(PAOLI) - When "The Music Man" opens in the Paoli High School Auditorium this weekend, there will be an authentic Broadway "music man" in the sound booth.
Martha Nice of the Orange County Players reports that Sam Bortka, who spent 15 years in the orchestra pit of many Broadway musicals, has returned to Indiana with his wife, Elizabeth, and six children (ages 3 through 16) to be closer to family.
The music bug first bit Bortka when he was in fifth grade at Throop Elementary School in Paoli. The family was originally from Kansas City and moved to Paoli when his dad, Jerry, was hired to be the PHS football coach. His mother, Paula, is also remembered for opening The Root Cellar, a restaurant specializing in natural, organic foods. Bortka attended school in Paoli from first through sixth grade and began his music career playing saxophone in the fifth-grade band.
The family then moved to Salem, where his father coached and Bortka and his brother, John, finished high school. Then it was on to Indiana University, where the legendary Robert Stoll and Michael Schwartzkopf taught him. After receiving a bachelor's degree in 1995 and a master's of music in 1997 from IU, Bortka got a call to go on the road with the "Temptations," "Four Tops" and the "O'Jays."
The travel wore a toll on the growing Bortka family, so Bortka and his wife decided to move to New York. Being in the Big Apple brought lots of career opportunities. Bortka played with more than 15 orchestras, including the New York Philharmonic; the New York; Philadelphia and Boston Pops, as well as 14 Broadway musicals, including "Chicago the Musical," "Spamalot," "South Pacific," "West Side Story" and "The Music Man."
"As a matter of fact, 'Music Man' was one of my favorites," Bortka said.
In addition to his earlier touring, Bortka provided accompaniment for an array of stars, from Frankie Valli, Natalie Cole and James Taylor to Justin Bieber and Taylor Swift. His most recent gig was with Eric Clapton in April in Detroit.
Television is another genre Bortka was exposed to in New York. He worked for "Saturday Night Live," "Today Show," "The Late Show" with David Letterman, "The View" and "The Rosie O'Donnell Show."
In 2010, Bortka received an Academy Award for music in the Best Short Film category with "The New Tenant," as well as the Singing Hoosiers Distinguished Alumni Award. He also was selected to produce music for the Chelsea Clinton wedding.
While Bortka admits to missing the subway for travel, he is thrilled to be back in southern Indiana and working with Orange County Players.
"I am really looking forward to this weekend," he added. "This auditorium is amazing; there is no Broadway stage as big as this one and the equipment is incredible. Your property tax dollars have been well spent on this facility," he continued.
It has been a reunion on many levels for Bortka. Daniel Main, also of Salem, is directing the show. Bortka said, "I went to school with Daniel. As a matter of fact, he got to shoot me with a cap gun in 'West Side Story.'"
"The Music Man" will be Friday and Saturday at 7 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m. Tickets are available at the door or by calling (812) 498-0647.
If you go
WHAT: Broadway's "The Music Man," performed by the Orange County Players
WHEN: Friday and Saturday at 7 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m.
WHERE: Paoli High School Auditorium
TICKETS: $7 in advance for adults or $10 at the door; $5 for seniors 65 and older and students (through grade 12 or with college I.D. Available at the door or by calling (812) 498-0647.
Harold Hill: Daniel Main
Marian Paroo: Tania Varin
Mrs. Paroo: Joyce Pearson
Tommy Djilas: Jason Pearson
Marcellus Washburn: Drew Stewart
Amaryllis: Maggie McGowen
Mayor Shinn: Richard Vandagrifft
Charlie Cowell: Scott McGowen
Winthrop Paroo: Colin Spear
Jacey: Jake Parsley
Ewert: Gary Spear
Oliver: Jim Applegate
Olin: Jim Bheeler
Zaneeta Shinn: Jocelyn Shlegel
Gracie Shinn: Angel Pierce
Mrs. Squires: Carrie Ingram, Eulalie Mackecknie and Shinn Karie Becht
Alma Hix: Kim Anderson
Maude Dunlop: Jodi McGowen
Ethel Toffelmier: Jessica Stewart
Salesman 1: Jake Parsley
Salesman 2: Gary Spear
Salesman 3: Steve Corp
Newspaper Reader 1: Tyler Cook
Newspaper Reader 2: Joshua Pearson
Constable: Lowell Bailey
JC Squires: Jake Parsley
Townspeople: Ally Passmore, Annie Johnson, Emily Leone and Jenna Pearson
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