Theatre Mirror Reviews - "The Music Man"

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note: entire contents copyright 2005 by Larry Stark


"The Music Man"

Book, Music & Lyrics by Meredith Wilson
Story by Meredith Wilson & Franklin Lacey
Directed by Corey Jackson
Music Direction by Gina Nagger
Choreography by Ellen Peterson

Executive Producer Mary O'Loughlin
Set Design by Austin Sharpe
Costume Design by Donna Plummer
Lighting Design by Mike Repeta
Makeup Consultant Annette Dior
Props Coordinator Laurie Penney
Sound Design by Ryan Cecil
Assistant Stage Manager Paula RubertiMcNab
Stage Manager Val Verge

/Traveling Salesman. Conductor................................Noah Simes
Charlie Cowell/Traveling Salesman......Craig Howard
Harold Hill........................Jeffrey Prescott
Mayor Shinn............................Jeff Christo
Farmer/Traveling Salesman............Eric Hanselman
Farmer's Wife..........................Alene Bonner
Ewart Dunlop/Traveling Salesman...Tedford Armistead
Olin Britt/Traveling Salesman...........Tony Parkes
Oliver Hix/Traveling Salesman............Mike Lague
Jacey Squires/Traveling Salesman.......Scott Tooker
Marcellus Washburn.......................Jon Linden
Tommy Djilas/Traveling Salesman......Tavis Doucette
Marian Paroo............................Diana Doyle
Mrs. Paroo..........................Victoria Powell
Amaryllis.............................Kaleigh Ronan
Winthrop Paroo.........................Jimmy Miotto
Eulalie MackKecknie Shinn...........Sandy Armstrong
Zaneeta Shinn.........................Angela Powell
Gracie Shinn..........................Hilary Powell
Alma Hix.............................Bridget Cullen
Maud Dunlop.........................Krista Ernewein
Ethel Toffelmier...................Alison Theriault
Mrs. Squires........................Nectaria Kordan
Constable Locke/Traveling Salesman.......Div Slonim
DANCERS
Kelly Purpura, Noah Simes, Angela Powell, Tavis Doucette, Hilary Powell, James Sheenan
CHILDREN'S ENSEMBLE
Jessica Penney, Liza Penney, Tucker Penney, James Sheehan

ORCHESTRA
Piano.............................Gina Nagger
Violin.........................Marissa Licata
Flute/Piccolo...Karen Winkler/Ruth Washington
Clarinet/Saxophone...............Scott Graves
Trumpet.......................David Netherton
Trombone.......................Anthony Hudson
Percussion........................Cesar Garde

You mean Theatre III is beginning it's FIFTIETH Season, and yet I've never been there? Ridiculous! Scandalous! Especially since such a warm, friendly (SOLD-OUT!) audience in this former church enjoyed an equally warm and inventive amateur (meaning "loving") production of Meredith Wilson's clever classic. Whatever flaws the audience forgave were dictated by budgets of money and time, but the quality and details they enjoyed were the contributions of a large cast willing to take their comedy seriously and to enjoy performing. And I was honored, at long last, to be there!

My experience started when driven up to the entrance, where what looked like white-washed Greek columns supported a bright blue lintel with incised gold lettering christening this "temple to Thespis" THEATRE III --- with a tall, pointed spire above, complete with weathervane, reached for the clouds.

The program, stuffed with eighteen pages of support-ads of all sorts from local businesses, featured a "Standing O Award" to the company's long-time costumer (Donna Plummer) --- a company member since 1966 when a Chorale, a Dance Theater Group and a Little Theater Workshop joined to become, what else: Theatre III!

The show had already sold every seat by second night --- not for the performance, for The Entire Run! And, yes, there may have been a hyperactive kid or two scampering in the aisles, but those seats were filled by Families --- people and parents and grandparents and kids so small they were carried to their seats, all actively participating in the laughter and the tears as any good audience should, and all lined-up in the act-break for big, round, succulent cookies, and after for the stage-door tradition of congratulating friends and relatives on jobs well done.

Congratulations, I must add, that were Earned. Counting a seven-piece orchestra deft enough to soften behind voices unimpaired by amplifiers, there were 37 people filling Austin Sharpe's crowded three-scene set, and every one of them took a "moment" at least all their own, in-character and involved with the action. (Director Corey Jackson saw to that!)

And who were all those "people" in Donna Plummer's 1912 costumes? Well eleven of them "are thrilled to return to the Theatre III stage" (One in her 50th show!) They're people with families and jobs and schoolwork from which theater work is an exciting and rewarding change --- and many of them have the same last names: Liza, Jessica and Tucker Penney (8th 5th and 3rd graders) gamboled in the Children's Ensemble; Angela Powell played Zaneeta Shinn with sister Gracie Shinn played by her own sister Hilary Powell, while their mother Victoria Powell wrestled with the complicated lyrics of Mrs. Paroo's motherly chiding of Marian (The Librarian).

The stage blossomed with well-filled "minor" roles, two of which deserve special attention. Returning to this stage, and bringing forty proud years of Community Theater experience, Sandy Armstrong turned the pivotal cameo as Eulalie MacKecknie Shinn into a giggly, gullible, theater-drunk girl. As Amaryllis, newcomer Kaliegh Ronan had only one role in her resumee --- Glinda in "The Wizard of Oz" --- but, at age 8, she had been the only 2nd-grader cast, and after this taste of "the big time" that resumee will probably get a lot bigger in times to come.

Oh yeah, the stars! Well, with a lot more work to do, Jeffrey Prescott and Diana Doyle played their lyrical love-tale --- well, as well as everyone else in this enthusiastic ensemble, which is high praise indeed. But I shouldn't overlook Scott Tooker as "Professor Harold Hill's" admiring accomplice and Jeff Christo's ominously blustering Mayor Shinn and Craig Howard as Hill's nemesis --- who carry the plot.

With Musical Director Gina Naggar conducting from the piano, her vest-pocket orchestra allowed me, for the first time, to hear the trills and counterpoint from flute and reeds as well as those big brasses --- and as I said allowed everyone to hear songs coming from human throats, not pumped in from stage-side amplifiers. And choreographer Ellen Peterson, in the Library Ballet and the boisterous "Shipoopie!" number and the mimed band building up behind Hill's "76 Trombones," put all those costumes into easy, original stage-pictures and movement. And, for the cherry on top, there is a final-scene surprise that Director Corey Jackson would kill me for revealing before the last (Already Sold Out!) audience gets to see and hear it next Saturday night. They will, as I did, leave that glorious church of Thespis with unforgettable memories.

Love,
===Anon.

"The Music Man" (7 - 22 October)
THEATRE III
250 Central Street, WEST ACTON MA
1 (978) 263-9070

THE THEATER MIRROR, New England's LIVE Theater Guide

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