THEATER REVIEW: ‘The Music Man’ @ Ohio Light Opera by Kelly Ferjutz

Through Fri 8/11

“Seventy-six trombones” must come close to being the most easily recognized song from the American lyric theater repertoire. No wonder. The show itself is a happy, foot-tapping glimpse of an earlier, more innocent time in the annals of our country. Set in 1912 in River City, Iowa, who among us hasn’t heard the tale of the con man and his lovely librarian? There’s a barbershop quartet, winsome children, a blustery mayor — lots of music and dancing — what more could anyone want?

From the rhythmic opening scene in the railway coach, to the rousing march that concludes the performance, composer Meredith Willson perfectly captures small-town America on the 4th of July. Stage director Ted Christopher organized his troops marvelously well, and in the performance I saw, portrayed the exuberant and convincing Harold Hill, who was easily able to convince the townsfolk to invest in a boys’ band to counter the unsavory atmosphere of a pool hall. Danielle Knox was everything one could want as the town librarian, skeptical at first, but then able to see beyond the bluster to the inner man.

The barbershop quartet was everything it should be, and the two-fers (one song sung over/under a different one at the same time, as in ‘”Lida Rose” and “Will I Ever Tell You?”) were nothing short of marvelous. In addition to the dual role of the director, the next generation of the Christopher acting family was onstage for this show: Madeleine as Amaryllis, Anna as Gracie Shinn, and 10-year old Bryson as Marian’s younger brother Winthrop. When he succeeded in his show-off song “Gary, Indiana,” the well-deserved ovation was the loudest I’ve heard there in the 14 years I’ve been attending.

Early on, we learn that “Professor” Hill travels the midwest selling band instruments and uniforms, but once he’s paid for these items, he tend to disappears. In River City, however, he runs into the town’s mayor in the person of Kyle Yampiro, who owns the local pool hall. His wife, Eulalie Mackencknie Shinn, was excellently performed by Yvonne Trobe, and their daughter Zaneeta by the fetching Olivia Doig. She is courted by the town’s bad boy, Tommy Djilas, a role perfectly suited to the dancing whiz Spencer Reese, who is also the choreographer for the show. Alexa Devlin was the genial Mrs. Paroo, mother of Marian, Amaryllis and Winthrop. Old enemies emerge, but are discouraged, and finally, the day comes to an end, with Harold and Marian discovering their love for each other. Even the mayor is happy!

Conducted by J. Lynn Thompson, the OLO orchestra did itself proud masquerading as a small-town band. Set design is by Justin Miller and, coupled with the lighting by Justin Gibson, could comprise a lesson on how to work with scrims and clever modular scenery which serves as various places, depending on placement. Costumes by Charlene Gross were simply gorgeous, not to mention colorful and appropriate, and I think any band member would go bananas over those band uniforms. Christopher Plummer did a great job with the sound design.

This reviewer found The Music Man to be the perfect ensemble performance — everything meshed as it should, with the fabulous music served above all.  If you like American musical theater, you should really not miss this production.

Call the ticket office at 330-263-2345 for tickets to The Music Man or the entire season, or go to ohiolightopera.org.

[Written by Kelly Ferjutz]

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