76 Trombones, 5 Musicians, 2 Posters, 1 Painting

Exactly 70 years ago today — on October 19, 1946 — the Saturday Evening Post cover showed 5 high school band musicians.

As many “06880” readers know, Westport artist Stevan Dohanos used 5 Staples High School students as models. Seven decades later the painting hangs in Town Hall, right outside the first selectman’s office.

Westport illustrator Stevan Dohanos' 1946 Saturday Evening Post cover.

Westport illustrator Stevan Dohanos’ 1946 Saturday Evening Post cover.

In 2001, David Roth was in his 2nd year as director of Staples Players. To promote their production of “The Music Man,” Roth asked graphic arts teacher Alan Dodd to recreate the iconic artwork — this time using 5 actors from the upcoming show.

There’s one girl in the painting. Roth chose Samantha Marpe to pose. In “The Music Man,” Samantha played Zaneeta — River City’s mayor’s daughter. In an amazing coincidence, Samantha’s father — Jim Marpe — is now Westport’s first selectman (mayor).

The 2001 poster is also on the wall, next to Marpe’s office. Every day at work, he sees his daughter’s image.

Staples Players' 2001 poster.

Staples Players’ 2001 poster…

Fifteen years later, Players is once again staging “The Music Man.” Once again, Roth is using Dohanos’ painting as inspiration for the publicity poster.

There are some differences between the 2001 and 2016 versions, of course. Dodd has retired; this year’s photo was taken by co-director Kerry Long, and created by graphic arts instructor Carla Eichler.

A decade and a half after the first poster, she’s able to do much more with special effects. For example, in Dohanos’ original painting the football team was reflected in the sousaphone. That was tough to recreate in 2001, so the reflection showed only the 5 musicians.

This time, Eichler reflected Jacob Leaf — who plays Harold Hill, the “music man” — in the sousaphone.

...and the 2016 version.

…and the 2016 version.

Speaking of which: simply finding a brass sousaphone for Long to photograph was a herculean task. These days, they’re all fiberglass.

Roth put out a townwide call. Finally, he found one. It’s owned by Shari Levy. In another great coincidence, her son Jon was part of the quartet in the 2001 production. She lent it to Roth for the photo shoot — and the show.

Across America, people know “The Music Man” for its 76 trombones.

In Westport, it’s all about Stevan Dohanos — and David Roth’s — 5 musicians.

That’s no shipoopi.

(Staples Players present “The Music Man” on Friday and Saturday, November 11, 12, 18 and 19 at 7:30 p.m.; Sunday, November 13 and Saturday, November 19 at 3 p.m. Tickets go on sale this weekend at http://www.StaplesPlayers.com.)

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7 responses to “76 Trombones, 5 Musicians, 2 Posters, 1 Painting

  1. Love the posters. I have very fond memories of Staples…the art department, music department and Staples players. I remember being one of many kids playing 76 trombones on the kazoo…we marched down the auditorium aisles I think. Probably a part of one of the concerts. Great music…and what a fun musical that will be to put on!

  2. Oh my gosh, they are all so well done…beautifully executed… really fun subject matter, and what a great memento for the student-subjects! Thanks so much for sharing! 😉

  3. James Honeycutt

    Dan, great piece! Staples Players and David Roth always come up with a wonderful twist to their shows. And leave to Kerry and Carla to create something wonderful. I am so looking forward to the upcoming show. Once I filmed these shows, now I can relax and just be part of audience. See you soon!

  4. The original Dohanos painting hung for many years in the Band/Orchestra room in the IV building at Staples, inspiring many generations of players. The “bad example” of the sideward gazes of the musicians in the painting — not looking at the conductor — did not go un-noticed! When I visited a couple of years ago, no-one in the music department knew where it had gone after all these years. Good to hear its whereabouts are known, and that it continues to be enjoyed.

    Indeed, my very first appearance on the Staples auditorium stage was as one of the River City children/band members in a production of “The Music Man” — they recruited the “band” from the Burr Farms Elementary School Band, which had recently been organized by Mrs. Whitely, ca. 1963. There were specific “mistakes” written into our parts for the “Minuet in G”, but we were frequently admonished to add in more wrong notes — we sounded “too good”!

    Best wishes to the Players for their new production!

    –Scott Brodie (Burr Farms ’64, Staples ’70)

  5. And the 1946 Saturday Evening Post cover print is available at the Westport Historical Society’s remarkable gift shop.

  6. Dan: I know the trumpet player at the upper left of the Dohanos illustration is Attorney Ed Capasse. I wonder if any of your “alert readers” can identify the other 4 students?

  7. Margaret Hart Rynshall

    Haha you said “shipoopi”, Dan! My partner and I, Tracy McIntosh, were two of the Shipoopi dancers in the choir’s Spring Concert production number of “The Music Man” from 1971, choreographed of course by Gene Bayliss. And yes, Susan Huppi, we did go up and down the aisles using kazoos as trombones. We later used those kazoos during a rehearsal to hum instead of sing one of the songs from our regular program, “Ezekial Saw the Wheel”, per Dr. Weigle’s suggestion. It is one of my very favorite memories of choir. So happy Staples Players is doing the full-blown version this year.