“BUT YOU GOTTA KNOW THE TERRITORY!”
There is nothing quite like a full-scale, Chicago-style production of Meredith Willson’s “The Music Man,” and no better example of just how charming and uproariously funny it can be than the Mary Zimmerman-directed revival that opened at Goodman Theatre Monday night for a summertime run. It’s rousing fare for the whole family with gorgeous Ana Kuzmanic costumes, breathtaking Dan Ostling landscapes, and toe-tapping melodies under the musical direction of Jermaine Hill and Denis Jones choreography. The multi-talented company numbers nearly 30 and delivers performances full of homespun humor in the sixteenth production of Zimmerman’s 25-year career with the Goodman.
Willson’s iconic score includes “Trouble,” “Lida Rose,” “Till There Was You,” “Shipoopi,” and “Seventy-Six Trombones.” It’s a show that is sweet, nostalgic and takes you to a place where love conquers all.
Zimmerman has assembled a top-flight company led by Geoff Packard as Harold Hill and Monica West as Marian Paroo. Standout featured performances abound with Heidi Kettenring (Eulalie Mackecknie Shinn), Ron E. Rains (Mayor Shinn), and Jonathan Butler-Duplessis (Marcellus Washburn). The power-packed array of supporting actors, singers and dancers playing multiple roles includes Matt Crowle’s hilarious turn as Charlie Cowell, the anvil salesman and a clever dance sequence during the Butler-Duplessis-led showstopper “Shipoopi.” The “Pick-a-Little Ladies”—Kettenring, Nicole Michelle Haskins (Alma Hix), Lillian Castillo (Ethel Toffelmier), Danielle Davis (Mrs. Squires), and Bri Sudia (Maud Dunlop)—are superb, as are Mary Ernster (Mrs. Paroo), Carter Graf (Winthrop) and Sophie Ackerman (Amaryllis). The Quartet of Christopher Kale Jones, Jonathan Schwart, Jeremy Peter Johnson and James Konicek is in perfect pitch, while the little love story between Tommy (Tommy Rivera-Vega) and Zaneeta (Kelly Felthous), the Mayor’s daughter, fits right in with the merriment embodied in the rest of the terrific ensemble.
Revivals on the scale of the Goodman’s “The Music Man” only come around once in a while. When they do, a new generation of actors and audience members have the opportunity to rediscover the work. The magical transformation of a sleepy Iowa town of the early 20th century, ripe for the kind of musical spell that a flim-flam man named Harold Hill is about to impart with the dream of a band, uniforms and the promise of an escape from the trouble in River City is a fanciful theme you can believe in. Rooted in Willson’s own Mason City, Iowa experiences, the character of Harold Hill may not be the typical role-model for youth of the day, but his enthusiasm, charm and zest for life is infectious, qualities that eventually allow Hill to see the light and overcome his flawed existence.
And even if the River City band doesn’t sound all that good—who knew music requires more than the “Think System”?—the youngsters have heart and look great in their uniforms, and the combination makes believers out of everyone. In the end, every parent’s only real goal is that our children are happy, confident and successful in something that will help make them, and us, proud.
That is the beautiful simplicity of Willson’s message in “The Music Man.” Hill, a bit of a scheming scoundrel throughout who finally meets his match in the form of Marian, the kind-hearted-yet-timid, yearning-for-love librarian. With his foot stuck in the door, Harold Hill will take his lumps and change his ways, and Marian will find what she has been looking for. And there won’t be another anvil salesman to weigh them down for a long time, or at least until August 18, when the parade will march out of town.
THE MUSIC MAN
through August 18th
170 N Dearborn
For more reviews, visit: Theatre In Chicago