The nostalgic tunes of “Seventy-six Trombones,” “Marian the Librarian” and “Pick-a-Little, Talk-a-Little” will bring back special memories for those attending “The Music Man” dinner theater at St. Mary Help of Christians in St. Augusta in December.
“Our cast of 37 parishioners is polishing those songs, plus dancing and acting,” said Kathy Waletzko, the production’s director. “They’re from fifth grade to 60-plus, a wide age range,” she said. “In addition, Father Erik Lundgren, a visiting priest in our parish, plays Salesman #5 and Man #2.”
This year’s “The Music Man” is the parish’s sixth production in seven years.
“Vincentian Father Jose Edayadiyil hoped for an activity to build community and raise funds,” Waletzko said, “This does both. Besides the 37 in the cast, at least that many people support us with sewing, painting, doing carpentry work, picking up supplies, serving suppers to the full cast, cutting stars, planning and catering the dinner, pouring wine and so much more. Those who’ve been involved belong to a sort of family, they have a bond. When they see each other around town, they smile with instant recognition.”
Greg Hopke has been involved in all their productions. In “The Music Man,” he plays Marcellus, sidekick to Harold Hill.
“With two months of preparation, these musicals bind people together,” Hopke said. “We cultivate these friendships and that’s how everyday life should be for all of us. Parents see their kids talk to other adults like long-lost buddies. The cast supports each other when difficulties arise over personal issues or family deaths. Included are the unsung heroes who get things ready behind the scenes — an amazing gift of our faith community. ‘Fiddler on the Roof,’ which we did a few years ago, was about family interactions — people might chide each other but everyone has everyone else’s back.
“With the magic of the musical, Kathy can make people shine,” Hopke said. “’The Music Man’ has scenes with full choruses and everyone has fun. It’s not just another fundraiser, it’s a ‘fun’ raiser.”
Waletzko said, “We couldn’t do it without the support our priests. Father Matthew Crane often checks on our progress and makes sure rehearsal spaces are available. He always asks what we need.”
In return, St. Mary Help of Christians reserves a table for the retired priests and the sisters at St. Scholastica and St. Benedict’s Monastery. Bishop Donald Kettler often attends.
Waletzko is pleased to be able to pray with the cast. “It’s our tradition at the final dress rehearsal, to attend Mass together in costume and then do the dress rehearsal. Where else can you do this?”
The whole parish supports the dinner theater — out of the 618 tickets available for three performances, only 140 seats are left.
IF YOU GO
“The Music Man”
Dec. 10 and 11: Seating and wine at 6 p.m., supper at 6:30 p.m., show at 7:30 p.m.; $40 per seat
Dec. 12: Seating at 12:30 p.m., show at 1 p.m., dessert and beverage at intermission; $15 for adults, $10 for children, free for ages 6 and under sitting on a lap
Call for tickets at 320-252-1799.
St. Mary Help of Christians Church, 24588 Co. Rd. 7, St. Augusta, MN 56301
All diocesan protocols for COVID are followed; masks are available if someone needs one before being seated.