note: entire contents copyright 2004 by Beverly Creasey
There’s an easier way to get to River City than hopping the Rock Island/Pacific Railroad. Waltham is just a hop, skip and a jump away and it’s a river city, too. Yes, my friends, “Right here in River City” they’ve got Meredith Wilson’s beloved THE MUSIC MAN with all seventy-six trombones on full blast…That starts with “B” and rhymes with “P” and that stands for “Pool.” Director Bob Eagle knows the “territory” as well as any of the salesmen on board the Chicago to Omaha line. His production glows from the get-go, from the sensational a capella “Rock Island” clickety-clack anthem to Harold Hill’s magnificent “Trouble” to the miraculously daffy “Shipoopi.” Everyone loves Wilson’s brassy musical but I confess there are a few numbers which never sold me---that is, before this production. I’m buying each and every one now and that’s due to a crackerjack cast who deliver on every moment---including an 8 ½ year old (Sam Blumenfeld) who’s as professional as the Broadway heavyweights Eagle imports. Susan Chebookjian recreates Onna White’s original B’Way choreography (with additional staging by Eileen Grace) and it gives the Reagle show an authenticity, chiefly because of the ballet perfect corps who pull off every bluebird and jete. Jeffrey’s Leonard’s orchestra has never sounded better, especially the “shimmering” horns. (I think Leonard had the requisite hundred and ten cornets. It sounded like he did.) Scott Wahle has the glint in his eye and the spring in his step to sell that famous bridge to a New Yorker---but more to the point, he has the acting chops to let us know when the Professor is sincere. Wahle and Sarah Pfisterer as the straight-laced but charming Librarian fit together like, well, corn and Iowa. Pfisterer’s gorgeous love songs reveal what she’s afraid to feel. With Darcy Pullam egging her on, as her eager mom, the match is set. Eagle gets finely nuanced performances from the town folk and some hilarious shenanigans from the comic characters, namely from Cheryl McMahon as the mayor’s highfalutin wife and from Robert Lydiard as the professor’s barely reformed, fully animated “thimble rigging” ex-partner. Who knew a barbershop/school committee quartet could be so entertainingly quirky, especially the long-legged tenor whose high G’s seemed to come all the way up from the tip of his boots. Every note-perfect cast member makes this MUSIC MAN a cymbal crashing success. It’s a spellbinder all right. We critics as a rule are as By-God stubborn as any Iowan can be but to borrow the Mayor’s phrasiology, “I couldn’t make myself any plainer if I was a Quaker on his day off.” There’s joy in River City. That starts with “J” and rhymes with “Hey” and stands for “Boy Oh Boy”. Don’t wait for the Wells Fargo Wagon to show up. Take a train, Take a plane. Walk if you have to. It’s worth all the “Trouble”---and that starts with “T” and you know the rest.