The closing show of Academy Players 53rd season is Meredith Willson's "The Music Man". The show first opened on Broadway on December 19,1957 and ran for 1,375 performances. Robert Preston played the leading role of 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 and respectable citizen by the close of the show. This fantastic show is well directed and musically directed by Paul Morin who chooses the best people for all these roles as well as having taught them all the glorious melodies and intricate harmonies of these well known songs while Timothy Reid supplies the choreography to capture the hearts of the audience. Paul ends the show with the cast singing "Till There Was You'' in perfect harmony, bringing tears to your eyes. This duo delivers the goods with their cast for an exuberant rendition of this classic musical and they are rewarded with a standing ovation at the close of the show.
Paul infuses his cast with high energy from start to finish of the show from the youngest child to the oldest cast member. He pays close attention to every detail to make it a very successful show. Paul's expert musical direction shines through in all the numbers especially all the group numbers as well as the professional barber shop quartet where their exquisite harmonies soar. He also conducts a nine piece orchestra with assistant musical director, Michael Savignac on piano.. Paul filmed the opening song, "Rock Island", making the transition to the scenes in Iowa smoother and with less time needed for a big scene change like it is usually performed. The close-ups on this black and white film are hysterical and the film ends with the salesmen staring out the window yelling at Hill as he enters Iowa. Tim Reid who also plays Marcellus, brings out the best with his dances for the show which include the Charleston, ballet and the polka. The standout numbers include "76 Trombones", "Marian, the Librarian" and "Shipoppi" which he sings in his topnotch tenor voice. (Tim made his debut with Academy Players as a child in "Oklahoma" and his son, Tyler who is autistic, makes his debut in this show doing an excellent job ) Hard working stage manager, Cherry Cartier keeps the show moving smoothly all night long with the huge casts entrances and exits. Other topnotch staff members include Michael Hyde as the lighting designer with Zack Searle operating the light board, sound designer is Dan Fisher who designed the sound at Theatre by the Sea last season and set design by Neil Santoro who built the facades of several of the town buildings and has them turn around for Marian's house and other various scenes in the show. (Sign painting is by John Ricci.) The numerous props are handled by Barbara Green.
Leading this talented cast is Stephen Bartholomew as Harold Hill who has a wonderful singing voice. He goes from brash, uncaring cad to a remorseful one when he's confronted by a little boy whose life he changed for the better. Steve as Hill cons the town with his "Trouble'' number and puts the finishing touches to his proposal with "76 Trombones". Steve and the cast stop the show with their unbelievable singing and dancing in the "76 Trombones" number while he and the talented eight member dance chorus do the soft shoe in the "Marian" song in the library scene.( The excellent dancers are Tom Lavallee, Judith Gough, Shayna Eisemann, Chelsea Cook, Michael Shallcross, Sarah Gervasini, Tyler Freitas and Lexer Grandi.) One of the funniest numbers is "The Sadder but Wiser Girl" where Steve and Tim dance together with Tim pretending to be the religious girl. Steve tugs at your heartstrings with "Till There Was You" reprise where he reforms his ways. Paul's gorgeous blonde haired wife, Staci Morin plays Marian who is one of the best one's I have seen. She does an excellent job as the woman who mistrusts Hill at first but when he brings her little brother, Winthrop out of his shell, she falls for him and keeps her secret to herself. Her fantastic soprano voice soars off the charts in "My White Knight" ( up to a high A) where she yearns to fall in love with a down to earth man, "Goodnight My Someone" where she wishes to find someone to love, "Will I Ever Tell You" (done in counterpoint with the quartet's "Lida Rose") where she sings about telling Harold she loves him and "Till There Was You", where she confesses her love to Harold at last. Staci shows off her dancing ability in "Marian" and "Shipoopi", the Ragtime section of the song. (Staci also was costume designer with her assistant, Jackie Granja and seamstresses from Stephen Granja (whose 12 year old son, Dane is in the chorus) Elizabeth Gotauco and Tammy Ward.) The women's gowns in the show are the standout costumes.
Harold's fellow conman, Marcellus is excellently played by Tim Reid who makes every one of his comic one liners count and shows off his strong voice in "Shipoopi", "The Sadder but Wiser Girl" and in the chorus numbers, too. He also shows his fantastic dancing ability as well. Mayor Shinn is played by Frank O'Donnell who continually mangles the English language committing many malapropisms on the way. He not only is humorous in this role but handles the many slow burn scenes with the salesmen of the town perfectly, bumping into them ala the Three Stooges. Frank reminds you of W.C.Fields in this role except that he likes children.. His wife,Eulalie is played by David Price who is a hoot in drag and extremely homely,too. She and her gaggle of town gossips are a hoot in their "Pickalittle" number, the Indian dance and their Grecian Urn sequence,too. This show has one of the best quartet's I have ever seen in this show, Jamie Jones, Jimmy Berger, Fred Kingsbury and Mike Maino, are with the Narragansett Bay Chorus. They sing "Sincere", "Goodnight Ladies", "It's You" and "Lida Rose" and receive thunderous applause after all of them. Carol Varden shines as Mrs. Paroo, Marian's doting mother who speaks her mind when her children don't listen to her but also displays a warmth to show she loves them, too. Carol's Irish brogue is fabulous and she gets to show off her voice in "Piano Lesson" and "Gary, Indiana". Lauren Keenan plays the young girl Amaryllis who has a crush on Winthrop. She hits the wrong note during her piano lesson and gets to show off her strong singing voice in "Goodnight, My Someone" with Staci and shows off her strong dancing ability in "76 Trombones'' with the children's chorus. One of the scene stealers in the show is eleven year old, Chris Lysik as Winthrop. He captures the hearts of the audience as the shy, lisping boy who makes a transformation during the show. Joe's powerful singing voice sell :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 wonderfully but dances up a storm, too. The confrontation with Harold in the second act is also dynamite when Winthrop demands to know if he is a liar and a crook. Joe's Charleston with Girl is wonderful. Tommy Lavalle plays the trouble making Tommy who reforms and becomes the drum major in the band. Tommy is a tremendous dancer who can sing and act well, too. (I directed Tommy in "Bedroom Farce" in 2006) Playing his girlfriend, Zaneeta, in the show is Judith Gough who is also an excellent dancer. Charlie Cowell the villain of the show is well played by veteran actor, Neil Santoro who also built the various sets for the show including the library and the footbridge.). So for a look back at the early 1900's be sure to catch "The Music Man" in East Greenwich. Tell them Tony sent you.(This review is a milestone for me since it is my 700th review!)