By ALYSSA RAMER
Performers with Christian Youth Theatre work closely with mentors to gain vocal and acting practice, putting on five shows per year across the greater Tucson area.
The company’s production of “The Music Man” will take place March 18-20 at Pima Community College’s Proscenium Theatre, located on West Campus in the Center for the Arts.
Christian Youth Theatre, which calls itself the nation’s largest youth theater company, provides afterschool theater arts training for students ages 6-18.
The company originated in San Diego in 1981 and now has 17 branches.
Jon and Kathy Thuerbach began the Tucson branch, which started producing musicals with 23 students in 2005.
More than 1,000 people now participate in all areas of the program. In some cases, multiple family members are involved.
“It’s like Broadway for kids,” Marketing Manager Ray Frieders said.
CYT holds tryouts at the University of Arizona and at the CYT Tucson office, 710 S. Kolb Road, Building 6.
Rehearsals are often held at UA’s Crowder Hall and CYT performs there at least once a year.
Tucsonans Lauryn Wallentine and Adrian Ford play the lead roles in “The Music Man.”
Wallentine began working with CYT when she was 6. Now 15, she says the character of Marian Pahoo is her most enjoyable role to date.
When Wallentine first began with the company, she performed a side role in “Music Man” as Amarillis. She admired the actress who played Marian and aspired to her role.
She plans to continue theater work in the future.
“I would love to go into performance art,” she said. “I’m part of my youth band at church and I have been looking into colleges.”
Her second choice would be to take a position directing worship.
Samantha Adams, 14, portrays Zaneeta, the daughter of the mayor.
She has spent seven and a half years working with CYT, and says she enjoys having younger participants look up to her now.
Her favorite part of performing is the sense of accomplishment she enjoys afterward.
Emily Muirhead, 14, said she got involved with CYT at age 11 after she received information about the program from an IHOP waiter who was also an instructor.
She plays Mrs. Paroo, the mother of Marian Paroo, in “The Music Man.”
Her favorite role in past productions was playing “an old inventor” in “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.”
What’s her favorite part of acting?
“I think it’s getting into character and seeing how it plays out in the end,” she said. “Especially non-fiction: portraying actual people, trying to show the world that person.”
She wants to continue her acting career in the future.
Emily’s sister, Katie Muirhead, joined CYT when she was 14 and has performed in previous plays including “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.” Her role in “The Music Man” is Alma Hicks, a “busybody.”
Katie is 18 now, approaching the end of her term. She will soon be an alumnus, but can still assist with productions in capacities such as a stagehand.
Many former CYT students now attend PCC and perform in college productions, including siblings Daniel and Anna Hagberg.
Daniel Hagberg played Bela Zangler in “Crazy for You” this spring and was a main character in “SPAMALOT!” last spring. Anna Hagberg also performed in “Crazy for You.”
Daniel Hagberg is serving as assistant director for “The Music Man.” His younger brother Samuel Hagberg plays Charlie Cowell in the musical.
“Music Man” performances will be at 7 p.m. on Friday, at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. on Saturday and at 2 p.m. on Sunday.
Tickets cost $15 and can be purchased online at cyttucson.org.