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Music Man

By Lauren Clark Hughes

Attendees at this fall's Whitworth Theatre production, The Music Man, saw fresh faces close at hand. The musical's troupe included children from the local community — the cream of area youth actors — in its performances this fall.

The Music Man, Meredith Willson's funny, warm musical comedy from 1957, won six Tony Awards. The play features supporting roles for child actors, and Professor of Theatre Diana Trotter and her staff solicited area theatres, such as the Christian Youth Theater and Spokane Children's Theatre, as well as the Whitworth community, for children to play the roles of Winthrop, Amaryllis and Gracie Shinn. A number of ensemble parts were also available.

Nearly 25 child actors from 5 to 13 years old auditioned, and six were cast, including two "Whitworth kids" — Moriah Von Behren, daughter of Program Assistant in Education Jennifer Von Behren, and Chloe Taylor, daughter of President Beck A. Taylor and his wife, Julie.

Moriah, 12, played Gracie Shinn, the youngest daughter of the town mayor. The Music Man was her ninth time acting in a stage production, and her mom says she loves seeing her daughter on stage. "I can say, 'That's my kid!,'" Von Behren says. "But I also love watching my daughter grow in confidence and in responsibility. It's a real responsibility to be at every practice and to memorize lines, dance moves and stage blocking. These are great life skills for everyone."

When asked about her experience in the play, Moriah said she had fun learning about Iowa (where the musical takes place) and bonding with the college kids during scenes like the Shipoopi dance. "It was exciting to have my first lines in a big production," she says. "Overall, I had a great time. The best part was making new friends."