Review: THE MUSIC MAN at Marriott Theatre, Lincolnshire IL

Production runs through June 2

By: Apr. 22, 2024
Review: THE MUSIC MAN at Marriott Theatre, Lincolnshire IL
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The newest production at Marriott Lincolnshire is Meredith Willson’s classic and beloved The Music Man. Director/choreographer Katie Spelman has stayed true to the script and has made the fictional town of River City – based on Willson’s hometown of Mason City, Iowa – come to life.

The story of the musical con artist Harold Hill is loosely based on an event that occurred in Mason City when Willson was about 11 or 12. In the script, Willson has written a note to any director that The Music Man is to be a Valentine and not a caricature of the citizens. At the end of this directive, he states the real small-town Iowans of 1912 did not think they were funny at all.

Ms. Spelman followed Mr. Willson’s request. In the title role is KJ Hippensteel. He doesn’t portray Hill as a con man to be hated but as a con man who knows how to play the game. The people of River City gravitate to him. The only citizen who doesn’t gravitate easily is the librarian/music teacher Miss Marian Paroo.

In her Marriott debut is soaring soprano Alexandra Silber. In this production, we see Marian as a more forward-thinking woman in 1912. There is no change in the script; it is the attitude Marian possesses. It is clear she gets this attitude from her widowed mother Mrs. Paroo (Janet Ulrich Brooks in another wonderful character portrayal). Marian is also very protective of her little brother Winthrop (Kai Edgar in an excellent performance).

Harold’s long-time partner in crime Marcellus Washburn (Michael Earvin Martin showcasing his musical and dancing artistry) is a current resident of River City. The citizens who also doubt Harold are Mayor Shinn (Alex Goodrich), his wife Eulalie (Melanie Loren in her Marriott debut), the school board members (barbershop quartet) comprised of Michael Potsie, Quinn Rigg, Matt Edmonds and Michael Mahler.

The choreography is joyful and the audience can feel that joy. Dancing up a storm is Sam Linda as Tommy Djilas, the leader of the youngsters. Mrs. Shinn and her cronies, Alma Hix, Maud Dunlop and Mrs. Squires (Lillian Castillo, Caron Buinis and Christine Mayland Perkins) are the artistic citizens and look for new ways to interpret arts.

These citizens care about each other. When they feel they might be threatened, they bond together and try to prevent anything harmful from happening. Harold grows closer to Winthrop and Marian realizes that Harold has helped Winthrop to get over the trauma of the loss of his father when Winthrop was 8. She also sees how the townspeople have changed since Harold’s arrival.

They are still stoic Iowans but they now see life with a little more color and music. Marian believes in Harold and that, in turn, makes him finally realize that belief in someone and/or an idea is what completes him.

This production is filled with light, color, and the music we all know. The orchestra, under the direction of Kevin Reeks, fills the theater with Willson’s memorable score including the band whistle which begins the overture. Clapping and foot tapping are expected. Raquel Adorno’s costumes are vibrant and show the style of 1912. Harold has a Fedora and yes, they were around in 1912.

The Music Man is a great family show. There is laughter and moments of tears. It’s not just a story of a con man and the people he interacts with. It’s about a community, families, and how love does change lives. There is trouble but then those 76 trombones come to town and there is love all around. Marriott has told the story just right. Enjoy. Meredith Willson would agree.


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