Theatre Mirror Reviews - "THE MUSIC MAN"

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"What Happened in Boston, Willie"

entire contents copyright 2010 by Tony Annicone

"The Music Man"

Reviewed by Tony Annicone

The second show of Reagle Music Theatre of Greater Boston's 42nd summer season is Meredith Willson's, "The Music Man". The show first opened on Broadway on December 19, 1957 and ran for 1375 performances. Robert Preston played the leading role of Harold Hill and appeared in the 1962 movie version. The show is set in 1912 and is the story of fast-talking Harold Hill who cons the good citizens of River City, Iowa into buying musical instruments and band uniforms by promising to create a boy's band in the town. Not knowing a clarinet from a saxophone, Hill expects to skip town with cash in hand, only to be caught by the arms of the beautiful, Marian Paroo, the librarian, who transforms him into a reformed rogue and respectable citizen by the end of the show. This outstanding show has a huge cast of 50 performers. Bob Freschi directs this masterpiece of a show which is a joyous trip to America's nostalgic past and contains gorgeous musical numbers taught by Jacob Kidder with Jeffrey Leonard as the conductor of an excellent orchestra with the numerous dance numbers by Susan Chebookjian who based on the original choreography of Onna White from Broadway and the film. This exuberant and energetic rendition will lift your spirits to new heights while leaving you humming the exquisite score to show how a family show can be topnotch entertainment in 2010.

Bob casts these roles very well creating picture postcard moments throughout the show while Jacob taught the intricate harmonies to this talented cast. Bob does double duty in the show and plays the villain, Charlie Cowell. He gets to show off his voice in "Rock Island" the acappella number which opens the show and he makes this number hilarious with the what ya talk section standing out. The brass is superb in the rousing numbers including "76 Trombones" and "Wells Fargo Wagon" and the strings add poignancy to the ballads especially "Goodnight My Someone" and "Till There Was You". The multitude of sets include numerous backdrops, the Paroo house, the buildings of the town which are built by Robert Moody and David Fouchard while the many gorgeous costumes are by Costume World in Florida. Susan's dance numbers include soft shoe, tap, square dance, horn pipe, cakewalk and ballet and they add the energy needed to "76 Trombones", "Trouble", "Marian, the Librarian", "Shipoopi" and "It's You" ballet. Stage manager Karen Parlato keeps the sets moving on and off stage so quickly that the pace of the show never falters.

Leading this huge cast in a powerhouse, show stopping performance is Scott Wahle as Harold Hill. I first saw him perform this role in 2004 and he has gotten even better in it. He has an incredible singing voice and his acting is fantastic in this enormous role. He goes from brash uncaring cad to finally feeling remorse for his naughty actions when confronted by a little boy whose life he changed for the better. Scott cons the town with his "Trouble" number and puts the finishing touches to his proposal with "76 Trombones" where the dancers join in with some athletic moves. Scott does a splendid dance number with the chorus in "Marian,the Librarian" number and he dances around in "The Sadder but Wiser Girl" but he tugs at your heartstrings in the duet "Till There Was You". He has been a television personality for years, but Scott excels on the live stage, too with an another stunning performance as Harold Hill. He won the IRNE award in this role in 2004. Gorgeous blonde, Sarah Pfisterer is a triple threat performer who plays Marian. Her singing, acting and dancing in this role is one more credit to her wonderful resume of performances. Sarah shows the character's distrust of Harold at first but when he brings her little brother, Winthrop out of his shell, she falls for him and keeps his secret to herself. Her fabulous soprano voice soars off the charts in "My White Knight" where she hits a high A flat, Marian yearns to fall in love with a down to earth man, "Goodnight My Someone" where she sings to whomever she will marry in the future, "Will I Ever Tell You"( done in counterpoint with "Lida Rose" sung by the barbershop quartet, Spencer Glass, John Royer, George Bochard and Christopher A. King whose wonderful harmonies are heard in "Sincere", "Goodnight Ladies" and "It's You") where she sings about telling Harold she loves him and "Till There Was You" where she confesses her love to him at last. Harold brought the town to life when he arrived on July 4th and Marian's belief in his inner goodness is rewarded, giving the show a happy ending. Sarah shows off her dancing skills in this show especially a wonderful soft shoe dance with the boys in the Marian number. I also saw Sarah perform this role back in 2004 and she is better than ever in it. Her two daughters, Hannah and Lily Mikita appear in the children's chorus of the show. Congrats to Sarah and Rick Hilsabeck on their recent marriage. They met each other and played Cornelius and Irene in Reagle's "Hello Dolly" last season.

Harold's fellow con-man, Marcellus is wonderfully played by Mark Linehan who makes his comic lines count and gets to show off his strong tenor voice in "Shipoopi", "The Sadder but Wiser Girl" and the chorus numbers. He shows off his dancing prowess in this show, too. Mayor Shinn is played by Jerry Walker who continually mangles the English language committing many malapropisms along the way. He does an excellent job in this tongue twisting role. His wife, Eulalie is played by Mary Callanan who is fabulous and steals many a scene. She is a hoot in the "Pickalittle" number, the Grecian Urn and the Indian dance with her gaggle of town gossips. Ellen Peterson shines as Mrs. Paroo, Marian's doting mother who speaks her mind when her children won't listen to her but also displays a warmth to show she loves them, too. She displays a strong Irish brogue and shows off her voice in "Piano Lesson" and "Gary, Indiana". Anelise Allen is wonderful in the show, playing Amaryllis, the little girl who has a crush on Winthrop. She hits the wrong note during the piano lesson, shows off her voice in "Goodnight My Someone" with Sarah and has a funny scene with Eulalie hitting her in the butt with a rifle.12 year old Andrew Purdy is dynamite as Winthrop. He steals many scenes he is in, capturing the hearts of the audience as the shy, lisping boy who makes a transformation during the show. Andrew's powerful singing voice is heard in "The Wells Fargo Wagon" segment where he shows the child's excitement at receiving his trumpet and in his big solo "Gary, Indiana" where he not only sings up a storm but dances wonderfully in it, too. The confrontation scene with Harold in the second act is fantastic when Winthrop demands to know if he is a liar and a crook. Matthew Kossack is topnotch as he plays the trouble making Tommy. He shows off his fantastic dancing skills in this role as does Rachel Bertone as Zaneeta, the mayor's daughter. Kudos to the singing and dancing chorus of this show for doing fantastic work. Dance captain Joseph Cullinane leads them in their fancy footwork. So for an excellent rendition of this classic show be sure to catch this Broadway style show in Waltham. Tell them Tony sent you.

"The Music Man" (15 - 25 July)
@ 617 Lexington Street, WALTHAM MA

THE THEATER MIRROR, New England's LIVE Theater Guide