Theatre Mirror Reviews - "The Music Man"

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entire contents copyright 2005 by Tony Annicone

"The Music Man"

Reviewed by Tony Annicone

Theatre III's first show of their 50th season is Meredith Willson's, "The Music Man". The show is set in 1912 and is the story of fast-talking Harold Hill who cons the citizens of River City, Iowa into buying musical instruments by promising to create a boy's band. Not knowing a clarinet from a saxophone, Harold expects to skip town with cash in hand, only to be caught by the arms of the beautiful Marian the Librarian, who transforms him into a reformed rogue and respectable citizen by the close of the show. In this version 12 cast members become trombonists and appear to play "76 Trombones". Marian appears with 2 trombones in hand while Winthrop tells Harold to play the trombone using his think system so Harold and Marian make 14 trombonists to close this show with a rousing musical flourish. Director Corey Jackson chooses top notch performers for all the roles and keeps the show moving from one scene to another, creating a trip back to America's nostalgic past while musical director, Gina Nagger and her excellent orchestra, deliver the show's standards to an appreciative audience, creating a musical treat for family members of all ages to enjoy.

Corey uses a unit set designed by Austin Sharpe, for the show with the Paroo house on stage right and the footbridge stage left while the center stage has various town sets including the gym, the library, the billiard parlor and the barber shop. The opening scene on the train is done in front of a white curtain with train windows projected on it and the actors move as if they are on a train. Corey has a keen eye for detail and blocking, keeping this 1950's show in constant motion by using the main aisle of the theater for many entrances and exits with the boy's band entrance as a standout moment. (Tiny actor Tucker Penney who is 8 years old steals this scene by carrying a huge bass dream and getting it caught on the stage as he tries to join the others.) Gina not only conducts her 7 piece orchestra put plays the piano, too as well as doing great job in teaching the cast these many vocal numbers. The numerous dances which include the cake walk, soft shoe and many others is by choreograper, Ellen Peterson. The multitude of colorful costumes are by Donna Plummer with make up by Annette Dior, lighting by Mike Repeta which is very effective in the romantic scenes and sound by Ryan Cecil.

The two splendid leads are played by Jeff Prescott as Harold and Diana Doyle as Marian. They are both triple threat performers and their acting, singing and dancing mesmerize the audience with its excellence. Jeff is superb as the energetic conman who charms the money out of people's pockets with ease. He has many tongue twisting songs and lines but delivers them clearly as he convinces the citizens to invest in the boy's band in "Ya Got Trouble", a patter song with the chorus joining as Jeff builds the number up to a fever pitch. He seals the deal with "76 Trombones" by making them visualize a boy's band with an energetic dance with Jeff and the dancers imitating various instruments. He woos his lady love in "Marian the Librarian" while she tries to ignore him but he entices her to dance with him. Jeff gets to sing "Sadder but Wiser Girl" with his sidekick where he sings about liking loose woman and also sings about his hometown, "Gary, Indiana" with Mrs. Paroo while they do a little dance but it is his transition from cad to a man who falls in love for the first time that will move you to tears when he confesses his faults to Winthrop and finally admits it in the reprise of "Till There Was You". Jeff delivers a powerhouse performance as Harold Hill. Diana is every bit his equal with her fantastic soprano voice soaring off the charts especially in "My White Knight" where she hits a high A flat. Marian distrusts Harold at first but when he brings Winthrop out of his shell, she falls for him and keeps Harold's secret to herself. Diana also sings "Goodnight My Someone" where she wishes on a star to find her true love, Will I Ever Tell You" done in counterpoint with the barbershop quartet's "Lida Rose" where she wonders if she should tell him she loves him and in "Till There Was You" where she confesses her love to him and tells him she knows he is a fraud but will keep his secret. The romance comes to fruition by her belief in Harold and Diana delivers the goods as this character when she stands up to the town when they try to railroad him, giving her the needed backbone. The rousing closing moments of the show prove Jeff and Diana's wonderful chemistry together in these roles.

Two of the biggest scene stealers in this show are Jeff Christo as Mayor Shinn and Sandy Armstrong as Eulalie Shinn. His many malapropisms and humorous lines are gems and her hilarious "Pick a Little" song with the women who look like hens is hilarious as is the dance number and Grecian Urn segment. Their dimwitted daughter, Zaneeta is played by Angela Powell who has a crush on the town trouble maker, Tommy played by Tavis Doucette. They get to dance in "Shipoopi" and he gets to display his prowess as a jazz trombonist in the closing number. Victoria Powell shines as the doting, Mrs. Paroo with an excellent Irish brogue. She speaks her mind to her children when she believes they are wrong but also displays the warm side to the character, too. 2 pint size performers who almost steal the show from the adults are Jimmy Miotto as Winthrop and Kaliegh Ronan as Amaryllis, Marian's piano student. Jimmy sings "Gary, Indiana" commanding the stage while doing so and does solo work in "Wells Fargo Wagon". This 9 year old does a good job with the boy's speech impediment and in the transformation from shy kid to outgoing especially in the confrontation scene with Harold near the end of the show. Kaliegh does a good job as the energetic girl who secretly has a crush on Winthrop, acting up a storm, crying on cue and singing "Goodnight My Someone" with Marian, showing off her strong singing voice. Another outstanding thing about this show is that the 4 men in the barbershop quartet can act as strongly as they sing, their first scenes as bickering school board members look realistic. (Usually the quartet can sing and their acting is substandard) The 4 men who shine in these roles are Tedford Armistead, Tony Parkes, Mike Lague and Scott Tooker. They do excellent vocals on "Sincere", "Goodnight Ladies", "Lida Rose" and "It's You". Harold's mischief making sidekick, Marcellus is well played by Jon Linden who gets to show off his comic side in "Sadder but Wiser Girl" and gets to kick up his heels in his solo song, "Shipoppi". The children and Marian and Harold join in this dance number with Jon. Craig Howard is a hoot as the nasty trouble making salesman, Charlie Cowell who tries to put the moves on Marian when he tries to expose Harold as a fraud. When the town stands up for Harold, he storms off the stage in a huff. Craig gets to show off his singing voice in the opening acapella number "Rock Island" with the male chorus. The chorus members show off their voices with the wonderful harmonies in "Iowa Stubborn", "Trouble" and "76 Trombones". So for a trip down memory lane, be sure to catch this wonderful cast in this high energy and entertaining production of "The Music Man".

"The Music Man" (7 - 22 October)
1 (978) 263-9070

THE THEATER MIRROR, New England's LIVE Theater Guide