“There’s an old saying: The family that sings together, stays together,” says Tom Reimann. “I think that’s very true,” he adds with a chuckle. Reimann, a Woodbury High School alum and graduate of Luther College in Decorah, Iowa, is talking about his own talented family: three generations of singers and actors whose passion for the arts connects them. “[Music] is a nice common ground for all of us,” Reimann says. “We actually have a sung Lutheran table grace that we do in eight-part harmony.”
Tom’s sister Julia Reimann, a junior at Luther College, also mentions the eight-part grace. “It’s something that’s always connected us,” she says. “Whenever we’re together, we sing…We share our love of music.”
Tom and Julia Reimann are part of a long line of musicians and performers. Their grandfather, Tom Vaaler—part of the group that co-founded the Woodbury Community Theatre—started singing in his church choir at the age of four, and passed his love of music and theater on to his children and grandchildren. We talked with the Vaaler-Reimann family about their passion for performance—and why it’s great to keep a piano in the kitchen.
Executive Producer - Juanita Vaaler
As the Vaaler family’s matriarch, all-star mom and grandma Juanita is the glue that holds things together. She’s active in the Woodbury Lutheran Church choir and bell choir, and has played an important role behind the scenes at Woodbury Community Theatre with tickets, makeup and more, for many years. Says her husband, Tom Vaaler, “She’s the one who encouraged our kids to be onstage, and she’s our biggest supporter and fan.
Tom Vaaler as Jean Valjean
Executive Producer - Tom Vaaler
In all his 75 years, Tom Vaaler has barely experienced a moment of stage fright. The accomplished baritone started singing in his family’s church choir at age 4 and attended Iowa’s Luther College, where he performed with the prestigious Nordic Choir. Vaaler and his wife, Juanita, raised their four children in Woodbury and co-founded Woodbury Community Theatre in 1976. “That was the beginning,” Vaaler remembers. “I’ve been a part of it ever since, and I’ve done at least 30 different shows with them…It’s been a great joy.”
Mary Reimann as Mary Poppins
Director - Mary Reimann
Mary Vaaler Reimann grew up performing as a singer, actor and ballet dancer in Woodbury, always supported by her musical parents, Tom and Juanita Vaaler. “I did theater a lot at Woodbury High School and got to play some fun roles there,” she says. “There were at least 12 years there with at least one of us [the Vaaler siblings] onstage in the musical.” Reimann followed in her dad’s footsteps, singing in the Nordic Choir at Luther College, where she studied English. After six years teaching English on the East Coast, Reimann returned to her roots in Woodbury, where she’s now the music director at St. Ambrose of Woodbury Catholic Community.
“It’s hard to imagine my own family without the arts,” Reimann says. “It’s something that really bonds us together…When my parents celebrated their 50th anniversary, we decided a fitting way to honor them would be to give a concert…What an incredible thing that we could all share with three generations.” Reimann chuckles as she remembers her musical childhood—complete with a big piano in the Vaaler family’s kitchen. “I think that’s [the only place] it fit!” she laughs. “The piano was next to the table, and we were occasionally told that we needed to turn around and stop playing during dinner.” Reimann now sings and performs with her own kids and with her dad; her husband, Tim Reimann, and youngest son, Jack, provide much-needed behind-the-scenes support at Woodbury Community Theatre.
The oldest of the Reimann children, Tom carried on his grandfather and mother’s legacy in performance at Woodbury Community Theatre. “I started doing behind-the-scenes stuff with WCT back in middle school,” Reimann says. “Then I started doing choir, and I got hooked. I quickly started auditioning for musicals rather than doing behind-the-scenes stuff.” With his newfound confidence onstage, Reimann continued singing through high school and performed with the Nordic Choir at Luther College, where he graduated with a chemistry degree. Reimann now does infectious disease research at the University of Minnesota and gets together to sing with his family whenever possible. “Music gave us a nice common ground,” he said.
Next on the Reimann family’s playbill is Julia, a music and religion major at Luther College. “I’m keeping the music in my life,” she says. “I started [as a kid] in church choir with my mom, and then I got involved in Woodbury Community Theatre.” Reimann sang in church, school and community choirs throughout her adolescence, even earning a spot in Minnesota’s all-state honors choir. “I was always involved in theater and choir,” she says simply. “I just loved it.”
As she studies music seriously at Luther, Reimann is grateful for her family’s support. “I appreciate my musical childhood even more now, because I had this foundation….My family is incredibly supportive of the arts, and they understand my love for it. And,” she adds, “they taught me everything I know. They’re a great inspiration for me.
Anna Reimann as Cinderella
A senior at East Ridge High School, 17-year-old Anna Reimann can’t remember a time in her life without music and theater. “I’ve been involved with Woodbury Community Theatre since I was 5,” she says. Growing up, Reimann’s first love was ballet, which she studied for more than 10 years. She also takes voice lessons, sings in church choir (and is a member of the Partners in Praise girls choir) and is involved with theater at East Ridge.
“As a kid, I was in two or three plays with my mom, my siblings and my grandpa,” Reimann says. “Not a lot of people are able to say that,” she adds with a smile. Reimann is interested in studying medicine, perhaps pediatric oncology, but plans to keep music and dance as a big part of her life. “I’ll be doing it forever,” she says.