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BWW Review: THE MUSIC MAN at The Long Center - 76 Stars!!!

BWW Review: THE MUSIC MAN at The Long Center - 76 Stars!!!

There is trouble in River City "I-oh-way" (Iowa) circa 1916 and that trouble is a complacency so intense that the citizens are prone to repeating malicious gossip. Petty judgements have begun to erode the very fabric of this idyllic town threatening to destroy its "Mark Twain meets Normal Rockwell" perfection.

Enter confidence man 'Professor' Harold Hill of Gary, Indiana. Hill makes his living as a traveling salesman peddling non-existent dreams to gullible rubes. Hill convinces the town folk that he can prevent the certain ruin of their children by forming a boy's brass band. The band business will keep the children too busy to be tempted by a newly acquired pool table that will surely lead to a life of perdition.

It seems only fitting then that a man of Hill's refined tastes could also face a temptation of his own in the guise of the beautiful town librarian, Marian. After all, she reads books, books are filled with ideas, and ideas can lead to a life of sin as well. Or can they?

Donelvan Thigpen is a natural as Harold Hill. He has that suave persona the role requires and the chops needed to carry it well. Mariel Ardila is equally wonderful as Marian, a role that is just as demanding.

In addition to her library work and giving piano lessons, Marian cares for her mother, Mrs. Paroo, and little brother Winthrop. Abigail Holtfort has some show-stealer moments as Mrs. Paroo and Reilly Favacho delivers a positively delightful Winthrop.

David Pena relishes his role as Marcellus Washburn as do Nathan Dahill and Grace Stephens as the Mayor and Eulalie Shinn. These character roles provide adequate comic-relief to a skeletal and dated book.

Director Ginger Morris has a huge dream cast of triple-threat talent with which to work and manages to showcase every performer. The choreography (provided by Ginger Morris, Vincent Hooper and Hanna McEvilly) is simply wonderful and the dance sequences move the story forward with seamless transitions.

The music is superb as is the sound and lighting and the set provides the performing artists with plenty of elevations and ample room even with so large a cast.

The costumes are absolutely breathtaking, stunning, elegant. The audience could get 'drunk and disorderly' on the beauty of designer Teresa Carson's gorgeous, sumptuous costuming. What an absolute treat it is for performers to get to wear such finely-built creations that fit like a glove and underscore their characters perfectly. There is no MGM movie musical that could upstage this massive wardrobe. They are splendid.

This is just an all-around fine production. I watched each moment with my old man's hawk-eye and I caught not one little hitch. When directors tell actors that "If you can see the audience they can see you", they had best heed this good advice. Old 'show trash' like me can spot a hesitation or a flubbed line or really any imperfection instantly.

And if that happens? Fine. That is just fine. Because live theatre is what we love. No one is perfect and if we wanted perfection we would only see movies and television. But no, that won't do, it isn't enough; we must have more, we must have live theatre. Nothing less will do.

And so, given that, when a production is so well produced that all the pieces fall in place it's just icing on the cake. It is miraculous, it is wondrous, and we are entertained. That is also what it is all about and that is what makes this production of The Music Man in a word, sublime. Meredith Willson would be so very, very pleased.

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From This Author Jesse Griffith