Lend me a Tenor” at City Hall, then was named producer of “The Music Man.”
“They trusted me,” Cary said with a smile. “I’m also on the production team as producer for ‘Arsenic and Old Lace,’ a comedy, which will be presented this fall.”
“It takes a lot to put on a show like this,” Cary said. “We have a house manager, musical director, set designers, painters, stage manager, sound designer, hair and makeup, graphic designer, spotlight operators, stage crew, as well as five parents who help back stage. These are the people you never see and many of them do multiple things that are needed to put on a good show.”
A 2006 graduate of Haverhill High School, Cary earned a bachelor’s degree in physics from St. Michael’s College then an MBA from Plymouth State University in New Hampshire. “The MBA helped transition me into finance and marketing, which helps as a producer,” said Cary, whose day job is working as an accounting administrator at Harvard Medical School.
“The people are really wonderful and I’ve made some great friends, which keeps me coming back,” Cary said.
Pothier, 44, began taking dance lessons at age 5 and got involved in community theater in 2006, serving as a cast member in various productions with the Colonial Chorus Players in Reading. She also choreographed five shows with ACT Andover and two shows for Whittier Tech’s drama program.
“The Music Man” is Pothier’s first show with Spotlight Playhouse.
“It’s always been a favorite of mine since I was a little girl so when they asked me to be part of it, it was an opportunity I couldn’t pass up,” Pothier said. “It’s a show that’s been dear to my family. We watched it together on holidays like some families might watch ‘The Wizard of Oz.’”
She loves every song in the show and won’t pinpoint a favorite.
“Each song has a special place,” said Pothier, who loves chatting about trivia related to the show such as the song, “Till There Was You,” which Meredith Wilson wrote for “The Music Man.”
“The Beatles eventually took it mainstream,” she said.
As choreographer, Pothier was tasked with interpreting the story through dance and movement that complemented the music.
“The story remains the same, but each (production) company will have a different vision of how they want to interpret the story to the audience,” she said.
Sprague, a music teacher at Golden Hill Elementary School, was tapped to direct “The Music Man.” Sprague’s resume includes 12 years directing high school stage productions in Tewksbury. She’s been part of Spotlight Playhouse for two years, first as marketing director then vice president then director of two children’s productions. She acted in “Lend me a Tenor” last fall, and was put in charge of “The Music Man.”
“You have to be very organized, which is the most important thing,” Sprague said. “With over 50 people in the cast and crew, coordinating everyone’s schedule was a challenge.”
She said it was her job to do the blocking and staging, which is where she tells the actors when and where they’re going to enter, move to, what their motivation is, what their character is feeling, and how their character interacts with other characters in the show.
“Working with Meghan and Brenda has been an uplifting experience and having all woman as the production team has been great,” Sprague said. “Not only did we put together an amazing production, but we made sure that everyone involved in the show enjoyed what they were doing.”
If You Go
What: Performances of Meredith Wilson’s “The Music Man”
When: 7 p.m. on June 20 and 21, and 3 p.m. on June 22
Where: Haverhill High School auditorium, 137 Monument St.
Tickets: $20 for adults and $18 for Spotlight Playhouse members, senior citizens and children 12 and younger. Available at www.SpotlightPlayhouse.org or by calling 978-380-8509.