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Hudson High School brings "The Music Man" to our river city

"Music Man" is directed by Kari Heisler who also directs several of the HHS choirs. Heisler earns high praise from her cast for a style that encourages self-expression while providing plenty of direction.1 / 3
Harold Hill played by senior Brian Erdrich convinces the people of River City that they are facing big trouble unless he comes to their aid by starting a marching band.2 / 3
The unsung heroes of the high school musical are stage managers like Maddie Helmen, left, and Meagan Buchanan. Both enjoy being part of the show without being onstage.3 / 3

Hudson High School choral director Kari Heisler believes "The Music Man" and the talented students at Hudson High School are the perfect mix. It is one of the reasons she chose the show for this year's musical.

"I have always loved the show. Both Rico (her husband and the show's choreographer) and I were in this show in high school. And because we have such amazing talent at Hudson High School I always try to pick a show that features a lot of students. "The Music Man" has such wonderful characters that both sing and act and so many large chorus scenes that get the entire cast involved which I enjoy both as a director and an audience member. And there is not one song that I don't love from this show," said Heisler.

The cast has 48 HHS students and 16 others from elementary and middle school. In addition there are some 20 students working behind the scenes along with many parent volunteers who work on everything from sets to costumes to hair and makeup. 

Brian Erdrich, 17 and a senior, just transferred to HHS from River Falls this year and has landed the lead role of Professor Harold Hill.

While new to HHS, he is a familiar face in theater in the area having acted at The Phipps and in River Falls. He said he didn't have his heart set on playing the show's leading man and thought a part as part of the barbershop quartet would be fun, "but I'm not complaining."

He said it is fun to play Hill who he describes as a charming con man who always knows exactly what he's doing and exactly what to say to get people to do what he wants. "He's kind of a motivational speaker who has a sneaky side."

Erdrich's role is a demanding one that keeps him on stage for the majority of the production and he likes working with a big cast. "The more people there are the more fun it is and it has been a great way to get to know people."

Erdrich plans on attending UW-Milwaukee's film school when he graduates along with fellow cast mate Travis Schultz. He is the son of Terri Grimm and Mike Erdrich.

Jordan Stewart who plays Marian the librarian has known Erdrich since they met in seventh grade during a Phipps production. She is 16, a junior, and has acted in several HHS productions including last year's "Our Town," playing the proper Mrs. Gibbs.

"I kind of think that role is similar to Marian who is also very proper and straight-laced. What makes her fun is that she changes once she becomes lovestruck," said Stewart.

She was familiar with "The Music Man" because it is her grandmother's favorite musical. "And I think everyone loves the songs in the show. There is something for everybody -- love songs, funny things and big numbers. My favorite is "Ya Got Trouble," even though I'm not in it." The favorite song she sings is "Goodnight My Someone."

Stewart is the daughter of Jen Driscoll and Phil Stewart. Her grandmother, Cathy Driscoll, is in charge of costumes for the show.

Travis Schultz plays the pompous Mayor Shinn. It is the role he hoped to land because he enjoys playing "old people." He was also drawn to the role because he doesn't have to sing much. "I'm not known for my singing, and it is kind of fun playing a politician. You can really go over the top. I keep thinking old white guy kind of like John McCain."

Schultz has been in several HHS productions but this is his last musical. "It really is a lot of fun. Musicals are twice the work of other shows but Mrs. Heisler and Rico are so good at what they do. They make a really good team. And Mrs. Heisler really cares."

Schultz plans on attending the film school at UW-Milwaukee with his friend and fellow actor Brian Erdrich. The two hope to form their own production company one day. He is the son of Ralph and Lisa Schultz.

Noah Eral plays Winthrop, Marian's shy little brother who has a slight lisp. Eral, 9, saw the show as an opportunity to spend more time with his big brother, who is also a member of the cast. What he didn't expect was to have a bigger role but the siblings are handling it. "At first I was a little worried. But there aren't too many lines."

Eral said he understands how things can be tough for a kid like Winthrop. "He gets teased a lot and that can be hard." Eral said he didn't have trouble developing Winthrop's lisp but he has forgotten from time to time when to turn it off.

He said he is glad to have so many other students around his age in the cast with him. "If I was the only kid, I would be bored out of my mind."

Eral is the son of John and Jamie Eral.

Senior Anna Head plays the mayor's wife, Mrs. Eulalie Shinn, a pillar of the community and a legend in her own mind which makes her lots of fun to play. She has been in all of the HHS musicals since she was a freshman but Mrs. Shinn is her biggest role.

"I'm a senior and I just wanted to be in the show, I didn't care what role but I love her and the show is so great with so much great music."

Head said she loves the show and the songs and made the observation that songs like "Ya Got Trouble" and "Rock Island" are "kind of like early rap songs that are really cool."

"There are so many funny things and really crazy parts. There's even a spot where I have about a 45 second costume change between my Statue of Liberty costume into an Indian warrior outfit. I love it because she is so over the top."

Head said there may have been a little typecasting at work. "But it's OK -- I fit the role."

Head plans on a career in fashion design but is also interested in music and art therapy. She also hopes to serve in the Peace Corps. She is the daughter of Ted and Lori Head of North Hudson.

The production runs weekends Nov. 9 through Nov. 18. Tickets are on sale at the HHS box office Monday-Friday from 11:30 a.m.-1 p.m. and 3-7 p.m.

Meg Heaton

Meg Heaton has been a reporter with the Hudson Star Observer since 1990. She has a bachelor’s degree in anthropology and Native American Studies from the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire.

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