By Jim Sullivan
---- — AMESBURY — Maryellen Shirshac, the director of Amesbury Middle School Drama Club and her young cast and crew are hard at work rehearsing for this year’s spring musical, “The Music Man Jr.”
‘Opening night is just amazing,” Shirshac said. “When they get in front of a live audience and they get that reaction, it’s just a whole different thing.”
The well-known story, which was turned into a motion picture starring Robert Preston and Shirley Jones in 1962, focuses on con man Harold Hill as he attempts to swindle the townspeople of River City, Iowa, and falls in love along the way. Seventh-grader Michael Lynch is playing Hill and is familiar with the rush of opening night, having been in many different productions in the past.
“It is definitely one of the best feelings ever,” Lynch said. “You just hear the cheer of the audience and it is just awesome.”
A part-time secretary at the Middle School, Shirshac, 52, began her Amesbury theater career assisting Suzanne Morin with the Amesbury Elementary School productions while her two children were students there. Once her kids moved to the Middle School, so did Shirshac and when the position of musical director opened up, she gave it a shot.
“I like taking something on the page and putting it into this physical thing that you watch,” Shirshac said. “It’s exciting trying to figure everything out, the logistics. How does this kid come on here? How does this child exit there? How do we transition from one scene to the other? Watching kids just come to life when they get on stage is just amazing.”
“The Music Man Jr.” has a cast and crew of 85 students culled from grades 5 to 8 and ages 10 to 14.
Joined by choreographer Joelyn Pray and music teacher Marissa Armitage, Shirshac began rehearsals two days a week in January. With opening night approaching soon, rehearsals will kick into overdrive with three a week then five for tech week.
On Thursday, March 27, the performance begins at 6 p.m., and shows on March 28 and March 29 start at 7 p.m.