For Dorie Hamby and Jonan Sanders, playing mother and son in ‘The Music Man’ continues a family tradition
Update: This story was originally scheduled to coincide with the opening weekend of “The Music Man” May 19-22, but the show had to be put on hold after the Thursday and Friday performances because so many cast members tested positive for Covid-19. Good Company Players had hoped to reopen the show on Thursday, May 26, but that date has now been pushed back to Thursday, June 2. When I asked GCP managing director Dan Pessano why, he said: “Actually, it was mutually decided by the music hall and ourselves to try to get as safe as we could for audience , staff and cast the delay , as hard as it is, was the wisest move. We are faced with a situation without control and the only way we do what we do is to be able to have control …. This is hoping for more control on June 2.”
I decided to go ahead the post the interview anyway to give the cast a bit of cheer and perhaps create some momentum for the show’s return.
Seven is an important number for the Sanders family. It’s how old Dorie Hamby, the mom, was when she made her Good Company Players debut years ago. Then came Kailyn, Dorie’s oldest daughter, who started performing on the Roger Rocka’s Dinner Theater stage at the same age. Following her was Morgan, the second oldest, who also made her GCP debut at 7. Both girls have been delighting GCP audiences with their prowess and professionalism for several years.
Now comes the theater debut of the most recent Sanders bitten by the theater bug: Jonan, who is 7 (but soon to turn 8!), the youngest cast member in the new production of “The Music Man” at Roger Rocka’s Dinner Theater.
The best part is that all four of them are in the play together. (tony sanders, the dad, who does not capitalize his name, is busy with his own production for Shine! Theatre right now.) Talk about family memories.
I conducted a mother-son interview to learn more about this dynamic duo, including: When your bedtime is normally 8 p.m., what’s it like to appear in a musical that goes to a late hour?
Donald: What roles do you play?
Jonan: I’m in the en … sem … ble in the play.
Donald: And what role does your mom play?
Jonan: Mommy plays Ethel Toffelmier.
Donald: And remind me, Dorie, is that one of the Pickalittle ladies?
Dorie: It is.
Donald: What are a couple of the musical numbers you’re in together?
Jonan: “Trouble,” “Iowa Stubborn,” and …
Dorie: “76 Trombones” …
Jonan: “Wells Fargo,” “Columbia, Gem of the Ocean …”
Dorie: He knows it better than I do.
Donald: Jonan, how old are you?
Jonan: I’m 7.
Donald: And your mom?
Jonan: She’s …
Dorie: (laughs): He doesn’t need to know my age.
Donald: I’ll just ask: Is your mom over 25?
Jonan: (Emphatic) Yes.
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Donald: So tell me about the character you play. You’re in the ensemble. What does that mean?
Jonan: That means I’m one of the town kids.
Donald: And what is the name of the town that you live in?
Donald: I think it’s called River City, right?
Jonan: Donald: Yeah. River City!
Donald: Jonan, tell me a little bit about the town. It’s a different time from our own. Do they have television or video games or anything like that?
Dorie: What’s new in town?
Jonan: It got a new pool table.
Donald: Oh, OK. So you got a new pool table. Have you ever played pool yourself?
Jonan: Yeah. I want to play it again.
Donald: Are you good?
Jonan: Kind of.
Donald: Hmm. I sense you’re holding back. Perhaps this could be trouble. A future pool hustler here. Dorie, you’re a Pick a Little lady. What does that mean?
Dorie: I am around the town a lot, gossiping a lot with the other ladies. I also get to play his mom, so that’s convenient.
Donald: Jonan, what do you think of your mom being a Pick a Little lady?
Jonan: She talks a lot.
Donald: Jonan, I know that you come from a family in which everyone is in theater. Tell me about your two sisters and what they are doing in the show.
Jonan: Kailyn is in the ensemble. Morgan can be ensemble, but most of the time she’s Amaryllis.
Donald: She’s got a character role. Were you excited when you auditioned for “The Music Man” and found out you were going to be in the show?
Jonan: (No response).
Donald: You weren’t excited?
Jonan: Now I’m excited.
Dorie: The auditions were in December. But we didn’t start rehearsals for this one until the beginning of April. So back in December, he didn’t want anything to do with being in a show. But he had a couple of shows at school that he was going to be in. He wants to tell you the names of his school plays.
Jonan: “Shrek Jr.” And “A Rumpus in a Rainforest.”
Dorie: Once he did those two shows at school, pretty much back to back — “Shrek Jr.” was in January, and “Rumpus in a Rainforest” was February — he said, OK, this isn’t so bad. And I’ll do it.
Donald: Who did you play in “Shrek”?
Jonan: A rat.
Donald: And in “Rumpus”?
Jonan: In “Rumpus in a Rainforest,” I was a storyteller-slash-caterpillar.
Donald: I’d say a caterpillar is a pretty great thing to be in a rainforest. What was it like going to rehearsal for “The Music Man?”
Jonan: It was kind of scary at first, but then I got used to it, until I started liking it.
Donald: Why was it scary? Is it just because you didn’t know everybody?
Jonan: Yeah. And this was my first time doing it.
Donald: What’s your favorite song?
Donald: So that goes back to that pool table we’re talking about, right?
Donald: Do you all practice together at home?
Dorie: We sing in the car on the way to and from places, practicing our harmonies and everything that we have to do together.
Donald: So I’m kind of guessing that that’s probably a regular occurrence in your car.
Donald: “The Music Man” is a long play. Jonan, is it hard staying up that late? Do you ever get sleepy?
Jonan: (Laughs. Laughs again.)
Dorie: Is it hard? You’re being silly now. He fell asleep last night in my lap while Biz (director Elizabeth Fiester) was giving notes. He has been falling asleep every night in the car on the way home. But last night at tech rehearsal, it was extra late. So he fell asleep during the notes. Our bedtime is normally 8 p.m., you know, so by the time this show starts, it’s the time normally he’d be going to bed. But he’s been a trooper.
Donald: Well, I’m very excited to see it. It’s a wonderful show, and it’s on Broadway right now! And it’ll be really fun to watch you, Jonan. So maybe I’ll just spend the entire time watching you. How about that?
Jonan: Yeah, that’s a good idea.
Donald: That would actually scare some people.
Dorie: That’s true.
Donald: Dorie, what is it like to have all three of your kids with you in one show?
Dorie: I love it … most of the time. The hardest part of it is not being able to watch them and enjoy their performances when I’m onstage with them. But I enjoy the memories we’re making together, working on this production, and I enjoy the growth that I see happening with all three of them during the rehearsal process and on stage. So I’m a very proud mama.