note: entire contents copyright 2011 by Sheila Barth
Strike up the band! “The Music Man” is at Ogunquit Playhouse, starring Emmy Award winning TV star Peter Scolari as slick-talking con artist-traveling salesman “Professor” Harold Hill, (a.k.a. Gregory something-or-other). People are beating feet - and timing - at this extravagant production.
Although Scolari is a glib fast talker and a convincing salesman, he isn’t as smooth and suave a song-and-dance man as others who’ve portrayed this role. That’s okay. Ogunquit has gathered an excellent cast, choreographer, director, music director and orchestra that are delightful from overture to rousing finale. Accomplished director Ray Roderick, award-winning choreographer Jeffry Denman, who also is a fabulous singer-dancer, music director Ken Clifton and his fantastic seven musicians who sound like a full orchestra, costume design coordinator Brent Bruin, set designer James Fouchard and an amazing behind-the-scenes lighting, sound design and stage crew have created a resplendent production.
Scolari’s co-star and love interest, Julia Burrows, has a hauntingly rich soprano voice, and her acting is sublime as librarian-piano teacher Marian Paroo. Her sincerity and belief in Hill because of his uncanny effect on her traumatized, nearly speechless and lispy 10-year-old brother Winthrop, after his father’s death two years ago, are charming. Marian initially resists Hill’s attention, suspicious he’s a flim-flam artist with faulty credentials. Prodigious sixth-grader, copper-haired Bryan Marden, (who recently appeared in Boston Children’s Theatre “To Kill a Mockingbird” and North Shore Music Theatre’s “A Christmas Carol,” has a professional flair.
After researching Hill’s collegiate record and finding none, she nevertheless supports Hill’s plan to create a boys’ band and keep youths out of trouble, especially after the town purchased a pool table. Hill orders instruments, snappy uniforms and all in his goal to fleece the staid town of River City, Iowa and flee; but he gets trapped, falling in love with Marian and genuinely caring about Winston, especially after he realizes she knew all along he was a crook but supported him anyhow. Burrows’ dreamy solo of “My White Knight” captivates Hill and us.
There are so many outstanding numbers, including hits, “Ya Got Trouble,” “Seventy-six Trombones,” and “Gary, Indiana,” to the harmonic a cappella group’s, rollicking children’s and upbeat, happy ensemble tunes.
Although this large cast is enjoyable, Linda Cameron as Marian’s mother, Mrs. Paroo, William McCauley as the malaprop-spouting Mayor Shinn and Beth McVey, as his wife, Eulalie, shine musically and comically. The cast rocks early on in a bouncy number, “Rock Island,” as traveling salesmen chat in a locomotive rhythm, bouncing around on a train to River City. Hot on Harold’s trail is traveling anvil salesman Charlie Cowell (Khris Lewin), who’s angry that Hill’s swindling is ruining his sales to midwestern townsfolk who’ve been burned by Hill’s chicanery.
Instead of making his getaway, Hill becomes a prisoner of love, as he and the smitten Marian sing, “Till There Was You,” leading to a happy, rousing finale. The audience claps and marks time to the music as the children’s ensemble, garbed in handsome, scarlet-and-white uniforms, line the aisles, singing and smiling, in their rousing finale.
I’ve seen “The Music Man” several times, and therefore wasn’t motivated to see it again; but this enthusiastic troupe made me kinda glad I schlepped north to see it.
BOX INFO: Two-act musical by Meredith Willson, starring Peter Scolari, appearing through August 20 at the Ogunquit Playhouse, Route 1, Ogunquit, Maine, Tuesday through Sunday: Tuesday-Friday, at 8 p.m.; Saturday, 8:30 p.m.; Sunday, 7 p.m.; matinees, Wednesday, Thursday, at 2:30 p.m.; Saturday, 3:30 p.m.; Sunday, 2 p.m. Tickets, 53.50-$76.50. For more information or tickets, visit www.ogunquitplayhouse.org or call 800-982-2787