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James Caverly, ’11, plays Professor Harold Hill in the Olney Theatre Center’s summer production of Meredith Willson’s Tony-winning musical The Music Man, which runs through next Saturday, July 23.

Sandra Mae Frank, ’13, and Lyric Theatre of Oklahoma artistic director Michael Baron co-direct a company featuring Deaf, hard of hearing, and hearing artists. All performances are in American Sign Language and spoken English, and are super-titled.

Caverly was an aspiring actor – and a staff carpenter in Olney Theatre’s scene shop – when he saw Deaf West’s 2015 production of Spring Awakening on Broadway. He subsequently approached Olney’s artistic director, Jason Loewith, about the prospect of a Deaf-centered musical. In March 2019, a week-long workshop brought together a mix of 25 Deaf and hearing artists for a production of The Music Man.

Participants in that workshop returning to work on The Music Man include music director Christopher Youstra, choreographer Karma Camp, and Director of Artistic Sign Language Michelle Banks. Banks has also translated the English script for The Music Man into ASL and gestural language and provides artistic contributions informed by their experience of Deaf Culture. 

Banks is one of three Deaf artists on the creative team, leading a company that is 50% Deaf or hard of hearing and 50% hearing actors. The other two are Sandra Mae Frank and Ethan Sinnott, professor and director of Gallaudet’s Theatre and Dance program, who designed the set for The Music Man. More than one dozen sign language interpreters were employed for the rehearsal period.

The cast also features Adelina Mitchell (A.D. 16) as Marian, Vishal Vaidya (Groundhog Day) as Marcellus and also the vocalizations in the songs of Harold Hill, Florrie Bagel (Peter Pan) as Ethel Toffelmeier and the Marian understudy, Heather Marie Beck (Joseph…) as Alma Hicks, Amelia Hensley, ’13, as Eulalie Shinn, Matthew August as Tommy, Gregor Lopes as Olinn Britt, Andrew Morrill, ’16, as Mayor Shinn, Anjel Piñero, ’22, as Woman #1, Mervin Primeaux-O’Bryant as Maude Dunlap, Nicki Runge as Mrs. Paroo, Gallaudet faculty member Christopher Tester as Oliver Hicks, and Dylan Toms as Ewart Dunlop, with ensemble members Jay Frisby (Miss You Like Hell) and Sarah Anne Sillers (Singin’ in the Rain). Swings include Sophia Early, Jane Enabore, ’16, and Stephen Russell Murray.
Youstra conducts a 10-piece orchestra that also joins in on the barbershop quartet for “Lida Rose.”

The creative team also includes costume designer Rosemary Pardee, lighting designer Jesse Belsky, Olney resident sound designer Matt Rowe, projections designer Sean Preston, and stage manager Ben Walsh.

Ticket information is available at https://tickets.olneytheatre.org/overview/music-man. Multiple discount codes are available. For more information, call the Olney Theatre Center box office, open Wednesday through Saturday from noon to 6 p.m., at 301-924-3400.

William Shakespeare’s Richard III is playing through Sunday, July 17 at the Delacorte Theater in Central Park in New York. Danai Gurira (Black Panther) plays the title role. Gallaudet is represented by Theatre Arts faculty member Monique Holt, playing the Duchess of York, and alumnus Neil Sprouse, ’13, serving as Director of Artistic Sign Language. Visit this site for more information.

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