Relive the barbershop of yesteryear at Swift Mill Creeks ‘Two Bits: The Barbershop Musical’
Swift Creek Mill Theatre is a piece of history – at about 350-years-old, pulling in the feelings of another era is not a foreign idea to the space.
Opening tonight, Two Bits: The Barbershop Musical aims to capture the forgone era of the American barbershop and they couldn’t have picked a better space.
The musical is set in a barbershop and post office in Minnesota in 1959 and, before long, its small cast of characters build into a joyous plot: a young man has come home for his wedding and finds out his father, who he presumed was lost in WWII, is still alive.
Tom Width wrote the play’s book and is directing the production.
“Our musical director Paul Deiss and I were just talking in the orchestra pit one day about something to write,” Width said. “We just thought of the small town barbershop as a place of camaraderie and family and all that sort of thing.”
At that time the two play writes created a framework for what would become Two Bits, the original idea sprang from using a player piano, Nicky the nickelodeon, as a focal point.
“That’s the whole band for the show, the nickelodeon stays in the barbershop,” Width said.
Instead of being a classic player piano, run by paper, Nicky in the production is run by computers.
Width, who is from a Norwegian family, stuck to his roots and set the play in a Minnesota in the 50’s with a similarly Norwegian family. After he picked all the songs he wanted in the play, Deiss transformed them into the distinctive four or five part harmonies in the barbershop style.
The show debuted in 2003 at Swift Creek Mill, but changes have since been made to update the production. Off-broadway producers have looked at the play and tweaks, time and songs have been added.
“I had always wanted it to be a little longer,” Width said. “I had always wanted Nicky the nickelodeon to be more of a character than an instrument.”
Width said that Nicky now sort of talks back to characters. If someone asks Nicky something he responds with a familiar musical phrase to answer the question.
This production gets to test new material, and Width is excited to share this production.
“There’s just something about the all male four part harmony that’s thrilling,” said Width. “I just love this kind of harmonizing.”
Width said, much like the classic barbershop he hopes to emulate in the production, Two Bits aims to provide something for everyone.
“There’s nobody I think wouldn’t enjoy it,” said Width. “Some of the old timers might like it on another level. The nature of the humor is pretty timeless I think and the story is very sweet.”
Width said that the play’s brand of good clean fun fits in perfectly at Swift Creek Mill.
“Its really just hometown Americana and I think that plays well for us,” Width said.
The Swift Creek Mill Theatre is located in Chesterfield, Tickets for the production can be purchased here. The option is available for the theatre’s signature buffet with the show.
Ben Weiner is a contributor for GayRVA and RVAMag. 'Nuff said.
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