When Sally Lewis Hybl landed the role of Anna in the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center's The King and I in 2002, she'd already performed in the classic once before. In her acting debut at age 9, Hybl played one of the children in the center's 1980 production.
"If you catch the bug," Hybl says, "you can grow up on this stage."
And she has. Now a mother of four and nonprofit board member, Hybl plays Marian Paroo, a prim and proper librarian, in this month's feature, The Music Man. She hopes the classic, kid-friendly story will reel in a fresh generation of actors, directors, set designers and audiences.
"All it takes is that moment," says Hybl. "Theater is a habit. If you expose people to it, maybe next time they'll go see a play instead of going to the movies."
The Music Man, which won five Tony Awards in 1958, seems a perfect habit-starter.
"My children know the lyrics as well as I do," Hybl says before breaking out into "Seventy-Six Trombones" for a flashing second. "It's a good musical when your kids are singing the tunes and the melody."
In the show, Hybl's Paroo turns out to be more human than she appears. She falls for charlatan traveling salesman Harold Hill (played by Broadway veteran Michael E. Gold), who arrives to con River City, Iowa, residents into purchasing marching band equipment.
Hybl says director Corey Moosman is "harkening back to the roots of what musical theater really looks like" with his adaptation.
"Sometimes you take a piece and you put a modern twist on it," she says, "and it loses itself in trying to reinvent it."
Moosman read the script and listened to one cast album, but chose not to watch the 1962 film version, for which Shirley Jones was nominated for a Golden Globe as Paroo.
"I wanted to come about the storytelling in a more pure fashion," he says. "Even outside of theater, people have a lot of history with this show. I wanted to see what got me before I actually saw what everyone else has grown up with."
While Moosman's take is traditional, it's not the same-old. A cast member helped Moosman track down a long out-of-print copy of author and playwright Meredith Willson's 1959 book But He Doesn't Know the Territory, which details his writing of the play. As a director, he says, it's important to find what speaks to you, the thing that "gives you reason to want to tell the story."
Some people underestimate the power of feel-good productions, Hybl says.
"They may not be deep, heavy themes, but they still resonate."