American musical theatre doesn’t get any more old-fashioned than it does with The Music Man. Broadway is currently hosting a revival of Meredith Willson’s melodic tale of con man Harold Hill and Marian the Librarian but North Bay audiences looking to travel back to turn-of-the-century River City, Iowa need only head to Rohnert Park. The Spreckels Performing Arts Center is hosting a production through October 2.
Con man “Professor” Harold Hill (Benjamin Ball) barely escapes a train full of angry traveling salesman whose reputations he has sullied with a variety of scams and swindles. He finds himself in River City, IA where the residents are ripe for the picking with his latest confidence game of forming a town band. Prim librarian Marian Paroo (Julianne Bretan) sees through him, but when she witnesses the positive changes brought about by Hill’s machinations in her shy and withdrawn little brother Winthrop (Dakota Dwyer), she starts to see Hill in a different light. Will it be tar and feathers for one or wedding bells for two?
It’s tough not to smile through the big slice of Americana served up here by director Michael Ross. The show is bright, the score is bouncy, the costumes are colorful, and the cast is a great mix of North Bay veterans and energetic young performers.
Marian is the perfect role for Bretan and she brings one of the Bay Area’s best voices back to the Spreckels stage. Ball makes for a solid Hill in his North Bay debut, though I do wish he brought a little bit more bombast to the character.
Veteran performers like Jill Wagoner (Marian’s mother) and Mike Schaeffer (Mayor Shinn) nicely fill out supporting roles, and there’s a great quartet (Michael Arbitter, Sean O’Brien, Tim Setzer, Cordell Wessellink) singing harmony throughout the show.
A multi-generational ensemble of performers bring energetic support to the show that’s especially entertaining in the larger, Bridget Codoni-choreographed musical numbers.
Janis Dunson Wilson expertly leads the live orchestra through such classics as “Ya Got Trouble”, “Wells Fargo Wagon”, “Til There Was You”, and, of course, “76 Trombones”.
There’s an on-going debate over whether shows like The Music Man and their portraits of idyllic, small-town America are relevant in today’s world. There’s little debate, though, that at its heart, it is a very entertaining show.
‘The Music Man’ runs through October 2 in the Codding Theatre at Spreckels Performing Arts Center, 5409 Snyder Lane, Rohnert Park. Thurs-Sat, 7:30pm; Sun, 2pm. $12 – $36. 707.588.3400. spreckelsonline.com
Photos by Jeff Thomas
This review originally appeared in an edited version in the North Bay Bohemian.