BWW Review: Join the Parade that is THE MUSIC MAN at Cape Playhouse
Meredith Willson's six-time, Tony Award-winning musical The Music Man has arrived at the Cape Playhouse, a wonderful professional theater one can visit to see Broadway-quality productions right in the heart of Dennis Village, and has invited each and every one of us to join this miraculous parade that is considered "America's favorite family musical."
With The Music Man has Willson truly written the ideal musical in which it is difficult to find fault: from its eclectic mix of songs which hold a palpable and constant momentum, with melodies that invoke as many feelings as there are townspeople who maintain their infamous Iowa stubbornness, to the mesmerizing costumes and characters with soaring voices which, when combined, so easily transport the audience to the conniving yet entertaining world of Professor Harold Hill, this musical is nothing short of a wonder.
Currently being performed at the Cape Playhouse, it is brought to a Cape Cod audience with no less vitality than that of a full-fledged parade, arriving in town to be marveled at with the utmost delight.
With book, music and lyrics by Willson, the original Broadway production produced by Kermit Bloomgarden and under the direction of the amazing James Brennan, The Music Man now becomes part of the Cape Playhouse's 90th Season, further proving why Cape Cod is the ideal place to be this summer for anyone who wants to enjoy a truly stellar theatrical performance. Although most of the performers are professional actors, there is also some local talent interspersed throughout the cast that add to the magic of this performance. And what a performance it is! Not only due to its quality, but a cast of over thirty makes this the largest production ever to play at The Playhouse.
There is so much about The Music Man that lends itself to community theaters and professional venues alike: from the need of a large ensemble of [typically] exuberant townspeople to that of graceful choreography that showcases the talents of many involved with the show; to making an entire cast look striking in early twentieth-century attire to the miraculous way an audience can fall into the trap of Professor Harold Hill, all the while keeping close at hand the knowledge of why he is truly in River City, there is just so much to take in with such a production as this. Willson's shows are generally "big" in their presentation: take Here's Love for example in which, like The Music Man, there is always some sort of group celebration going on to project the utmost excitement to be had, even if the rest of the plot is leading to a less innocent elsewhere. It is as though there is such security to be had in large, triumphant numbers that allow these shows to not simply shine, but almost beam a gleeful spirit onto an audience, and this is what makes his shows so wonderful to behold.
With The Music Man, it is not an easy task to take that grandiose quality and combine it with all other components to bring forth the already inherent beauty this show possesses, and to do so in a way that is particularly memorable is more so the challenging feat. The Cape Playhouse has gathered a wonderful cast and creative team to make this production nothing less than an obvious choice for something extraordinary.
The Music Man tells the story of Professor Harold Hill, a fast-talking swindler who arrives in the small town of River City, Iowa with the intent of selling his marching band idea to the mean-spirited, rigid townspeople who, as he's heard, would never buy into such a ploy. He accept the challenge and tries to recruit the River City children into his band by promoting his new "think system" to hide his true lack of any musical knowledge and swindle the people for all the money he can before leaving. His other desired conquest is Ms. Marian Paroo, the unmarried town librarian who believes in order and strictness, and who does not take very kindly to this man's pursuit...that is, until they begin to fall for each other. With this double agenda does Hill alter the structure of River City in a way that, once the townspeople see through their anger, must acknowledge as a touching and fortunate truth. Songs such as "Goodnight My Someone," "Seventy-Six Trombones," "Ya Got Trouble" and "Rock Island" (a personal favorite) complete the beautiful story that is The Music Man, with timeless melodies that any individual of any age is bound to appreciate and enjoy.
The cast of this production is spectacular, and although not everyone who makes this show so magical can be mentioned here, please know that this show would not be what it is without you! There is such camaraderie on that stage, with a clear dedication to the notion of "ensemble" that there is little an audience member can do but marvel at beauty of Brennan's direction. Special mention must go out to James Clow* as Harold Hill, Kaitlyn Davidson* as Marian Paroo, Brad Bellamy* as Mayor Shinn (absolutely hilarious), Ann Arvia* as Mrs. Paroo, Isabella Moistoso as Amaryllis, Rhyees Stimp as Winthrop Paroo, Barbara Tirrell* as Eulalie Mackecknie Shinn and Kristen Smith Davis* as Zaneeta Shinn. Much praise to the rest of the cast which includes Leslie Alexander*, Evan Autio*, Jonathan Brody*, Carl Clemons-Hopkins*, Jaqueline Coughlin, Jack Doyle*, Shinnerrie Jackson*, Patrick Moran*, William Mulligan*, Justin Robertson*, Deborah Jean Templin*, Nick Cayce, Caleb Cotoia, Peter Cotoia, Tom Ferguson, Julien Lajoie, Maryella Maloney, Sarah Kay Marchetti*, Paige Martino, Julian Morris, Kimberlee D. Murray, Maurice Sims, Sam Skalbeck, Avery Stump and Eowyn Youn.
Special mention must also be given to those who work behind the scenes to make this such a spectacular performance, and I would like to first mention those responsible for the brilliant choreography this production boasts. I was never so taken by not only how agilely and fluidly the dancers portrayed the exuberance each of this musical's dance numbers has to offer, but watching the ensemble dance almost effortlessly provided one of those rare "wow" moments not everyone has the chance to experience when attending a show. Numbers like "Shipoopi" and "Seven-Six Trombones" are [musically] already true show stoppers in themselves, but when a production has wonderful dancers who exude absurd amounts of energy while performing quite impressive choreography (children are not excluded from this, which I can image would make this such a fantastic learning experience for one and all), that solidified itself as quite a memorable aspect of this show. Choreographer Peggy Hickey's work in Music Man is truly worth seeing the show on its own.
The set is also beautiful with at times whimsical sets and structures to create a town that is very clearly a quaint, secluded microcosm of its own, from the bookcases in the library to the backdrop of the town. The Paroo house in particular is quite impressive, and how how this all fits in the wings is amazing; kudos to Scenic Designer Michael Anania. Costume Designer Gail Baldoni also does a wonderful job bringing an array of colors to the stage with some wonderful dress choices for the ladies, in particular, and it was wonderful to watch them displayed on the dancers as they twirled around the stage.
Last but not least, Music Director Don Kot and the entire orchestra gave such resonance to Willson's iconic and beautiful music, and much praise must be directed their way for an equally stellar performance.
The Music Man began performances at the Academy Playhouse (located at 820 Main St in Dennis Village) on July 5th and will continue thru July 23rd - a limited three-week engagement. Performances are Monday thru Wednesday evenings at 7:30 p.m., Thursday thru Saturday evenings at 8:00 p.m., with 2:00 p.m. matinees on both Wednesdays and Thursdays and Saturdays at 4:00 p.m. Tickets begin at $35 and may be purchased by calling the box office at (508)385.3911, buying them in person or by visiting http://capeplayhouse.com. Please join The Playhouse for its wonderful production of The Music Man, to be followed by the comedic The May Queen.
Enjoy the show!
*Member of Actors' Equity Association
Photo Credit: Mimi de Quesada