Fair   48.0F  |  Forecast »

Behind the Music

(page 2 of 2)

 

 

 WE STARTED OUT WONDERING IF WE HAD ENOUGH MONEY TO DO A SHOW. WE WONDERED IF ANYONE WOULD AUDITION. WE WONDERED IF ANYONE
WOULD COME.

~ JEFF NIENHUESER • DIRECTOR OF THE MUSIC MAN AND
PRESIDENT OF THE PAPILLION-LA VISTA COMMUNITY THEATRE
 

“It’s our very own multilayered sound system,” quipped Doug Huggins, the man who manages the amphitheater for the Papillion Recreation Department. “In other places, the music begins when ­someone steps on stage. Here at the Sumtur Amphitheater, I like to think that the music begins the moment you arrive.” The Music Man, Meredith Wilson’s tuneful homage to turn-of-the-century Americana, runs July 7th through the 16th.
 

“Every time I do this show I am reminded of Meredith Wilson’s genius,” said Jeff Nienhueser, The Music Man director and also board president of the Papillion-La Vista Community Theatre. “The way he put together that opening scene in the train is just one example of that genius. His rhymes and how he sets them to music, the music of the train, it’s just amazing. He has a way of capturing the distinctively midwestern rhythms of life in what is one of the great classics of musical theatre.”
 

Like the Sumtur itself, the company is celebrating its fifth season.
 

“It’s a wonderful feeling to be able to work with all these great people,” Nienhueser said of the company he founded. “We started out wondering if we had enough money to do a show. We wondered if anyone would audition. We wondered if anyone would come.”
 

Unlike the steam locomotive slowly chugging its way out of the River City station, the Papillion-La Vista Community Theatre seemed to go from zero to 60 in about five seconds flat. From their inaugural effort with Fiddler on the Roof to last season’s The Sound of Music, the company skipped the usual baby steps and instead began life at a full sprint in playing to glowing reviews, strong ticket sales and cheering audiences when the temperatures rise every July.
 

One of River City’s most prominent citizens is the mayor’s wife, Eulalie Shinn, so metroMAGAZINE thought we’d better pick-a-little-talk-a-little with Becky Noble, the actress who will play the ringleader behind the gaggle of prim, cheep-cheep-cheeping townswomen.
 

“She’s a character in the truest sense,” Noble said. “She pictures herself almost as American royalty, as though she were descended from the Vanderbilts or Carnegies. She’s very happy with the idea that her husband is the mayor, but she really does care about her little town. For that reason, you have to play her as very sincere so she doesn’t come off as a caricature.”
 

Noble, a popular actress seen on countless Omaha stages, is not unfamiliar with the Sumtur. She played the equally colorful Bloody Mary in the 2009 Papillion-La Vista Community Theatre production of South Pacific and staged her crowd-pleasing Cabaret Theatre there in both 2008 and 2009. 
 

“There was something just incredible about singing ‘Bali Ha’i’ in front of 800 people in South Pacific,” she beamed. “The Sumtur isn’t exactly the same thing as Bali Ha’i, but it sure felt like. It was beautiful to see all those people sitting out there on the grass as the sun was starting to set.
 

It’s just a thrilling place to perform.”
 

Perhaps like no other venue in the area, the Sumtur itself plays a starring role, chirping crickets and all, in any production that lands on its stage.
 

“It’s really cool for our actors to get the chance to work outdoors,” Nienhueser added. “Many will be performing before the largest crowds of their careers,” he said of the space with fixed seating for 350 and berm seating for an additional 2,000. With single-night attendance figures that eclipse those of total ticket sales over an entire run of productions at many smaller community theaters, the Sumtur offers a unique experience for both actor and audience member alike.
 

“For our people to be out there, to look at all those faces as darkness sets in,” Nienhueser mused, “it’s just a magical experience for them.”
 

The Music Man curtain may drop o­­n July 16th, but the Sumtur will continue with a summer-long calendar that features such family fun as blues, movie nights, acoustic Sundays and even a senior center talent show.
 

“The Sumtur is the best kept secret in Sarpy County,” Huggins added. “We work hard to get people out here, but the rest kind of takes care of itself once they visit for the first time.”

-end- metroMAGAZINE

 

 

 

Add your comment: