Saskatoon Summer Players celebrates its 60th with musical classic

Greg Malin (front) stars as "Professor" Harold Hill in Saskatoon Summer Players' production of "The Music Man" from June 14 to 23, 2024. (Supplied / Photo courtesy of Saskatoon Summer Players)

It’s telling that, even after some time away, actor Ashley Smith returned to familiar faces and a familiar sense of wonderment with the Saskatoon Summer Players (SSP).

Smith’s first show with SSP was as part of the children’s chorus in Oliver (2001), where she was welcomed into the space and encouraged to shine. 

It’s something she’s been happy to do for the next generation of SSP talent as the company presents The Music Man — its 45-person cast including a full children’s chorus. 

“It’s just like you’re seeing theatre through new eyes … because the kids are so excited about everything. Everything is new,” Smith said. “Some of the best moments throughout the whole process have been involving the kids, like the first time they got to see the instruments they were going to play at the end of the show.

But in the days leading up to The Music Man‘s premiere on June 14, Smith said there were instances where she felt as thought she was back in their shoes. 

“Hearing the orchestra play the last couple of nights in the theatre, and stuff like that, you just get the butterflies and you go, ‘Oh, it’s really real,’” Smith said. 

The company’s 60th season wraps with The Music Man, on at the Remai Arts Centre until June 23. 

The show tells the story of Harold Hill, a conman who arrives in River City, Iowa with a scheme to sell the unwitting townsfolk on funding the creation of a children’s marching band. 

Once the instruments and uniforms are purchased, Hill plans to hightail it without doing any more work. But it’s ultimately love for Marian the librarian, and the power of community, that give this travelling vagabond a change of heart and a place to put down roots. 

Whether audiences know the show as a familiar musical theatre mainstay or are totally new to it, they’ll be leaving the theatre with toe-tapping tunes bouncing around in their heads, director Ron Knoll says. 

This is familiar ground for SSP, having performed The Music Man in 1972 (a few years after the company’s start in 1964) and 1996. 

Greg Malin, a U of S College of Medicine professor, says it’s been a fun challenge “and a bit of a departure from (his) regular life” getting into the role of “Professor” Harold Hill. 

He first started with SSP in the early 2000s. Like Smith, he’s happy to be working with so many people from previous SSP shows again. For many, it’s a chance to connect with community theatre chums and celebrate the place that brought them together. 

“And then there’s also people who have never done a show before, and you’re welcoming them into the family,” he said. “It’s an opportunity to meet a variety of new people and share the magic of theatre with them.” 

SSP’s longevity speaks to the company’s ability to provide something people want, Smith says— popular shows that provide a little levity and a consistent community theatre space for artists of all backgrounds to flex their theatrical chops. 

The community theatre landscape has changed since Smith was younger, with less companies meaning less volunteer opportunities. That’s why it’s heartening to see a resurgence in Saskatoon, Smith said, as more community theatre companies crop up.

“But this is one of the consistent places, for 60 years, where you’ve been able to go and have the opportunity, as someone who is not doing this professionally, to really experience a full scale musical,” she said. 

The power of community is something to celebrate as the company reaches 60 years, Malin says. It’s something he sees on a smaller scale watching the cast and crew of The Music Man working and growing together.  

“We’ve got seven year olds all the way up several decades,” he said. “I think that’s going to be a big appeal for the audience, to be able to see these talented little ones showing off their stuff. 

It’s certainly something for all ages.” 

The Music Man runs until June 23rd at the Remai Arts Centre. Tickets can be purchased online at

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