Molly Smith Helms THE MUSIC MAN at Arena Stage, 5/11-7/22
Crafty con-man Harold Hill brings mischief and the magic of music to Arena Stage at the Mead Center for American Theater this spring in Meredith Willson's The Music Man. This five-time Tony Award-winning musical is directed by Artistic Director Molly Smith, whose cultural dynamism made Oklahoma! a record-breaking audience favorite last season. With choreography by Parker Esse and music direction by Lawrence Goldberg, The Music Man runs May 11-July 22, 2012 in the Fichandler Stage, with all performances in May already sold out.
The Music Man stars Kate Baldwin (Tony Award nominee for Broadway's Finian's Rainbow) as Marian the librarian and Burke Moses (original Gaston in Broadway's Beauty and the Beast) as Harold Hill, along with D.C.-area natives John Lescault (Signature's Brother Russia) as Mayor Shinn, Donna Migliaccio (Broadway's Ragtime) as Mrs. Paroo and Nehal Joshi (Ali Hakim in Arena's Oklahoma!) as Marcellus Washburn. Making their Arena Stage debuts are Barbara Tirrell (national tour of Wicked) as Eulalie Mackecknie Shinn, with newcomers Will Burton as Tommy Djilas and Juliane Godfrey as Zaneeta Shinn, among others.
"I was born in a small town. Some of the most narrow-minded people come from small towns and some of the most visionary," says Smith. "In The Music Man, Willson has captured the essence of a small town in the middle of America. Our world for The Music Man is set in a vision of America's past with echoes of today."
She continues, "For many Americans, gold-standard musicals like The Music Man are their first exposure to live theater, and this production may be the first time that many families experience this great American musical. There is an essential optimism, a kinetic energy and a spirit in the form that reminds us of something central about America at its best."
Choreographer Parker Esse returns for his 10th production at Arena Stage and second as choreographer after last working with Smith on Oklahoma!, for which he won a Helen Hayes Award. Esse's choreography highlights the blossoming of self-awareness and young love explored by the youth in River City as their small town pulses with newfound rhythms. Music director Lawrence Goldberg, who makes his Arena Stage debut and was most recently on Broadway with the revival of How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying, leads 15 musicians in the orchestra.
Award-winning environmental set designer Eugene Lee also returns after collaborating with Smith on Oklahoma! to create a world in the round, with much of the set taking place in a gymnasium-type town hall. The citizens of River City will be transformed by costume designer Judith Bowden, who worked with Smith on My Fair Lady at the Shaw Festival, and lighting designer Dawn Chiang, who recently designed The Great Gatsby for Arizona Theatre Company and is a longtime company member at Oregon Shakespeare Festival.
In The Music Man, for Harold Hill, there's a sucker born every minute. Sooner or later, this smooth-talking "Professor" has everyone eating out of the palm of his hand – and the citizens of River City, IA are his latest mark. When local librarian Marian Paroo tries to expose him as a swindler, Hill sets out to win her heart and save his hide. Will the town get wise to Hill before he steals their savings or will Marian make an honest man out of him? This summer's toe-tapping production, featuring all-time favorites "Ya Got Trouble," "Goodnight Ladies," "Shipoopi," and "76 Trombones," will put a spring in your step and a song in your heart.
Meredith Willson (Book, Music, Lyrics; 1902-84) was born in Mason City, Iowa. He learned to play flute and left to study at Damrosch Institute (later Juilliard). He became principal flutist and piccolo player with John Philip Sousa's Band and, later, first flutist with the New York Philharmonic. As NBC's West Coast musical director, his radio programs included The Big Show, starring Tallulah Bankhead, for which he wrote the hit "May the Lord Bless and Keep You." He composed film scores for The Great Dictator and The Little Foxes, as well as symphonic, band and choral works. He wrote three Broadway musicals: The Music Man, The Unsinkable Molly Brown and Here's Love. His published works include the memoir But He Doesn't Know the Territory.
Molly Smith (Director) has been instrumental in leading the reinvention of Arena Stage, focusing on the creation of the new Mead Center for American Theater as well as major artistic changes. Arena Stage is a center for the production, presentation, development and study of American theater. Molly has been a leader in new play development for 30 years while at Arena Stage and at Perseverance Theatre in Alaska, the theater she founded and led for 19 years. She has commissioned or championed numerous world premieres, some of which she has directed, including Paula Vogel's How I Learned to Drive and Sarah Ruhl's Passion Play. Molly's directorial work has also been seen at the Shaw Festival, Berkeley Repertory Theatre, Trinity Repertory Company, Tarragon Theatre, and Centaur Theatre.
Arena Stage at the Mead Center for American Theater is a national center dedicated to the production, presentation, development and study of American theater. Under the leadership of Artistic Director Molly Smith and Executive Producer Edgar Dobie, Arena Stage is the largest company in the country dedicated to American plays and playwrights. Arena Stage produces huge plays of all that is passionate, exuberant, profound, deep and dangerous in the American spirit, and presents diverse and ground-breaking work from some of the best artists around the country. Arena Stage is committed to commissioning and developing new plays through the American Voices New Play Institute. Now in its sixth decade, Arena Stage serves a diverse annual audience of more than 300,000. arenastage.org