Running a theater company, especially one that’s growing as much as Servant Stage Company, doesn’t leave much time for anything else.
For Jonathan Bauer, the executive director of Servant Stage, that meant no chance to perform.
“Running the theater took over my life,” Bauer says. “It’s been five or six years since I have been on stage. There is so much work behind the scenes to keep up with our growth.”
But that changed in a big way when Bauer took on the role of Harold Hill in “The Music Man,” which runs through Sept. 22 at Lancaster Mennonite School High Fine Arts Center.
Although Bauer has deep connections to “The Music Man” — it’s the first show he ever saw, and he always hoped to play Harold Hill someday — he assumed another actor would take the part for the Servant Stage production.
“No one readily fell into place,” he says. “When everything but that role was cast, Wally (Calderon), our artistic director, and my wife, Rebecca, both said I should do it.”
He took the plunge.
“People had been asking me if I missed (performing), and when was I going to get back onstage,” Bauer says. “Things were going so well with Servant Stage, I didn’t think I missed it. But getting back into it, I realized how much I do miss it.”
Bauer is enjoying himself.
“Opening night was such a joy,” he says. “We had a fantastic opening weekend. Great crowd, great response, the show went smoothly.”
“Music Man” is a big show, and Bauer notes Servant Stage’s production features a cast of 63.
“There is so much talent here in this region,” he says.
Harold Hill is a con man whose scam is to visit a small town and offer to start a brass band, selling everyone instruments and band uniforms.
But before they arrive, he skips town with all the money.
“Harold is one of those characters you are not supposed to like, but you do anyway,” Bauer says. “One of the things I try to bring out is his joy.”
When he hits River City, he begins his con with a spiel about the dangers of pool and the need for a safer alternative.
But River City is different. Marian Paroo, the town librarian, sees through Harold. But she also sees he has worked wonders with her little brother, Winthrop, who is awkwardly shy and stutters.
Marian and Harold fall for each other.
“There is such a transformation. He is always on the run, so he never opens himself up for love,” Bauer says. “That breaks down.”
Bauer earned a degree in vocal performance at the University of Southern Maine. He came to Lancaster in 2008 to perform with Sight & Sound. In 2011, he and his wife started Servant Stage.
“We started pretty small,” he says.
Once they started growing, it never slowed down.
“We’ve passed 50,000 audience members a year, and we are seeing hundreds of people at auditions.”
Bauer felt he could take on the acting role because he knew the rest of the staff could take care of things.
“I am incredibly grateful to my wife, Rebecca, for picking up a lot of the slack, not only with the family and our home life, but she is the costumer of the show.”
Will he star in another show?
“I have no definite plans, but it’s way too much fun to not do it again.”