Mayor Billings to Honor Female Inspiration For Musical Character

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    By Sarah Wofford

    The woman who is the inspiration for the character Marian the Librarian in “The Music Man” will be honored Friday, Sept. 22, 2006, on Marian Seeley Day.

    Mayor Lewis K. Billings signed a proclamation declaring the day at city council meeting Tuesday, Sept. 19, 2006, and began by saying he was not going to sing for everyone. He then explained that Provo”s own Marian Seeley was the dear friend and motivation behind Meredith Willson”s Madam Marian the Librarian in his hit Broadway musical.

    In 1957 when “The Music Man” first hit Broadway, audiences in New York praised Willson for his work and automatically fell in love with “Marian the librarian.” In the stage show Marian Parro lives in River City, Iowa, and runs into a salesman of questionable morals trying to orchestrate a local children”s marching band. So, how did Marian Seeley become Marian Parro?

    Marian Seeley”s late husband, Frank, became friends with Willson in New York City. Then during World War II, Frank Seeley worked for the armed forces radio services where Willson guest directed the symphony for a few months, Marian Seeley said. They would create records that were sent out to the troops, providing the military with information as well as entertainment.

    At this same time, Marian Seeley worked as a medical librarian in Washington, she said. When she was introduced to Willson he instinctively claimed her to be “Marian the librarian.”

    “I never knew why, but he just called me Marian the librarian and kept it up every time we would see each other,” she said. “He thought that working as a medical librarian was such a funny job and just never let me live it down.”

    A reserved personality and a careful outlook on life is what made her even more of a muse for what became one of the most recognizable characters in the musical theater realm. She got to know Willson well during the months that he was working with her husband, she said

    Although Willson became famous for writing “The Music Man,” Seeley said he actually got his start when he received a scholarship to Julliard for playing the piccolo. Willson himself was something of a “music man.”

    Frank Seeley and Willson remained friends over the years as Frank had his hand in acting, producing and politics. Frank Seeley appeared in several episodes of “Touched by an Angel,” Marian Seeley said..

    Billings said recognizing the power of love combined with music, drama and Marian”s character traits all contributed to a wonderful play that people across the globe have learned to relate to.

    The Center Street Musical Theatre in Provo is currently putting on “The Music Man,” ,which Marian Seeley will be attending tonight. The show will be running now through Oct. 7. Sharilyn Grooms, who will be playing Marian in their rendition of the show, said she was glad to meet Marian.

    “I have a great deal of respect for her as a person,” Grooms said. “Knowing that this character was modeled after a real person is neat.”

    It is important to get to know the older generation living in our community, Billings said. This is a great opportunity to do just that. Marian has such insight on life and loves to share her experiences with anyone who will listen.

    It is refreshing to be recognized for something that is so much apart of her life. As Seeley reflects back on her memories of being named “Marian the librarian,” she said she cannot help but show everyone her loving smile and warm personality.

    “It”s so natural that I am called this,” she said. “It”s happened for so many years now..”

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