In the late 1800s, Frank Glazier once placed a newspaper ad proclaiming there’s only one man in town and he was that man. The upcoming classic Broadway musical, “The Only Man In Town,” presented by the Chelsea Area Players, delves into the captivating journey of this enigmatic figure.
With a talented cast of 30 and a full orchestra of pit musicians, the production takes the audience on a journey through Glazier’s rise and fall.
You may know the Glazier name; he was elected state treasurer in 1904 and founded the Ann Arbor News.
In 1906, he built the first “skyscraper” in Ann Arbor at Main and Huron. But did you know his efforts are recognized in great part for making the small, then rather unknown town of Chelsea what it is today?
Local attorney and ardent music lover Jason Eyster dedicated the past seven years of his life to writing this remarkable musical. He usually spent about 10-20 hours each week working on it, which means it likely took about 5,000 hours to complete. And there are about 500 pages of music alone.
“This has been a lonely quest,” said Eyster, with a lot of writing done into the wee hours of the night. His commitment to this labor of love shines through every note and lyric.
Eyster’s decision to embark on this ambitious project stems from a convergence of lifelong passions and personal connections.
An initial spark was Eyster’s own ancestral influence over a similar Midwest town.
“My grandfather who was an inventor grew up in a small town called McClure, Ohio and he was very much influenced by what happened in the beginning of the 20th century,” Eyster said. “He brought electricity to the town of McClure for example…His brother [and he] started the first music theater in McClure.”
Eyster recognizes the potential of musical theater as the ultimate form of artistic expression. He had various musical experiences growing up, worked at the Actor’s Equity Association on Broadway, had the ability to easily attend performances and studied at the Juilliard School of Music.
Eyster has called Chelsea home since 1981, living just outside the city limits. After his stint on Broadway he accepted an offer to run Ars Musica, the Baroque Orchestra, in Ann Arbor. His wife said she wanted to live in a fieldstone farmhouse, so they ended up one mile east of Chelsea. This is how he learned about Frank Glazier.
History comes to life
Watching the musical come alive during rehearsals at the beginning of May was a dream come true for Eyster.
“Suddenly…there were 26 actors in one building rehearsing and in another building there were 15 musicians playing,” Eyster said. “It’s really taken on a life of its own.”
The coincidence of rehearsing a scene in the train depot on May 2 which corresponded to the scene’s historical setting 130 years prior on the same date, added an additional layer of magic to the production.
“One of my great fears after all of this was that I wouldn’t be able to find actors who would fit the roles. And I couldn’t be more excited [with who was selected],” Eyster said.
Eyster praises the talented cast, including Steve Pierce as Frank Glazier, who embodies both the physical resemblance and the Broadway voice needed for the role.
He first saw the female lead Amanda Patton Austin 25 years ago at her first Chelsea Area Players audition. He was impressed with her then and is even more so now.
Eyster is also thrilled to have a real judge, retired Ann Arbor Judge Carl Fink, play Judge Weist who sentenced Frank. He even made a number of scripting corrections suggested by Fink.
Eyster hopes the audience will gain an understanding of Chelsea’s origin story and recognize the town’s present state is a direct result of Glazier’s influence.
The musical explores the perpetual conflict between innovation and tradition, emphasizing the value of balancing the preservation of cherished aspects from the past with embracing change for the better.
Eyster has also poured considerable effort into crafting songs that he said “are very memorable and singable” that he hopes you will “walk out whistling.”
To witness the captivating story of Frank Glazier firsthand, secure your tickets for the performances. The shows will take place on Friday, June 9, and Saturday, June 10, at 7:30 p.m, as well as on Sunday, June 11, at 3 p.m.
Perhaps the next time you stroll along Main Street in Chelsea, taking in the sights and sounds of this vibrant town, the clock tower will remind you of Frank Glazier.
With the melodies of Eyster’s songs echoing in your mind, allow yourself to be transported back in time to an era of audacious ambition and enduring legacy.