Swindling salesman, Professor Harold Hill, plots to fleece the citizens of River City, IA by selling them the equipment for a boys’ band before fleeing town with the proceeds. But the town librarian just might be able to make the con artist turn over a new leaf. Find out if she succeeds by watching The Music Man which is currently playing at Woodford Theatre.
One thing I’ve always liked about Meredith Wilson’s acclaimed musical is that it’s really a story about transformation. Both Harold Hill and the citizens of River City manage to change each other for the better. Hill, both consciously and unconsciously, helps the citizens to become friendlier, more open-minded people while the citizens, especially Marian Paroo, help Hill to become an honest man. And the force behind that transformation is compassion, a theme that was clearly on director Matthew Winters’ mind as he guided this production.
Winters excels in his first outing as a director. His guidance of this production was incredibly nuanced and he had an instinct for striking emotional beats square on the head. The show is funny and sweet and sensitive and moving and even a little philosophical. I was very impressed with the staging which utilized all of the theatre with performances going right into the aisles. Winters also led his troupe to strong performances which brought River City to colorful and vibrant life.
I raise a toast to this ensemble as it proves once more just how essential their commitment is in creating the soul of a production. Every member was engaged and coming up with little gems of business that just enhanced the production. All did a marvelous job, but I want to give a special acknowledgement to Merry King who provides a master level’s course in presence with her subtle gestures and reactions to the events going on in River City. Other standout performances came from Stephani Gillham who measures out the precise level of over the topness needed to make Eualalie Mackecknie Shinn a memorable character, but still keeps one foot on the ground to retain her reality. Reilly Dalton is convincing as the shy and introverted Winthrop Paroo and flaunts some golden tonsils with his rendition of “Gary, Indiana” while maintaining Winthrop’s lisp. Jameson McBrayer, Jason Price, Dawson Akers, and Mason O’Brien provide some scintillating harmonies as the school board turned barbershop quartet.
Cassidy Mullins stuns as Marian Paroo. When the show begins, Mullins’ rigid posture and slightly superior line delivery demonstrate her attitude that she considers herself a step up culturally and intellectually from the other citizens of River City. But she still has noble intentions as she wishes to raise the town’s cultural sensibilities and protect them from Hill. Yet even she succumbs to Hill’s magic, and her body language and delivery loosen up and relax as love and joy begin to burst from her heart.
Mullins also has an angelic soprano that can charm birds from the trees with some of the night’s best executed songs as she brought the audience to tears with “Goodnight, My Someone” and “My White Knight” before hitting a dead-center bullseye with “Till There Was You”.
Jaime Delgado is a spot-on Harold Hill. He is both charming and oily and a cad with a heart of gold. Delgado gives Hill a crucial likability which not only helps him in being an effective con artist, but makes his transition into an honest man believable. Delgado brings real intelligence to Hill as can quickly think his way out of troublesome situations, but I also liked how he balanced Hill’s decency and crookedness. Even when he did something genuinely nice like taking the town troublemaker under his wing, you see the wheels churning in his head when he realizes he can turn that act of kindness to his advantage by getting the rebel to help him with his scam.
Delgado can really hoof, too. He glides like Fred Astaire and kicks like Michael Flatley and his infectious animation was on best display in “Seventy-Six Trombones” and “Shipoopi”. The role of Hill is that rare musical lead where the actor doesn’t necessarily need to be a great singer, but Delgado proves it certainly helps with his own potent turns in “Marian the Librarian” and the reprise of “Goodnight My Someone”.
Andrea Wilson and her band give an extraordinarily polished and poised performance with their phenomenal rendition of the score. Ashley Holbrook Oldham provides some lavish and smooth choreography with the extended dance sequences in “Seventy-Six Trombones”, “Marian the Librarian”, and “Shipoopi” ranking as my personal favorites. Adam Sovkoplas has designed an effectively functional set. The town of River City comes out on rollers with the various building and house fronts on both sides so the town can be efficiently metamorphosed from scene to scene. The costumes of Darlene Drayer and Robin Dickerson suit turn of the century America with tweeds, straw hats, cotton suits, and elegant dresses. Becki Yarrow’s lighting adds that x factor, especially with the use of a gentle spotlight during some of the soft solos. Paul Manning adds some ambient sounds to create the world of River City.
This is truly an excellent and fun night of theatre. This cast will run you through a gamut of emotions and you’ll be singing along, clapping your hands, and giving them a well-earned standing ovation when it’s all said and done.
The Music Man runs at Woodford Theatre through June 11. Showtimes are 7:30pm Fri-Sat and 2pm on Sundays with one Thursday performance at 7:30pm on June 8. Tickets cost $25 and can be purchased at the Box Office or www.woodfordtheatre.com. Woodford Theatre is located at 275 Beasley Rd in Versailles, KY.