First Published: Springfield News-Leader, March 10, 2017
Sometimes life really does go full circle.
Picture this: A ten-year-old girl, daughter of an Evangel College (now University) faculty member, is recruited to play the part of a child in the first Broadway musical produced by the school. The year is 1984, and the girl is Rachelle Shows, who assumed the role of Amaryllis in the production of The Music Man.
Fast forward to 2017.
This time it’s 12-year-old Hannah Peak — daughter of Rachelle Shows Peak and granddaughter of that now-retired faculty member, John Shows — who is playing the role of Amaryllis in Evangel’s Spring production of The Music Man, April 6-8!
Making it even more fun, the full-circle moments don’t stop there. Of the original cast and crew, at least four other connections link back to 1984. While it’s not exactly Orwellian, it is fun to take a look at the current group and see how it all ties together.
- Hannah Peak is a local student at Pleasant View Middle School, the same school her mother attended.
- Jon Spence, an Evangel sophomore playing the part of Charlie Cowell, is a nephew of Steve Spence, who played the part of Winthrop in Evangel’s first production of The Music Man.
- Michael Bates, who played the role of Marcellus in 1984, is returning to the Evangel stage in the role of Mayor Shinn. Bates was named Best Actor as a student and will fly in from his home in Pennsylvania to join this cast beginning March 31.
- Lori Lawley is reprising her role as Mrs. Shinn from the 1984 production, as well as serving as the assistant director/acting coach for the production. Lawley was named Best Actor for two years during her time at Evangel; she resides in Springfield.
- Finally, 1981 Evangel music ed. graduate Dr. Vickie Wisdom, who directed the children and played piano during the 1984 performance, now serves as director of the theatre program at Evangel.
“This is my first year as a full-time faculty member at Evangel,” says Wisdom, formerly of New Covenant Academy. “I decided I wanted to relive a few memories and bring something special to the community. We are really excited and have already sold more than half of the tickets available for all four performances!”
Peak has great memories from her time as Amaryllis, and is attending the rehearsals with her daughter. “It’s amazing how many songs I can sing and how many lines I remember,” she says. “We’ll be at practice for 2-3 hours, and guess what Hannah chooses to listen to on the way home? The soundtrack!”
Peak is now the librarian at Pleasant View, and says, “Now she’s Amaryllis and I’m Marion the librarian!”
The similarities go on—in this year’s production, Hannah is wearing the dress that Peak’s grandmother made for her to wear in 1984. Says Peak, “It fits her so well, and I love seeing her in it!”
Hannah says her own grandmother initially told her about the play, and took her to tryouts. “I had never been in a play,” she says, “and I thought it was neat that I was going to try out for a part that my mom had been before.”
The Music Man
The 50-member cast includes current Evangel theatre majors and minors, as well as EU alumni, local high school students, and children of Evangel faculty and staff.
A five-time Tony Award winner, Meredith Willson’s The Music Man will be presented in Evangel University’s Fine Arts Theatre, April 6, 7 and 8 at 7:30 p.m., with a matinee on April 8 at 2 p.m. Tickets are available online.
FOLLOWUP STORY: Meet Dr. Vickie (Vanzant ’81) Wisdom, who returned this year to lead the Theatre Program at Evangel University.