By Sharon Falduto
Washington - My oldest girl fell in love with The Music Man when she sang parts from the show in her 3rd grade music class. Later that year, we visited the Meredith Willson Museum and Boyhood Home in Mason City and her love for the show grew. So when the opportunity arose to see it at Washington Community Theatre, she—and my other two children—begged me to review the show.
It’s a story of huckster Harold Hill, a traveling con of a salesman whose current line is selling musical instruments, uniforms, and instruction for the original boy band… a marching band. Unfortunately, he can’t actually play a single note, so he has to spend the show keeping the town off kilter so they won’t bother to look into his credentials. He keeps the disagreeable school board from digging too deeply by bringing out their inner barbershop quartet. He even distracts the mayor’s wife with the ladies’ dance society.
The toughest character to woo is Marian, the town librarian. Mackenzie Roth’s Marian was steadfastly aloof toward Harold, refusing to be drawn in by his charm. She is a lovely singer, plaintive when the part called for it, lively when necessary. I realize this may be an odd quibble, but for the part of Marian the Librarian, she was almost too pretty. I realize that this is a cliché, but maybe a pair of glasses would have helped her seem more… librarianish?
Steve Lockard’s Harold Hill wasn’t quite sleazy enough. He seemed too ‘nice Iowa boy’ and not enough ‘shady flim-flam man.’ He sang well, but his songs seemed to lack the oomph necessary to really convince these Iowa stubborn folk to see the error of their pool playing ways. Even “76 Trombones,” the musical’s usual show-stopping number, fell a bit flat.
The best performances in this show were the supporting actors. Doug McBride’s Mayor Shinn and Chrys Vest’s Mrs. Paroo were two of the most fun people to watch. Mrs. Paroo was extremely entertaining as she tried to get her daughter to at least act interested in a man, and Mayor Shinn’s malapropisms elicited a lot of laughs as he tried to expose Hill for the fraud that he was.
The Music Man is a fun show and one that we Iowans appreciate. Meredith Willson’s score pegs us perfectly with the song “Iowa Stubborn”: we can be cold as our falling thermometers in December when you ask about our weather in July! WCT wisely name-checked Washington during this song which always helps to get the home crowd excited. The crowd scenes filled the stage with color and movement. At times, however, some of the ensemble dancing was a little stiff. Perhaps now that opening night is under their belt, they’ll loosen up a little bit.
I was impressed by the touch of having children in costume hand out programs, and then even more impressed when we noticed that these same costumed children were actually in the show. Lots of kids filled out the boys band and the Wa Tan Ye Girls. All the costumes in the show were wonderful, truly reminiscent of small town Iowa 100 years ago.
It’s nice to have a show that all ages can enjoy, and this community of theater goers ranged in age from five on up. The audience provided a standing ovation at the end, and left hopefully with a lighter heart after having enjoyed the evening of theater.
"Music Man" runs through July 29, Monday through Saturday at 7:30 and Sunday at 2:30. Tickets are $15 ($5 for students).