Has The Music Man, which opened Tuesday night at the Muny, become America’s favorite musical? Possibly. Certainly it must be among the most-performed, including a certain small-town Missouri high school in 1963, where I first saw it. But the score remains fresh and charming, and the zeal and innocence still capture us.
This is a slightly different Music Man, the edges softer, the colors (literally) muted. Foster Sutton’s Harold Hill, the con man band director, is more of a charmer and less a brassy high stepper than some. Marian, the librarian, too, Elena Shaddow is quieter, soft rather than crisp, feeling young enough that it’s not difficult to see her as young Winthrop’s older sister rather than old enough to be his mother. (And how many people have wondered about that particular question?) Shaddow’s in great voice with Marian’s two signature songs, “Goodnight, My Someone” and “Til There Was You.”
This is a show that’s rife with fun secondary characters, like the librarian’s zesty mother, Liz McCarthy, and that kid brother Winthrop, played by Owen Hanford, a charmer. Marcellus Washburn, Harold, or as Marcellus knows him, Greg’s former and now current partner in crime, is Todd Buonopane, earnest and smarter than he’s sometimes played. Mayor Shinn, the love child of the Reverend Mr. Spooner and Mrs. Malaprop, Mark Linn-Baker, delivers those lines with remarkable, yea, even blessed gravity. Nancy Anderson, River City’s first lady, the memorably-named Eulalie Mackecknie Shinn, carries her duties with uncommon grace. And the school board, the quartet that does another of the show’s signature numbers, “Lida Rose”, are in good form, J.D. Daw, Adam Halpin, Ben Nordstrom and Joseph Torello.
If the sharp edges have been smoothed a little, the choreography, by Chris Bailey, has been cranked up, some fine work, more than just “Shipoopi”, which is always a big deal. It’s a remarkable set from Michael Schweikardt, double-sided on the stage’s turntable, allowing for even more latitude in choreography as the cast marches out one door and onto the other side, where they wind their way up some stairs, through another door and end up where they started.
All this may be director Rob Ruggerio’s way of making the arrival of the band uniforms a symbol of what Hill does to – and for – the town. I didn’t count the trombones in the Cinemascope-width finale but I think it’s probably safe to say there were more than 75.
Still fun, and nice to have a classic thought about and re-presented in a slightly different way. Is it possible to see this show and not tap your foot?
The Music Man
through July 11