Summer’s Not Over for Guthrie’s Berdahl, Guittar and Benson

Posted on August 18th, 2015 by

The Music Man's Rush Benson '13, Rob Berdahl '90 and Renée Guittar '12

The Music Man’s Rush Benson ’13, Rob Berdahl ’90 and Renée Guittar ’12

Summer hasn’t yet run out on The Music Man. Not this summer. The Guthrie Theatre has extended its run of Meredith Wilson’s time-honor classic The Music Man through August 30. Performances are scheduled daily (except for Mondays) at 7:00 p.m. on the Wurtele Thrust Stage at the Guthrie with an added 1:00 p.m. matinée on Saturdays. For The Music Man cast members and Gustavus Theatre & Dance majors Rob Berdahl ’90, Renée Guittar ’12 and Rush Benson ’13, it’s a great way to end their summer.

When it was premiered on Broadway in 1957 by Meredith Willson, The Music Man introduced the world to the all-to-familiar character of “Professor” Harold Hill, a straight-off-the-boat fast-talking salesman with more energy than ethics and a scheme to scam the small Iowa town and get out of Dodge before anyone would suspect what had happened. Life changed when he (and his scheme) met Marian the librarian and love conquered the fast-talking Hill. Along with a look at how life should be, the Grammy and Tony-winning The Music Man brought us classics with “Till There Was You,” “Goodnight, My Someone,” “Gary, Indiana,” and “Seventy-Six Trombones.” It was an instant success.

Rob Berdahl ’90, a music and theatre double major at Gustavus and a Twin Cities’ native, is a familiar face on the Guthrie stage and has been working with retiring director Joe Dowling for years. Acting and singing come naturally to Berdahl who was a member of the Gustavus Choir and active on the Anderson Theatre stage. An unsuccessful audition for Sweeny Todd in 1999 did get the young actor a role in the Guthrie’s The School for Scandal and Berdahl hasn’t looked back. His Guthrie credits include A Christmas Carol, Much Ado About Nothing and The Pirates of Penzance. Berdahl credits his time on the Anderson Theatre stage, “the little Guthrie, with its voms and an audience on 3 sides” for his success on Minnesota’s biggest stage. “Along with the excellence and dedication required in all of the arts at Gustavus, (the Anderson Theatre stage) helped to prepare me for my 15 years on the Guthrie stage.”

Whether it’s at Gustavus, Robbinsdale-Cooper High School or the Guthrie, Rob’s glad to be back on stage with The Music Man. In high school he missed out on the lead role of Harold Hill to friend and fellow actor Steve Zahn (Gustavus Class of 1990). Rob was cast as Harold Hill’s buddy, Marcellus, in that production. Zahn and Berdahl later worked together at Gustavus where they both studied theatre before Zahn moved to California and started his TV and movie career. For the Guthrie Music Man production, Berdahl was cast as Ewart Dunlop, the town’s grocer and barbershop quartet singer.

Renée Guittar ’12 and Rush Benson ’13 have roles in The Music Man ensemble. As Renée wrote, “For me, what is special about this production is the choreography. Choreographer Joe Chvala, created intricate dance phrases and complex movement patterns while always moving the story forward. The movement is so joyous and performing it eight times a week with an incredible cast is such a gift.” As with most actors in the Twin Cities, working at the Guthrie is a dream come true for Guittar. “Working on The Music Man has solidified my love for musical theater.”

For Rush Benson ’13 who has been busy with directing and choreographing musical theatre in area high schools and acting and dancing across the Metro, the dream of playing at the Guthrie came with sacrifice. Just before accepting the call to join The Music Man cast, Benson premiered The School of Rhythm and was set to perform it at the Fringe Festival. He was also in rehearsal for the Rhythmically Speaking Dance Concert scheduled for August 20-22 at St. Paul’s Bedlam Lowertown. He feels the sacrifice was worth it. “It projected me towards a successful career in commercial musical theater.” And the lessons learned at Gustavus have been invaluable as they pushed him to “continue with a fervent passion to pursue my dreams, a lesson all of the theater and arts faculty helped foster in me. It ….. opens new doors for me everyday.”

With the added performances, Berdahl, Guittar and Benson will continue to live this dream with The Music Man at the Guthrie Theatre through August 30. For them and the entire cast of The Music Man, the summer isn’t over. Not quite yet.


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