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“The Music Man” Comes to Durgin in August

Accomplished Alumni Premiere Group’s Inaugural Show on Campus

Leon Grande, left, directing students, and Jack Neary are bringing "The Music Man" to Durgin Hall in August.

By Julia Gavin

A cast of talented actors, singers, musicians, dancers and backstage experts including a solid share of UMass Lowell alumni will take the Durgin Concert Hall stage in August to perform “The Music Man,” one of  theatre’s most beloved productions in its inaugural show on campus.

“The Music Man” will be performed concert style on Aug. 3 and 4 to introduce the newly created Greater Lowell Music Theatre (GLMT), a group formed by alumni Jack Neary ’73 and Leon Grande ’76, '89 with accomplished choreographer Phyllis George. The trio produced award-winning musicals at Dracut High School for 15 years before deciding to try their collective hand at bringing adults to the stage. The performances will be predominantly music and singing-based with dancers bringing audiences’ favorite songs like “Seventy-Six Trombones” and “Trouble in River City” to life.

“The Greater Lowell Music Theatre won’t put on shows like this each year,” says Neary. “This is our first production: we’ll know more next time. We hope to put on one or two full productions annually starting next year.”

The show will feature dozens of talented alumni singing, playing instruments and dancing. The lead roles will be played by highly accomplished Massachusetts-based actors: soprano Mara Bonde will play Marian the librarian; Arlington Center for the Arts’ Executive Director and actor John Budzyna will play Harold Hill; Boston television legend and multiple Emmy winner Dick Flavin will play Mayor Shinn; and include chorus members, many who sing with the Tanglewood Festival Chorus.

“Jack made a great choice with this show,” says Grande. “It’s full of life and energy.”

Audience-Funded Production

Establishing a new arts organization requires early support from friends, donors and others who believe in its mission to get a group like GLMT from the ground to the stage. Fortunately, more than 104 supporters dove in. Through crowd-sourcing site Kickstarter and other donations, GLMT raised enough money to cover the costs necessary to finance their dream.

“Kickstarter was a great way to connect with supporters and raise money for the production,” says Neary. “Between the site and other donations, we’re getting there.”

In a whimsical fundraising goal, GLMT sought to raise $7,600 − 100 for each trombone in the show’s famous “Seventy-Six Trombones” song – and surpassed that goal by raising $7,958 through Kickstarter alone. For their contribution, 104 supporters will receive pins, T-shirts, playbill acknowledgments, passes to a rehearsal or tickets to the performances, depending on the amount of the donation. Monies will cover licensing, payments to performers, rehearsal space and other production costs.

Alumni Ties and Returns

“We’re so fortunate to have Jack, Leon and other talented alumni and a host of arts supporters who want to give back to the community,”  says Heather Makrez, director of Alumni Relations. “'The Music Man presents a wonderful opportunity to bring people back to campus, reconnect them to the University and highlight some shining alumni."
“The campus and respect for the arts have vastly expanded since my time at Lowell State College,” says Neary “Coming from its much smaller predecessor, it’s a great thing to be considered a UMass Lowell alumnus.”