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PROFILE: Lucas Sherman brings music to life on stage

Lucas Sherman at the piano during a performance of 'Little Women: the Musical.' PHOTO BY ERIC CHAZANKIN

DAVID TEMPLETON,

“I love the creativity of being a musical director,” explains Lucas Sherman of Petaluma. “When you agree to do a musical, you are given all of these pieces of music, which oftentimes have some flaws in them, and you get to use that, basically as a blueprint to create your own unique approach to a show.”

A registered nurse by day, Lucas — an accomplished pianist — is among Sonoma County’s most sought-after musical directors of stage musicals. He’s worked with numerous companies including 6th Street Playhouse, the Raven Players, and Spreckels Theater Company, for which he is currently performing in “Little Women: The Musical,” playing piano and conducting the ensemble, which also includes a violin and cello.

“The music in this show is so gorgeous,” he says. “It just soars, which is very satisfying, because the music was originally written for a full orchestra, but we’ve condensed the score down into a piano, cello and violin trio. For a show like this, an intimate story of a family going through various challenges, it works really well to have the music performed by such a small ensemble. I love doing this show, the give-and-take between the trio and the actors, right there on the stage in front of us.”

One challenge, he admits, is keeping from becoming choked up during some of “Little Women’s” more heartbreaking moments.

“Any show that triggers something personal from your own life can have its tricky moments,” he admits. “It’s hard not to be moved sometimes.”

Lucas, a longtime Santa Rosa resident, moved to Petaluma a little over a year ago, after short stints in Fresno and Berkeley. October was a big a big month for Lucas. With his wife,Viola, he just bought a house in town, and they just welcomed their first baby, Ben.

Asked how he became a musician, Lucas says, “My dad had an upright piano, and from an early age I remember banging on it every chance I got. Eventually, my parents said, ‘Okay! You can have piano lessons!’”

His first gig as musical director of a stage show was “A Year with Frog and Toad” at 6th Street Playhouse in 2005. He was 18.

“That was a fun show,” he recalls. “I loved doing that one. It was so inventive and sweet.”

The show, based on the beloved books by Arnold Lobel, ended up being 6th Street’s most successful musical to date, extending several weeks, and effectively launching Lucas’ career as a local musical director. He’s lost track of how many shows he’s done since, but he has worked steadily since then, tackling between three and five shows a year.

A few years back, he took a hiatus to battle cancer, from which he’s fully recovered.

“Cancer was an experience of facing my own mortality, and learning about what really matters,” he says, noting that in “Little Women,” with the passing of a major character, he’s been able to reflect on his own experience with illness. “It’s always good to sit back and appreciate the beauty of life.”

For Lucas, music is a sure-fire way to do that, whether it’s playing a piece alone in his new house, or for his wife and newborn son, or organizing a group of musicians and actors to bring a musical to stirring and entertaining life. Of the former, he says being a spouse and a dad is “a blast,” and of the latter, it’s a passion and pastime he hopes to continue to do for many years to come.

“Being a musical director is so rewarding because it’s so incredibly challenging,” he says. “Finding good musicians for your orchestra is the biggest component of the job, and I do take pride in being able to find the best musicians to work with. To create a big, complete, full, emotionally engaging sound, to interact with a stage full of actors — all of that inspired by those little marks on a piece of paper — it’s just really cool.”

(Contact David at david.templeton@arguscourier.com)