Review of The Music Man
The highly anticipated The Music Man, Jr. has come to town! After Broadway recently revived it, Prana Productions rolled out the red carpet for this red, white and blue musical this weekend. Starting on the Fourth of July, 1912, a con man named Harold Hill arrives in Iowa. The train that brings him is full of other traveling salesmen who convincingly imitate the clatter of the rails while they chatter about their trade, and how this Harold Hill gives all traveling salesmen a bad name. As their patter slows down, so does the train, and, who gets off, but the notorious Harold Hill himself, played deftly by Saachi Chandrakant.
He has plans to dupe the fine citizens of River City by selling them band instruments and uniforms, pocketing the profits and then sneaking out of town before they realize he doesn’t have the least notion of how to teach the kids to play. Amaryllis, played by Claire Nielsen, actually does play the real piano already. The townspeople sing wonderfully about how they memorably can “stand touching noses for a week at a time and never see eye to eye” in “Iowa Stubborn.” This the young actors demonstrate humorously. However, with the help of his sidekick, Marcellus, played by Teo Perez, (who projected wonderfully and was easy to hear and understand) “Professor” Hill latches onto the idea of the dangers of the new pool table. Soon he has the crowd mesmerized with the iconic, comic “Ya Got Trouble.”
The one who isn’t taken in by this charlatan is Mayor Shinn. Giving his lines loud and clear, even though he was sometimes reading from a book, Ryan Klimenko, who also doubled as the conductor, is both commanding and demanding. He wants that man’s credentials! Thus is set in motion the plot in which Harold Hill charms and beguiles. First, he converts the school committee (Emmet Doherty, Ava Morrison, Graham Fields and Nicholas Dipippo) from a squabbling mess to a happy barber shop quartet. He flatters the mayor’s wife, played with great gusto and animation by Brooke O’Neill, and soon she’s leading the women of the town in a formalized Greek dance. He schmoozes the gossiping Pick-A-Little ladies (Olivia Slater, Victoria Edwards, Rosie Foley, Olivia Liberis, Lexi Chek, Sadie Morrison, Caroline Mulik, and May Shade) into actually reading the so-called “dirty books” they were originally condemning, and it turns out they loved Chaucer, Rabelais and Balzac. He wins over the proudly Irish Mrs. Paroo, Julia Molloy, who gets some good laughs about high-faulting Greeks and putting jelly on the stove.
But Marian, the librarian, is not so easily fooled. Cee-Cee Deslauier-Tate is staunchly unswayed by this apparent huckster. She marches to the library and discovers that the conservatory Hill claims to have graduated from didn’t even exist then. Cee-Cee sings beautifully, if a little softly, about finding her own special beau some day in “Goodnight, My Someone.” But she is about to expose Hill when she notices how her beloved, reclusive little brother Winthrop comes alive with the prospect of his own cornet, and surprises everyone by singing out loud about the Wells Fargo wagon that might bring it. Nora Tracey is very believable as Winthrop. Harold takes him fishing, and suddenly Winthrop is confidently singing a whole solo, despite his lisp, about Gary, Indiana, Hill’s hometown. Suddenly Marian softens, and this is when her acting ability begins to truly shine. When a shrewd anvil salesman (Charlie Cowell) shows up to expose Hill, Marian cleverly and flirtatiously diverts him. She acknowledges Hill as a flim flam man, but as a woman she admires him for what he’s done to bring happiness to the town and defies Mayor Shinn. The final song, a rousing reprise of “76 Trombones” is then followed by an actual band. They’re playing instruments in what can only be described as a unique version, using Hill’s so-called think system, of the “Minuet in G.”
As always, Roberta Weiner has done a splendid job teaching this large group of young thespians under difficult conditions. They had to sing behind masks up until opening night, which is never easy, and some even wore masks during the performance. Joanne Hines did wonderfully directing the music and keeping every child on the beat and in tune with her solid but unobtrusive accompaniment. Older students served ably as staff behind the scenes. Kudos to the entire cast!
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