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Oral history

Broadway-style musical to be
performed during Bicentennial

‘Rivertown’ musical written by
Seymour composer Moman

By Lela Jane Bradshaw
Contributing Writer

(January 2009) – The Dec. 6 Madison Christ-mas Parade offered area residents a sneak peek at the upcoming “River-town” musical being written as part of the Madison Bicen-tennial celebration, to be held in 2009. Singers in period dresses and top hats braved cold weather and performed the songs “Madison” and “My Hometown” by singers riding the Bicentennial float.

Madison Bicentennial Logo

“Not too many people get to celebrate their own town’s Bicentennial,” says composer and lyricist Charles Moman, 57, of nearby Seymour, Ind. He describes his commission to develop the musical as “an extraordinary situation, I’m very grateful.”
The two-act, Broadway-style musical “Rivertown” will premier Oct 9 with a Gala event and run for six performances over two weekends. That date is nearly four months after the city holds its “Old Home Week” in mid-June, when most of the larger Bicentennial events are scheduled.
Moman is working with script writer Yancy Unger and director-designer Aaron Kelsey, a teacher and theater director at Madison Conso-lidated High School, to produce the original musical. Casting will take place sometime before Madison schools let out for summer vacation, Moman said.

Moman

Moman

While a majority of the cast will be high schoolers, some elementary students will also be needed for the production. Stu-dents interested in auditions should keep an eye on the “Rivertown” website for details. Susan Ohlendorf, who serves as the Educational Chairperson for the Bicentennial Steering Committee, says one of the many exciting aspects of the musical is the fact that, “it’s all hometown people in the production.”
“Rivertown”covers the first 100 years of Madison history. The decision to limit the scope of the musical was based on a desire to prevent the production from turning into a historical pageant, and “Aaron and I wanted to tell a story,” Moman recalls. The story begins with the 1909 Madison Centennial celebration, when people begin to approach an older gentleman for memories of the town’s past. The musical will reflect on many aspects of the Madison story from the Underground Railroad and the Civil War to the town orphanage and Irish workers on the railroad. Moman says that, “Without the river and railroad Madison would not be what it is” and both will play a large part in the piece. Moman explains that the style focuses on “singable” songs and that while the story does touch on serious issues, overall the tone is “very upbeat.”
Moman is not new to capturing Indiana history and culture. His best known musical, “Indiana, That’s Where I Belong,” was designed for schoolchildren and has been performed for the Indiana Senate, and as part of the 2005 Indiana Governor Inauguration. Moman describes that musical as, “A walk through Indiana history.”
Moman, an elementary music teacher, has been awarded three Lilly Endowment Teacher Creativity Fellowships. His most recent fellowship project, “An Indiana Portrait,” incorporates music and photography to create a picture of rural Indiana. For “Rivertown,”extensive research is being conducted with the help of local genealogists and the Jefferson County Historical Society.
“We’re striving very hard to be historically accurate,” says Moman. “It was no problem coming up with ideas because the history is so rich.”
Ohlendorf has been reporting on the musical’s progress to the Bicenten-nial Committee and says that excitement is already growing about the production. When the committee heard the first songs from the musical, “We were just spellbound; we just couldn’t wait,” said Ohlendorf. “His music is so beautiful and so fun,” she said of Moman’s work.
Plans are under way to include clips from the songs on the “Rivertown” website, so soon all of Madison may be singing along.

• For more information, visit www.RivertownTheMusical.com or www.MadisonBicentennial.com.

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