Youth Theatre Northwest (YTN) is honoring longtime Islanders Harold and Mary Fran Hill this weekend at a performance of “The Music Man Jr.”
For their many years of passionate service to the Mercer Island community, YTN will dedicate the closing performance at 2 p.m. on Sunday, July 30 to the Hills.
“A small ceremony will follow the performance,” said YTN Executive Director Manny Cawaling. “Why this show? Because the main character in Music Man is also named Harold Hill.”
Update: It was beautiful sunny day and the show was very well attended, Cawaling said. Many of Harold and Mary Fran Hill’s family members and friends were in the audience. After the show curtain call, the special guests of honor were escorted to the stage, and given honorary sashes and (appropriate the show) summer hats.
Cawaling led the tributes with a speech outlining the many ways that they have championed the mission of Youth Theatre Northwest as well as other community organizations, including Emmanuel Episcopal Church, Mercer Island Rotary and many more.
“Very few Islanders are exceptional like Harold and Mary Fran Hill and able to say they have attended nearly every single YTN show. For this passionate and dedicated couple, they’re not just attending because their children or grandchildren are in the show but because their community’s children are on stage. They wholeheartedly believe that each of our young performers should be celebrated and supported,” Cawaling said.
The following is a statement from Cawaling and YTN:
“Harold Hill was born in Sedalia, Missouri in 1923. He had a Tom Sawyer childhood in the suburbs of Kansas City and then went to the University of Kansas, not the Gary Conservatory of Music. His studies were interrupted by World War II. After serving in the Pacific, he returned to Kansas State University to finish up his degree in architectural engineering. He also got lucky and met Mary Frances Jennings. When she went to Montana to teach school, he followed her there and they were married in Bozeman. Immediately after the wedding they headed west, arriving in Seattle in 1949.
“Rather than selling boy’s bands, he went into the construction industry, estimating projects huge and tiny for companies huge and tiny. Harold and Mary Fran soon had two boys, John and Steve, and John hangs around Youth Theatre a lot. In the late 1950s he and Mary Fran went to see a new musical by Meredith Willson called ‘The Music Man.’ He came home and said, ‘You won’t believe what they named the con man.’ Pretty soon everyone was calling him The Professor.
“He started his own company in 1968 building and developing lots of buildings all over the Puget Sound region. In fact, over his career our Harold Hill has been responsible for nearly 4,000 buildings, and none of them were built by ‘The Think System.’
“Harold and Mary Fran have been very active in Emmanuel Episcopal Church, Rotary Club, Women’s University Club, United Way and many, many charities.
“They still live on Mercer Island, where they are the patriarch and matriarch of four generations of the Hill clan. They are major supporters of YTN and MICA. And Harold still can’t play a brass instrument.”
Their son John Gordon Hill is the board president for the Mercer Island Center for the Arts (MICA), a nonprofit arts organization that plans to build a facility in Mercerdale Park.
About ‘The Music Man’
Youth Theatre commences its 34th Season by taking audiences back to the classic musical era. Meredith Willson’s six-time-Tony-Award-winning musical comedy, “The Music Man Jr.,” features some of musical theatre’s most iconic songs and a story filled with wit, warmth and good old-fashioned romance. Directed by Zoe Wilson with musical direction by Matt Giles, “The Music Man Jr.” performs July 14-30 at the Mercer Island High School Performing Arts Center, located at 9100 SE 42nd St.
“The Music Man Jr.” performs at 11 a.m. on July 27, and 7 p.m. on July 28 and July 29.
In the show, fast-talking traveling salesman Harold Hill cons the people of River City, Iowa, into buying instruments and uniforms for a boys’ band he vows to organize. The catch? He doesn’t know a trombone from a treble clef. His plans to skip town with the cash are foiled when he falls for Marian. Her belief in Harold’s character just might be the tune that changes his heart.
“The Music Man Jr.” is best for ages 5 and up. Tickets, which are $13-$17, may be purchased at the performance or in advance at www.YouthTheatre.org.