The Music Man, Meredith Wilson’s classic musical about a traveling salesman who sells boys’ bands, is the final show for the Jerry Herman Ring Theatre’s 2005-2006 season. Set in tiny River City, Iowa, in the early 1900s, Music Man is a fun-filled show with some of the most memorable musical numbers in history.
Songs like Ya Got Trouble, Seventy Six Trombones and Gary, Indiana, were executed deftly by the cast, supported by a live orchestra. The choreography to go along with the musical numbers was also masterful, with the cast taking full advantage of their theater-in-the-round setup.
From shortly after he stepped off the train, fast-talking salesman Professor Harold Hill (Joshua Henry) kicks up a storm in River City. He stirs up scandal with the seemingly harmless arrival of a pool table at the local billiard table in addition to setting up the mayor’s daughter, Zaneeta Shin (Kathryn Calogero), with ruffian Tommy Djilas (Brendan Maroney).
Hill’s efforts to bring a boy’s band to river are met with enthusiasm by many in the sleepy town, but librarian Marian Paroo (Andrea Pettigrove) has her doubts. After the instruments arrive, though, she sees how the town has awoken with joy and she has a change of heart, not only in her interest in the band, but with her feelings towards Hill as well.
Marian goes from being on the verge of outing Hill as a fraud to Mayor Shin (Nathan Shuster) to falling for Hill. This comes after several attempts by Hill to disarm, such as in Marian the Librarian. They both realize their feelings for each other, expressing their sentiments in Till There Was You.
From the opening train scene to the finale, the student cast gave it their all and it showed. The character of Marian was portrayed superbly by Pettigrove-and it was easy to judge from her earlier performance in Bat Boy that this role would fit her well. The same is true with Henry, who demonstrated his vocal and acting prowess in the first show of the season, Showtune.
Henry’s passion for the part was apparent throughout show and gave a commendable performance. Filling the shoes of Robert Preston, who starred in the original 1957 musical and 1962 film version, is no easy task, but Henry pulled off the role. He vibrantly danced and sang with passion, and the audience could see in his face how much he enjoyed the role.
Casting in general was very well done. The characters of Winthrop Paroo (Megan Walter) and Mrs. Paroo (Joline Mujica) were genuinely portrayed and well supported the lead actors. In spite of the gender and age difference, Walter, last seen in How I Learned to Drive, was a very believable Winthrop, capturing his moping and later ecstatic moods, as well as his lisp.
The other supporting members, approximately 15 citizens, were essential to the big dance numbers-all of which were performed skillfully. In the same vein, the dance scenes from ice cream sociable were most enjoyable, featuring bubbly Shipoopi.
Harmonizing throughout the show was the school board quartet, the members of which were on key all night. Every time they attempted to get Hill’s credentials, he somehow tricked them into breaking into songs, such as It’s You and Lida Rose.
As is such, The Music Man was brought back to life at the Ring in a manner that Meredith Wilson would take pride in, knowing the show was performed so well and true to the original.
Greg Linch can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.