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Sixty Years of Seventy-Six Trombones

Steve Gibbons
Brad Church and Katy Merriman are Harold Hill and Marian Peroo in the Des Moines Community Playhouse production of The Music Man

December of this year marks the 60th anniversary of the premiere of The Music Man on Broadway; it was written and composed by Mason City native Meredith Willson.  In this hour of Talk of Iowa, host Charity Nebbe explores what the musical says about Iowa and why the music and story have remained popular.

First, we visit the Des Moines Community Playhouse, which has one last weekend of performances of their production of The Music Man.  We hear from actors Brad Church and Katy Merriman who play Harold Hill and Marian Peroo.  

Des Moines Community Playhouse Executive Director David Kilpatrick joins the conversation.  He says through the entire play when a song is sung, people feel better.

"Years of the school board fighting all the years, and then they start singing a song, and they never hate each other again," Kilpatrick says. "And the ladies sing about Marian, and then eventually they like Marian and they like the library, so I think it's the specialness of music making all things possible."  

Also joining the show are John Skipper from Mason City who wrote a book about Meredith Willson, and Tony McQuilkin who collected a glossary of terms and unusual words from the musical. To end the program, Charity has listeners share their stories, and talks with George C. White, Founder of the Eugene O'Neill Theater Center in Connecticut and director of The Music Man in China about his 1987 production in Beijing that was performed in Mandarin.

Charity Nebbe is the host of IPR's Talk of Iowa