Vanguard Theater Company’s ‘The Music Man in Concert’ Is a Holiday Family Affair


The Music Man Rowan Wechsler and Justice Muhammad of South Orange. (Photo by Gregory Omar Osborne for Vanguard Theater Company)


From the Vanguard Theater Company:

“It’s a Family Affair” was a 1971 number-one hit single recorded by Sly & the Family Stone. But it could also be the motto for Vanguard Theater Company’s production of “The Music Man in Concert,” currently marching towards a December 16 opening night performance at The Theater at South Orange Middle School in South Orange. “The Music Man” is one of America’s most beloved musicals. And Vanguard’s production, in true community theater tradition, includes multiple members of different families from many local communities.

The Music Man

Stephanie Lawson-Muhammad and Justice Muhammad of South Orange. (Photo by Gregory Omar Osborne for Vanguard Theater Company)

They include Stephanie Lawson-Muhammad and daughter Justice (South Orange), Maya and father Chris Joyce (Montclair), Sarajane Boyle, and her children Molly Jane and Colin, Jonathan and Erica Ridley, and daughter Olivia (West Orange), Ginger and Nurridin Sharif, and daughter Yasmeena (Irvington), Danielle Michaeli and sons Joseph and Jacob (Westfield), Doreen Oliver and son Noah Akkinnuoye (Maplewood), Lori Lang and son Maurice Lacy (Newark), and Allie Banks and son Duane (Union).

You won’t want to miss this show ~ your neighbors might very well be in it!

Justice Muhammad of South Orange, who is playing the principal role of Amaryllis, says she initially didn’t want her mom be in Vanguard’s production, “but then she auditioned and blew everyone away.” Says mom Stephanie: “I’m an IT consultant. This is my first show. I love how the theme of the importance of art and community is present in every rehearsal. I’m thoroughly enjoying every minute!”

The Music Man

Rowan Wechsler and Justice Muhammad of South Orange. (Photo by Gregory Omar Osborne for Vanguard Theater Company)

Justice is sharing the stage not only with her mom, but also schoolmate Rowan Wechsler. The two didn’t know each other well before rehearsals, but have since bonded through the process. Says Stephanie: “The whole experience of coming together as a theater community and the bonding that has taken place is amazing. We’ve all made new friends in the Vanguard family.”

The Music Man

Kate Dawson of Millburn. (Photo by Gregory Omar Osborne for Vanguard Theater Company)

In true Vanguard fashion, the Muhammads and Rowan Wechsler are sharing the stage with Broadway professionals. Kate Dawson (A CHRISTMAS CAROL) and Juan Drigo (JD) Ricafort (IN THE HEIGHTS) star in Vanguard’s The Music Man in Concert as Marian Paroo and Harold Hill.

Originally from Champaign, Illinois, Kate moved to New York and made her Broadway debut in 1997, playing “Emily” (Scrooge’s fiance) for three seasons in “A Christmas Carol” at Madison Square Garden. Kate shared the stage with several “Scrooge’s” during that time, including Roddy McDowall, Hal Linden, Frank Langella, and Tim Curry.

The Music Man

Juan Drigo Ricafort. (Photo by Gregory Omar Osborne for Vanguard Theater Company)

JD is an actor, vocalist, dancer, writer, and producer based in New York City. His work mixes genres and mediums, including musical theater, hip-hop, house, and film. He recently wrote, rapped, and acted in #Bars at The Public Theater, directed by Rafael Casal and Daveed Diggs (HAMILTON). JD joins the cast of THE MUSIC MAN IN CONCERT after playing the role of “Graffiti Pete” in Lin Manuel Miranda’s IN THE HEIGHTS at Olney Theater in Maryland, starring two-time Tony nominee Robin De Jesús as Usnavi.

These professionals are working with, and mentoring, a 72-member cast of aspiring professional performers, as well as members of the community, in a reimagining of this classic musical.

With tickets starting at just $15, “It’s a holiday outing for the whole family without breaking the bank!” says founder and artistic director Janeece Freeman Clark.

The Music Man in Concert has two performances only, December 16 and 17, at The Theater at SOMS. For tickets and more information, visit http://vtcmusicman.bpt.me, or vanguardtheatercompany.org.

Founded in 2015 by veteran actors and educators Janeece Freeman Clark and Daryl Stewart, Vanguard Theater Company is a unique 501(c)(3) theater company dedicated to diversity, mentorship, community engagement, and education. Vanguard serves people of all ages, races, genders, and nationalities in the Northern New Jersey area and New York City. The company is committed to producing collaborative and re-imagined musical theater works through multi-cultural casting and professional artistic mentorship.