River City, Iowa, town members come to Westerville today with the Westerville Civic Theater's production of The Music Man.

River City, Iowa, town members come to Westerville today with the Westerville Civic Theater's production of The Music Man.

Con man Harold Hill, played by Westerville resident Bill Hafner, visits the small town to play his cunning trick on the locals: Sell music instruments, create a band and teach kids how to play to keep them out of trouble.

There's just one rub: Hill doesn't know how to play music and plans to run off with the money without following through on his promises.

Piano teacher and savvy librarian Marian Paroo, played by Katey Munger, is skeptical of the new visitor's intentions. But as Hill becomes acquainted with the town, he helps her younger brother Winthrop, played by Eli Wilson, with his lisp and she eventually falls for the con artist. Hill starts to fall in love with the respected librarian as well.

Director Matt Wolfe said River City matches Westerville, and that The Music Man is a well-suited production for the city.

"One of the things I love about Westerville is it is a community. I think the parallels between River City, Iowa, and Westerville are a bit uncanny," Wolfe said. "It's fun talking about what life in River City would be like and it's been great to watch the 7-year-old and the 76-year-old (cast members) discuss life."

Westerville Civic Theater has about 150 members with ages between 6 years old and 76 years old. One of the youngest performers is Wilson, son of Kris and Curtis Wilson. At 6, he is one of the youngest protagonists in the show and a veteran of the stage; he performed in last year's production of The Wizard of Oz -- the first Westerville Civic Theater production.

"This is my second show with these directors and they are amazing directors and direct very good plays," he said.

With the help of the city's parks and recreation department, children such as Wilson participate in an eight-week long summer camp to learn about theater and rehearse for the show.

Through the camp, the kids learn makeup, dancing, acting and singing, and use all their knowledge for the shows.

"We're trying to instill a love of theater and teach production," Wolfe said. "It is so cool that we're in the seventh week of this and these kids are nice, bright and happy on stage."

Members from all ages and professions unite for the sake of theater, and feel closer to the Westerville community after portraying the River City community.

"There are a lot of people in this show I've never met before, and I've lived here for eight years," said Jane Collinsworth, who plays Mrs. Paroo. "I have never done a show with any of these people before and it's fun. It's a fun experience."

For some cast members, the production featured roles that they dreamed of playing, particularly for the play's leads Marian and Harold, made famous as a Broadway play in 1957 and Academy Award winning film in 1962, starring Robert Preston as Harold and Shirley Jones as Marian.

"This is my dream role," Munger said. "This has been my dream role since I was a little girl. This has been one of the most fun times I've ever had in my life."

"It's a dream role for me, too," Hafner added, also mentioning that this is only his third show.

Many audience members may be familiar with The Music Man and its catchy tunes, but Wolfe hopes the audience will feel the same sense of ecstasy as the cast feels.

"I hope that among anything else that the cast and audience take away this sense of joy performance can bring," he said.

Westerville Civic Theater's The Music Man opens today, July 31, and runs through Sunday, Aug 3.

Shows are at 7 p.m. today through Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday at Westerville Central High School, 7118 Mount Royal Ave.

Tickets are $10 and available for advance purchase at Westerville Community Center and at the door.