'Music Man' lead actors, left to right: Margaret McCarty, Nick Miller, Ian Fan, and Sarah Pohli in the Main Library. Photo by Rachel Swansburg

‘Seventy-Six Trombones’ march into Concord for Players’ ‘Music Man’

April 23, 2024

By Laurie O’NeillCorrespondent

If you’re strolling around Concord and happen upon a dark-haired, fresh-faced man leading a young Border collie named Kousa and muttering, “Trouble, oh we got trouble…,” have no fear. 

He’s not ruminating about a town tax hike, a sports car-swallowing pothole, or a rabble of Redcoats advancing on the Old North Bridge. 

It’s Nick Miller, rehearsing his lines and lyrics. “My neighbors see me and say, ‘Oh, it’s just crazy Nick talking to himself again,’” he says. 

Miller plays Harold Hill, the smooth-talking traveling salesman who doesn’t know a trumpet from a tuba but cons River City, Iowa, into purchasing band instruments in the iconic show “The Music Man.” The musical is the Concord Players’ spring production. 

Nick Miller and Janet Pohli in the Main Library after a teaser for the musical. Photo by Rachel Swansburg

Miller revels in playing Hill. “I love the progression — the big musical numbers in the first act, and then his amazing transformation in the second.” By the time Hill is exposed as a fraud, he’s fallen in love with River City’s prim librarian, Marian, played by Janet Pohli of Waltham, and charmed the residents of the Iowa town. To his astonishment, Hill manages to boost the morale of mundane River City and become a respectable citizen.  

“The Music Man,” Meredith Wilson’s Tony Award-winning musical, was first performed on Broadway in 1957. Full of rousing marches, barbershop harmonies, and romantic ballads, the Players’ production opens on April 26 at 51 Walden Street.

The show’s beloved musical numbers include “Till There Was You,” “Marian the Librarian,” and, of course, “Seventy-Six Trombones.” 

Local thespians

Directed by Paul Murphy of Arlington, the Players’ production features 34 children, teens, and adult actors of all ages from Concord and several area towns.

Concord residents in the show include Charlie Layton, who is part of the Kids’ Ensemble. Tim Daughters sings with the barbershop quartet. Corrine Kinsman is the show’s co-producer, Susan Tucker is its lighting designer, and Bill Fisher is the production’s assistant stage manager. Costume designer Carol Antos was a longtime Concord resident. 

Charlie, who attends Willard School and swims with the Concord Otters, is a seasoned thespian. He has appeared in school plays including “The Little Mermaid” and “Snow White.” 

When asked what he likes most about acting, the 10-year-old says, “It’s just fun.” But the best part, he adds with a grin, is “the cookies.” A plate of them is put out at every rehearsal.  

Sage Miller and Charlie Layton at a rehearsal. Photo by Laurie O’Neill

This is Murphy’s sixth show for the Players and his first time directing “The Music Man.” The play’s theme is “universal,” he says. “It’s all about possibility and the hunger for change.” The musical portrays “a whole community that goes from being just okay to being a much better place to live.” 

Murphy’s previous credits include “Steel Magnolias,” which was in rehearsal at 51 Walden when Covid struck. The set stayed on the stage for a year and a half until the venue reopened and the play performed. 

Miller has been living and breathing Harold Hill for the last year.

Not only does he run his lines while out walking, but he also rehearses with his 12-year-old daughter, Sage, at least when she isn’t busy with Irish dancing, choral singing, and, of course, homework from her classes at Concord Middle School. 

Sage is in the show’s Teen Ensemble. “It’s wonderful that we could audition and rehearse and be a part of this together,” says her dad.

Actor by night, dog trainer by day

A California native, Miller says he made his stage debut in sixth grade, where he “got the acting bug,” and later majored in theater at Muhlenberg College. 

Miller has a day job, and it couldn’t be any different than treading the boards. He had “unprecedented access“ to celebrity dog trainer Cesar Millan (“The Dog Whisperer”) at Millan’s Los Angeles facility, where Miller’s mother worked. Miller later studied at the National K-9 School for Dog Trainers and now runs Walden Dog Training in Concord. 

After he “married a Wayland girl,” Amy, the couple moved East, and the family has lived in Concord for seven years. Miller kept his hand in theatrics, playing roles in several area productions, including “Harvey” and “Arcadia” with the Players and “To Kill a Mockingbird” at the Umbrella Arts Center. 

The show’s leads performed a 20-minute costumed teaser at the Main Library on Saturday, April 6, though the actual costumes for the musical will be a tightly held secret until opening night.  

Murphy says the Players have “a sense of responsibility to do the show justice. People will have expectations and we hope we’ll please them.”

Tickets for the musical, which runs through May 11 at the Performing Arts Center, 51 Walden Street, are $28. Go to tickets@concordplayers.org or call the ticket line at (978) 369-2990.