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The Music Man

a Musical
CATEGORY :
by Meredith Willson

COMPANY : Atlanta Lyric Theatre
VENUE : The Strand
ID# 3834

SHOWING : September 17, 2010 - October 03, 2010

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PRODUCTION DESCRIPTION

An affectionate paean to Smalltown, U.S.A. of a bygone era, Meredith Willson’s The Music Man follows fast-talking traveling salesman Harold Hill as he cons the people of River City, Iowa into buying instruments and uniforms for a boys’ band he vows to organize – this despite the fact he doesn’t know a trombone from a treble clef. His plans to skip town with the cash are foiled when he falls for Marian the librarian, who transforms him into a respectable citizen by curtain’s fall. This Tony Award-winning, critically acclaimed Broadway classic is an all-American institution, thanks to its one-of-a-kind, nostalgic score of rousing marches (“Seventy-Six Trombones”), barbershop quartets (“Lida Rose”) and sentimental ballads (“Till There Was You”) which have become popular standards.


CAST & CREW LIST
Eulalie Mackecknie Shinn Ingrid Cole
Jacey Squires Al Dollar
Harold Hill Alan Kilpatrick
Alma Hix Kathleen McCook
Ethel Toffelmeier Marcie Millard
Mrs. Squires Barbara Moras
Child Ensemble Alyssa Payne
Oliver Hix Matt Pino
Zaneeta Shinn Becca Potter
Marcellus Washburn Glenn Rainey
Winthrop Paroo Max River Roberts
Mrs. Paroo Mary Welch Rogers
Charlie Cowell/Constable Locke Geoff Uterhardt
Mayor Shinn/Conductor Robert Wayne
Click to Submit Cast & Crew Info for this production
REVIEWS

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by Mama Alma
Wednesday, October 6, 2010
4.5
Golly, Clyde, guys! Geeeeeeez! While my opinion is moot, given that the play has already closed (I saw it closing night), I thought this production hit on all cylinders. The opening rhythm piece "Rock Island" was especially well done, down to the set piece being just flimsy enough to yield a convincing "moving train car" motion. Meredith Wilson can be a little bit like Mozart - too many notes - but everyone did an admirable job, with impeccable diction, so that every word was precisely understood without feeling like the show was dragging for us slightly older patrons.

Of course, I was sitting in the first row. I am a big big Marcie Millard fan. Ditto for Geoff Uterhardt. I must confess that Ingrid Cole is stealing my heart as well. I do think that there's a big difference being front and center for a live production, as opposed to the balcony. I had gone prepared to be disappointed in Harold Hill. After all, how could Alan Kilpatrick top Robert Preston? However, Kilpatrick played Hill so as to involve the audience in the joke. He engaged the audience with a twinkle in his eye, letting us know that he knew that we knew this was all a con (which of course the audience is too sharp to fall for, but that the rubes on stage lap up). I think that biplay may not have penetrated to the upper seats, but it was certainly felt where I was sitting.

My only problem with Kilpatrick was that his voice did not blend well for the several lines he had to sing with Emily Stokes, but then she is a powerhouse. The back and forth in their duets worked well. It was just those last several lines that were supposed to marry them together - his voice was overpowered. One small jot in an otherwise wonderful performance.

While it's natural to compare a well-loved play to its movie incarnation, Robert Preston, priceless as he was, in both The Music Man and much later in Victor/Victoria, had the benefit of numerous takes to get the perfect performance. DaCosta had special effects to zap the uniforms at the finale. Better to compare Robert Preston in his Tony winning performance in the original Broadway musical, where he was called by one critic "indefatigable." This was in 1957, remember. A different time in a galaxy far, far away. I thought Kilpatrick was a little slicker, a little slyer . . . more suited for the 21st Century con man.

I had a great time. It was a thoroughly enjoyable night at the theater, and I was not the only one cheering. [POST A COMMENT REGARDING THIS REVIEW]
Superannuated
by playgoer
Sunday, October 3, 2010
3.5
Atlanta Lyric Theatre is taking on some of the characteristics of an ensemble company. The same actors are seen in show after show, often playing the same types. There's Glenn Rainey, the easy-going, lovable comic presence from "A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum," now playing sidekick Marcellus Washburn. There's the bickering married couple from "Forum," Robert Wayne and Ingrid Cole, now playing Mayor Shinn and Eulalie Mackeckie Shinn. There's the leading man from "The Will Rogers Follies," Alan Kilpatrick, now playing leading man Harold Hill. It's a joy to see the same strong character actors time and again, but an ensemble company sometimes places an actor in a role he or she isn't perfectly suited for, just for the sake of keeping the company together. That's a little bit the case here. Alan Kilpatrick brings professionalism and a terrific voice to his role, but he's just a bit too old to work perfectly in the part of traveling salesman Harold Hill. Geoff Uterhardt calls him "son" at one point, and Harold Hill calls Marcellus "son" in turn. The ages don't mesh with these lines.

He's not the only one too old in the cast. "The Music Man" concerns the efforts of a con man to convince a town of the need for a boys' band. This town contains one, count 'em, ONE boy -- the delightful Max River Roberts as Winthrop Paroo. The other "boys" are men seemingly in their 20's, except for the two ensemble girls who are uniformed as boys for the final scene. Several of the "girls" also seem long in the tooth to be teenagers. This casting throws off the balance of the show, taking away much of the "family" feel of this wholesome show. More concern seems to have been paid to reusability of actors than to their qualities for this particular show.

Even given the youngish garb sported by these superannuated teens, the costumes, supervised by Lindsey Paris, are colorful, period pieces that add a lot of sparkle to the show. Harold Hill's reversible jacket makes for a nice transition in the "Seventy-six Trombones" number, and his vanilla ice cream-colored suit at the end works nicely. The costumes provide most of the visual appeal of the production.

Scenic design, by B.J. Garmon, takes a back seat to the scenic art by LeShae Nash. The luminous moon high up stage right is a nice touch, and the painted backdrops give the feel of a small Iowa town, while also giving a bit of a 1912 period feel. (The 48-star flag in the gymnasium scene looks a little faded, though, considering that the forty-eighth state was just admitted into the union in 1912.) In contrast to the scenic painting, the building fronts that roll on and off seem a bit perfunctory, although serviceable.

The production uses a stage curtain, which comes down a bit abruptly at the end of both acts, as the action is winding down. Before the show, the words "The Music Man" are fuzzily projected on this curtain, surrounded by projected stars and changing in colors as the overture plays. It looks a little cheesy, even though the trellis work and bunting surrounding the curtain provide more of a small-town 1912 feel (while the red hangings framing the sides of the set look like Communist Chinese banners, with a paltry few gold stars).

I'm not sure where the orchestra was, or even if it was live. It certainly wasn't visible in the orchestra pit. It sounded fine, through the technology of electronic amplification, and it matched the actors' actions perfectly, but the excitement of live music just wasn't there. Few children, no live band -- that doesn't work particularly well for "The Music Man."

Amplification didn't help the blend of the quartet either. It sounded best when its volume was turned way down to allow Marian Paroo to be heard singing "Will I Ever Tell You" in counterpoint to their "Lida Rose." The quartet's "Sincere" may have been cut in the performance I saw (I certainly don't remember it), and the program credits make it seem that the constituent parts of the quartet might have been rejiggered recently. They were fine, but not the standouts they can be in some productions.

Emily Stokes did a perfectly acceptable job as Marian Paroo. She sounded wonderful in her songs, but all those notes seemed to leave her just one note when it came to acting. There seemed to be more depth in some of the ensemble performances (such as Marcie Millard's delightful Ethel Toffelmeier) than in hers. Her performance reminded me of one in a good college production. Here, though, she was surrounded by professionals.

Choreography, by Riccardo Aponte, hit all the expected high points without being too predictable. While the game of pool is demonized in "Ya Got Trouble," I'm not sure that high kicks resulting in broken pool sticks provided much of a warm and fuzzy feeling. I've got to give it points for originality, though, and the show overall had neither enough originality nor enough of a cookie-cutter "let's replicate the movie" mentality to make it fully satisfying. It's a perfectly adequate production, but Atlanta Lyric Theatre has done better in the past and will undoubtedly do better in the future. [POST A COMMENT REGARDING THIS REVIEW]
Return to River City
by Dedalus
Thursday, September 30, 2010
3.5
For the second time in less than two months, I ventured forth to the Iowa-stubborn town of River City and the adventures of one Greg … um ... Harold Hill, con man extraordinaire and music man wannabe. As before, the trip was a pleasant wallow in Americana, a well-designed and (for the most part) well-performed window into the Heartland of the dawning twentieth century. And, once again, I left thinking, nice, but this is what the Tony Awards thought was better than “West Side Story?” Once again, I was reminded that, even in a production as energetic as this, there was something undefined that just failed to capture my rapture.

If you didn’t know, “The Music Man” follows the exploits of “Professor” Harold Hill as he exploits small-town America with the promise of a boys’ band. In the process, he changes the lives of everyone, and “gets his foot caught in the door” of the comely and winsome Marian Paroo, town librarian and music teacher.

Let’s start with the premise. Yes, “Professor” Hill doesn’t know a lick about music and will never be able to create the band he has promised. But, is he really “conning” anyone when they get the instruments and uniforms they have paid for? Has he charged a red cent for any undelivered lessons? No! As cons go, this one is fairly innocuous and almost victimless.

Let’s continue with the contrivances. Out of all the rinky-dink towns in Iowa, isn’t it just a tad convenient that this one (chosen semi-randomly) just happens to include an old friend of Hill’s. Isn’t it a tad convenient that the squabbling school board just happens to have voices that blend in perfect Barbershop Quartet harmony (in this case, almost perfect – the one less-than-marvelous performance was from an off-key member of the quartet who here shall remain unidentified)? Isn’t the animosity of Charlie the Anvil Salesman just a tad over-the-top and weakly motivated? And, for the record, just what is the economic basis for River City’s existence? There’s no apparent industry or agriculture and an apparent lack of a river for transport of goods. Of course, if the show were really compelling, this last quibble would never even occur to the standard toe-tapping audience member. Just to drowsy curmudgeons and picky picky nay-sayers.

Okay, why is this show, on stage, so blah for me? I certainly enjoy watching the movie (on occasion). Was Robert Preston that memorable? Here, Alan Kilpatrick is an energetic and talented Harold Hill, but I found him a tad bland in the charisma department. His “spellbinding” charm wasn’t exactly obvious (from my vantage point in the Strand balcony, at least), which made for an emotional gap in the center of the story for me. On the other hand, Emily Stokes’ Marian was an attractive full-voiced creation that I missed every time she left the stage. Her solos were the musical highlights of the show for me. As to the many and various supporting players, all did nice ensemble work, created the expected characters with skill, but never really showed me anything new or memorable.

And maybe that’s one of my problems with this show. There is very little that can be done with it that hasn’t been done before. All productions I have seen on stage offered nothing that wasn’t in the movie version, nothing that made the return to River City really worth the trip.

Here we have a fine cast in fine voice with fine characterizations finely staged and finely music-directed. We have an excellent set design that created many many locations with a minimum of scene-change fuss. We have beautifully rendered period costumes that evoke the period. We have the stick-in-the-memory Meredith Willson score that even now marches joyfully through my head. We have some marvelous choreography by the insanely talented Ricardo Aponte (“Shipoopi” being the expected standout). We have plenty to enjoy, and last night’s audience had a heckuva good time, obviously a better time than I had.

So, maybe the problem here is my own expectations. Maybe even a very well done “Music Man” (as this production is) will leave me with “Been There Seen That” feeling. Maybe I’ve just seen too many productions of this show in too short a period of time. Maybe I just feel a little bit cheated by that unfulfilled promise of “Seventy-Six Trombones” leading a big parade. Maybe the magical ending of the movie forever spoils the more restrained ending of the original stage version.

Whatever the reason, although I could find very little to criticize in this production, I could also find very little that felt new or exciting. And for an oft-performed show like this one, maybe that’s why there’s so much Trouble in River City (at least for me).

-- Brad Rudy (BKRudy@aol.com)

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