BEMIDJI -- When the curtain goes up for the Bemidji Community Theater’s performance of “The Music Man” next week, audience members might feel like they’re part of the show.

“It’s a very intimate setting,” said Mary Knox-Johnson, the play’s director. “We’ll be very close to the audience. In fact, there’ll be some parts where if you’re sitting in the front row you could actually reach the actor standing there.”

It is the first production to be performed at the BCT’s location in the former Book World store at 316 Beltrami Ave. NW. Showtimes are 7 p.m. on Nov. 12, 13, 19 and 20, and 2 p.m. on Nov. 14 and 21. Tickets are priced at $15 for adults, $12 for seniors 62 and older, and $6 for children 18 and younger. They are available at Ken K. Thompson Jewelry and Iverson Corner Drug or at the door on show nights.

Bemidji Community Theater members rehearse a scene from their upcoming production of "The Music Man'' on Wednesday, Nov. 3, 2021. This play will be the first held at the BCT’s location in the old Book World building in downtown Bemidji. (Annalise Braught / Bemidji Pioneer)
Bemidji Community Theater members rehearse a scene from their upcoming production of "The Music Man'' on Wednesday, Nov. 3, 2021. This play will be the first held at the BCT’s location in the old Book World building in downtown Bemidji. (Annalise Braught / Bemidji Pioneer)

Some familiar Bemidjians are taking the stage in the cast of 30 actors. Mary Anderson plays Marian the Librarian, John Henningsgaard plays the swindling Professor Harold Hill, Benji Schoneck plays Winthrop Paroo, Deb Bauer plays Mrs. Paroo, Kristine Cannon plays Eulalie Mackecknie Shinn, Ernie Rall plays Mayor Shinn, and Howard Hirdler plays Marcellus.

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The veteran scenic designer duo of Dwayne Johnson and Mary Knox-Johnson will once again stretch the imagination of those in attendance, as ordinary church pews become seats in a railroad car, benches in Madison Gymnasium and Madison Park morph into tables in the local library. A series of tracks allow scenic units to be changed on stage in just a matter of minutes with scenic backdrops designed and painted by Gregg Wilimek with help from cast and crew members and Gallery North artists Elaine Netland and Les Sanders.

Bemidji Community Theater members rehearse a scene from their upcoming production of "The Music Man'' on Wednesday, Nov. 3, 2021. Some familiar Bemidjians are taking the stage in the cast of 30 actors. (Annalise Braught / Bemidji Pioneer)
Bemidji Community Theater members rehearse a scene from their upcoming production of "The Music Man'' on Wednesday, Nov. 3, 2021. Some familiar Bemidjians are taking the stage in the cast of 30 actors. (Annalise Braught / Bemidji Pioneer)

Add to that the signage painted by Laporte native Aysa Mackey and you have a re-creation of River City, Iowa right here in downtown Bemidji. Authentic costuming including hats and garland worn by the ladies of the town during the "ballet sequence" finalizes the period, all sewn by local seamstresses.

Choreography, handled by Krista Winkka owner of Fusion Dance Center, will set the audience toe-tapping with their enthusiastic interpretation of “Shipoopi'' and the marching accompanied by “Seventy-Six Trombones.”

Bemidji Community Theater members rehearse a scene from their upcoming production of "The Music Man'' on Wednesday, Nov. 3, 2021. Tickets are available at Ken K. Thompson Jewelry and Iverson Corner Drug or at the door on show nights. (Annalise Braught / Bemidji Pioneer)
Bemidji Community Theater members rehearse a scene from their upcoming production of "The Music Man'' on Wednesday, Nov. 3, 2021. Tickets are available at Ken K. Thompson Jewelry and Iverson Corner Drug or at the door on show nights. (Annalise Braught / Bemidji Pioneer)

Music is coordinated by Julie and Paul Loxtercamp with piano accompaniment by Carol L. Johnson.

Knox-Johnson is anxious to show off the Community Theater’s new space with live production.

“This show reveals the spirit of optimism evident in all those who have participated against odds never before imagined: a global pandemic, construction issues, sickness, but the perseverance of cast and crew prevails,” she said.