The Music Man is a delightful comedic romp
Book, music, and lyrics by Meredith Willson. Based on a story by Meredith Willson and Franklin Lacey. Directed by Sarah Rodgers. Musical direction by Christopher King. A Theatre Under the Stars Production. At Malkin Bowl on Wednesday, July 11. Continues in rep until August 18
Sometimes it pays to get suckered.
In The Music Man, con artist Harold Hill shakes up a sleepy Iowa town by promising to start a boys’ band. It’s a scam he’s pulled before: once all the instruments and uniforms are bought and paid for, Hill, who doesn’t know a thing about music, takes the money and skips town. But the town shakes him up right back when he falls in love with its uptight librarian, Marian Paroo.
We learn all about Hill’s m.o. from a group of travelling salesmen aboard a train in the show’s opening number, “Rock Island”. The ebulliently complex rhythms of Meredith Willson’s score are tricky, and under Sarah Rodgers’s superbly detailed direction (with help from musical director Christopher King and choreographer Dayna Tekatch), this production nails them right off the top, as the salesmen bounce to the beat of the syncopated spoken-word text. Here and elsewhere, Rodgers exploits the physicality of the performers to terrific comic effect.
The role of the singing, dancing, smooth-talking Hill demands the skill and precision of an athlete, and Daren Herbert pulls it off with virtuosity; his charm and his honeyed voice are irresistible. Certainly, Samantha Currie’s Marian finds that to be the case; it’s a pleasure to see her go from righteously indignant to hopelessly in love, especially when she croons such lovely ballads as “Goodnight, My Someone” and “Till There Was You”.
The leads are surrounded by colourful characters of all ages. Especially noteworthy are Barbara Pollard, deliciously over-the-top as Mrs. Paroo, and the barbershop quartet (David Cotton, Taylor Lewis, Allen Upward, and Dave Vincent), who can always be coaxed into song. Among the many talented children in the cast are Keira Jang as the precocious Amaryllis, and Aidan Wessels as the adorable Winthrop.
Lauchlin Johnston’s set whimsically underscores the musical themes of the show with harp-shaped porches, piano-keyboard benches, and other surprises. Chris Sinosich’s costumes mirror the transformation of the staid Iowans as Hill works his charms: when we first meet them, they’re uniformly clad in dull earth tones, but by the show-stopping “Shipoopi,” their full spectrum of pastel tones calls to mind a saltwater-taffy store. Sinosich’s flowing dresses also enhance the fluidity of Tekatch’s billowing choreography.
With The Music Man and Titanic, TUTS has two winners this season. Keep your fingers crossed for good weather so these shows can get the audiences they deserve.
Watch a clip of "76 Trombones" from TUTS's production of The Music Man.