Theatre Mirror Reviews - "The Music Man"

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entire contents copyright 2006 by Tony Annicone

"The Music Man"

Reviewed by Tony Annicone

The first production of The Community Players 86th 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 also appeared in the 1962 movie version with Shirley Jones as Marian. The show is set in 1912 and is the story of the 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 kid's band in the town. Not knowing a cornet from a trombone, 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 close of the show. This outstanding show has two splendid leads and boasts a cast of 35 talented performers with topnotch direction by Andrew Bobola who also did the choreography and fabulous music direction by Ron Procopio. This exuberant and energetic rendition of this musical masterpiece also has fantastic costumes and sets, is rewarded with a well deserved standing ovation at the close of the show. Bravo.

Andrew casts all the roles beautifully while Ron obtains the best harmonic sound from this large cast. Ron not only music directs the show but plays the keyboards with his excellent five piece combo while his son, Buddy handles the fantastic percussion for the show. The multitude of gorgeous turn of the century costumes are provided by The Warner Theatre in Torrington, CT which were obtained by Maryann Ricci and Pam Jackson. The set consists of a backdrop as well as the Paroo house, the library, the billiard parlor, the livery stable and a fantastic working water fountain. The set piece were constructed so they could open up to become the inside of the Paroo house and the library, too. The topnotch set design is by Victor Turenne. Andrew uses the entire theatre for entrances and exits as well as using it for his numerous dance numbers. Two of the numbers, "Marian the Librarian" and "Shipoopi" are choreographed by Karen Kessler. Besides marching the dance numbers include soft shoe, the Charleston and polka.

Leading the cast in a powerhouse performance is Greg Gillis as Harold Hill. He is one of the best dancers I have ever seen in this role. Greg is in perpetual motion throughout the entire show doing a soft shoe, a Charleston or twirling a baton. His singing and acting in this enormous role is excellent, too. Greg's Harold goes from brash uncaring cad to finally feeling remorse for his actions when confronted by the love of his life and her little brother who's life has been changed by Harold's arrival in town. Greg cons the town with his "Trouble" number and puts the finishing touches to his proposal with "76 Trombones". (The townsfolk join him in energetic dances during both these songs.) He dances up a storm in "Sadder But Wiser Girl" and dances a soft shoe with the kids in "Marian the Librarian" but he shows a softer side in the duet "Till There Was You" and "Goodnight My Someone"/"76 Trombones" reprise. Bravo. Megan McNulty who is a music education major at RIC, plays Marian. She shows the character's distrust of Hill at first but when he brings her little brother, Winthrop out of his shell, she falls for him and keeps his secret to herself. Megan gives Marian a spunky portrayal and her fantastic soprano voice soars off the scale in "My White Knight" where she yearns to fall in love with a down to earth man, in "Goodnight My Someone" where she wishes to find a man to love whoever he may be, in "Will I Ever Tell You" (done in counterpoint with "Lida Rose" sung by the barbershop quartet, Paul Morin, Thomas Desjarlais, Jim Harvey and Matt Webster (a true basso profundo) whose wonderful harmonies are also heard in "Sincere", "Goodnight Ladies" and "It's You".) where she sings about telling Harold she loves him and in "Till There Was You", where she confesses her love to him at last. Megan stands up to the town at the end of the show explaining that Harold brought life to the town when he arrived on July 4th and it is Marian's belief in his inner goodness that is rewarded, giving the show a happy ending. Brava.

Harold's fellow conman, Marcellus is played by Chris Lyndon who sings solo in the big dance number in the second act called "Shipoopi". (Mary Thompson appears as his love interest, Ethel and gets to sing in "Pickalittle" song.) The long winded, malapropism spouting Mayor Shinn is played by Greg Geer. He captures the blusteriness and pompousness of the character and creates a comical and winning portrayal while showing the exasperation at Harold's selling techniques in the town. His wife, Eulalie is played by Heather Vieira who is hilarious in this role. She leads the nosey town gossips in the "Pickalittle" song, leads the town pageant in "Columbia the Gem of the Ocean" where she over enunciates the word blue in the song and also leads her four friends in the comic Grecian Urn ballet while wearing bloomers. Carol Varden shines as Mrs. Paroo, Marian's doting mother who speaks her mind when her children won't listen to her but also displays a warm side to show she loves them. Her Irish brogue is excellent and she sings many numbers with the chorus as well as the argument song with Megan called "Piano Lesson". (Samantha Geer who is 8 years old and the real life daughter of Greg Geer who plays Mayor Shinn, plays Amaryllis, Marian's piano student who has a crush on Winthrop. She keeps hitting the wrong note during her lesson and gets to sing the ending of "Goodnight, My Someone" with Megan, showing off her strong singing voice which she inherited from both her parents.) The biggest find in this show is 10 year old Nicholas Mercurio who plays Winthrop. He steals many scenes he is in with his acting prowess in his theatrical debut. Nicholas charms the crowd from his first entrance as the shy, lisping brother of Marian. He brings tears to your eyes when Winthrop joyously sings about the "Wells Fargo Wagon" arriving with his instrument, making the transformation from shy boy to excited and constantly speaking boy and once again in his confrontation scene where he calls Harold a liar and a crook. Not only can this young boy act but his singing is sensational, too. Nicholas' voice soars in "Wells Fargo Wagon" and especially in his solo number "Gary, Indiana". What a great debut for this talented youngster.

The town troublemaker, Tommy Djilas is played by Nicholas Tetrault while Erin Pyne plays Zaneeta, his girlfriend in the show. Steven Pacheco plays the loudmouth, obnoxious anvil salesman, Charlie Cowell who wants to expose Harold as a fraud and also tries to put the moves on Marian. Steve sings in the opening a cappella number called "Rock Island" in which a few of the chorus members get to show off their strong voices. The chorus also gets to show off their harmonious voices in "Iowa Stubborn", "Trouble", "76 Trombones" and "Till There Was You" finale number. So for a trip back to Iowa in 1912, be sure to catch "The Music Man". You will be glad you did. Tell the Tony sent you.

"The Music Man" (17 November - 3 December)
Jenks Junior High Auditorium, Division Street, PAWTUCKET RI
1 (401)726-6860

THE THEATER MIRROR, New England's LIVE Theater Guide