Introducing Dr. Vickie Wisdom, associate professor of theatre
Springfield, Mo. — The five-time Tony Award winning play, 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.
The show is under the direction of Dr. Vickie Wisdom, the new director of Evangel’s highly-regarded theatre program. The 50-member cast includes current Evangel theatre majors and minors, as well as Evangel alumni, local high school students, and children of faculty and staff.
Tickets are available online — visit www.evangel.edu and search “tickets.” Evangel’s Barnett Fine Arts Center is just south of the Spence Chapel, facing North Glenstone Ave.
Originally produced on Broadway in 1957, the immensely popular play became an Academy Award winning movie in 1962 — both starring actor Robert Preston as the fast-talking “Professor” Harold Hill.
The plot is timeless. Hill “convinces the parents of River City, Iowa, to buy instruments and uniforms for their youngsters in order to save them, but chaos ensues as Hill’s credentials are questioned, and he is called upon to prove himself to the citizens of River City,” according to Broadway Musical Home.
Several of the songs in the musical have become popular standards, including “Seventy-six Trombones” and “Til There Was You,” which was recorded by The Beatles for their first American album, Meet The Beatles, in 1963.
This is the second time that the classic play by Meredith Wilson has been presented at Evangel — The Music Man was the school’s first musical production and was directed by David Smith in 1984.
Wisdom brings ties to the past
Dr. Vickie Wisdom is a part of the history and heritage of the Evangel theatre program.
“My relationship with Evangel has literally spanned my entire lifetime, beginning with living on campus as an infant with my parents in faculty housing.”
Her father is Dr. Thurman Vanzant, and recent research indicates that he is the last living member of Evangel’s pioneering faculty. The college opened in the fall of 1955, and he joined the Evangel family in 1957, serving in positions ranging from professor to vice president for student development.
When The Music Man was first produced at Evangel in 1984, Wisdom directed the children and played the piano. In the ensuing years, she has worked with numerous other EU theatre presentations.
As a result, when the call came in 2016, she jumped at the opportunity to join the Evangel faculty full time and now serves as associate professor and director of the University’s theatre program.
“This is my first year as a full-time faculty member at Evangel,” says Wisdom, who previously taught business at Southwest Baptist University and music and theatre at 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 two-thirds of the tickets available for all four performances,” she said
Joining Wisdom from that first production will be two cast members.
“We are featuring two alumni-in-residence as Mayor and Mrs. Shinn,” said Wisdom. “Michael Bates currently lives in Pennsylvania. He played the role of Marcellus in the 1984 EU production and will be joining the cast as the mayor, beginning March 31 through the run of the show.
“In addition, Lori Lawley is reprising her role as Mrs. Shinn from the 1984 EU production of The Music Man. She is also serving as the assistant director/acting coach for our production. Lori lives here in Springfield,” she added.
Wisdom earned her bachelor’s degree in music education from Evangel in 1981 and returned a couple of years later to get a second major in theatre. She then earned an M.B.A. from Missouri State University, followed by a doctorate in educational leadership and policy analysis from the University of Missouri.
Evangel offers three majors in the field
The theatre major provides instruction in theatre history, literary appreciation of dramatic literature, dramatic interpretation, and the performance skills demanded of a theatre artist. Theatre majors gain practical experiences in acting, directing, set design and costume design.
The theatre/speech education degree program brings the stage to life for those passionate about educating students in effective interpretation. The program provides a broad track with exposure to multiple disciplines of informative, dramatic, persuasive and improvisational communication styles. Students may also get practical experience in speech and debate by participating with Evangel’s forensics team.
The Humanities Department and the Music Department have collaborated to offer a new major, combining elements of both theatre and music instruction. Evangel developed the theatre/music program to meet a clear need in professional-theatre and church sectors for well-trained college graduates with a hybrid theatre-and-music background.
RELATED STORY: Hannah Peak — History repeats itself with Evangel’s spring production of The Music Man