Reviewed by Tony Annicone
The opening show of Bill Hanney’s North Shore Music Theatre’s 62nd season is “The Music Man” by Meredith Willson. This musical first opened on Broadway on December 19, 1957 and ran for 1,375 performances. Robert Preston played the leading role of Harold Hill who cons the good citizens of River City, Iowa into buying musical instruments and band uniforms by promising to create a boy’s band in the town. Not knowing a clarinet from a saxophone, Hill expects to skip town with cash in hand, only to be caught by the arms of the beautiful Marian Paroo, the librarian, who transforms him into a reformed rouge and respectable citizen by the close of the show.
This fantastic musical is well directed by Bob Richard who chooses the most talented performers to fill each and every role, while his wife, Diane Laurenson supplies the choreography to capture the hearts of the audience. They both did the same tremendous job on the stunning “West Side Story” last season. Hard working musical director Milton Granger taught the cast the glorious melodies and harmonies of these well known songs. The trio delivers the goods with their talented cast in this exuberant rendition of this classical musical and they are rewarded with a spontaneous standing ovation at the curtain call.
Bob infuses his cast with high energy from start to finish from the youngest child to the oldest adult. He pays attention to every detail to make the show a success. Milton’s expert musical direction shines throughout the show especially in the group numbers and the barbershop quartet numbers where the exquisite soar. Diane brings out the best in the dance numbers of the cast especially in “76 Trombones”, “Marian, the Librarian” and “Shipoppi.” The multitude of gorgeous costumes are by . Leading this talented cast is Matt Loeher as Harold Hill. He returns in triumph to NSMT having played Don Lockwood in “Singing in the Rain” in 2006 and Cornelius in “Hello, Dolly” in 2012. He has a marvelous singing voice and is a terrific dancer, too. Matt goes from brash uncaring cad to a remorseful person when confronted by a small boy whose life he changed for the better. As Hill, he cons the town with his “Trouble” number and puts the finishing touches to his proposal with “76 Trombones” as Matt and the chorus stop the show with their unbelievable singing and dancing. He dances with the kids in “Marian, the Librarian” number. Matt tugs on your heartstrings in “Till Their Was You” reprise when he reforms his ways to be with the woman he loves. Siri Howard also shines as Marian with her phenomenal soprano voice. I last reviewed her at NSMT in “Les Miserables” as Cosette in 2014. Siri also displays Marian’s distrust of Harold at first but later when he brings her shy young brother, Winthrop out of his shell, she falls for him and keeps his secret to herself. Her lovely voice soars off the charts to a high A in “My White Knight” where she yearns to fall in love with a down to earth man, “Goodnight, My Someone” where she wishes to find someone to love, “Will I Ever Tell You” done in counterpoint with the quartet’s “Lida Rose” where she contemplates telling Harold she loves him and “Till There Was You” when she confesses her love to him at last. Siri displays her dancing chops in “Marian” and “Shipoopi” dance.
Harold’s fellow conman, Marcellus is excellently played by Brian Padgett. He makes all his comic lines count and displays his tenor voice in “Sadder But Wiser Girl” with Matt and his solo “Shipoopi” which turns into a huge dance number as well as in the chorus songs, too. Brian is a terrific dancer, too. Mayor Shinn is comically played by Brad Bellamy. He continually mangles the English language with his malapropisms. The superb comic actress Cheryl McMahon as Eulalie, steals many a scene in this show. She and her gaggle of gossips are a hoot in their “Pickalittle” number, Indian dance and the Grecian Urn scene, too. Philip Bryan, Matthew Chappell, J.D. Daw and Osborn Britt are the marvelous quartet who sing and stop the show with their four part harmony numbers including “Sincere”, “Goodnight Ladies”, “It’s You” and “Lida Rose”, winning thunderous applause after all of them. “It’s You” is performed as the women do their Grecian Urn dance to it with hilarity ensuing.
Ellen Peterson shines as Mrs. Paroo with a perfect Irish brogue. She plays the doting mother who isn’t afraid to speak her mind to her children but also shows the warmth towards them, too. Ellen displays her voice in “The Piano Lesson.” I reviewed her in this role back in for Reagle Music Theatre. Paige Martino who is 10 plays the young girl, Amaryllis who has crush on Winthrop. She hits the wrong note on the piano on purpose for “The Piano Lesson” and displays her voice in “Goodnight My Someone” with Siri. Ben Choi-Harris who is 9 years old tackles the huge role of Winthrop Paroo. He is one of the biggest scene stealers in this show. Ben captures the hearts of the audience as this shy, lisping boy who makes a transformation during the show. His powerful voice sells “Well Fargo Wagon” as he shows a child’s excitement at receiving his trumpet and in his big solo “Gary, Indiana” where he captures the exuberance of the song and harmonizes with his sister and mother. His acting chops come through in the confrontation scene with Harold when he asks him if he is a liar and a crook. His “Wells Fargo” solo brings tears to your eyes as you witness his transformation. Ben stepped into this role yesterday and delivers a superb performance as if the role was written for him. Davis Wayne plays the trouble making Tommy and does a marvelous job in his debut at North Shore as does Liesl Jaye who plays his girl friend, Zaneeta where they dance up a storm in their roles. So for a look back at America in 1912 in Iowa, be sure to catch the high energy rendition of this classic musical at North Shore Music Theatre. Run do not walk to the box office before the entire run is sold out. I have pleasant memories of this show, having played a member of the boy’s band back in high school.<P>
THE MUSIC MAN (6 to 18 June)
North Shore Music Theatre, 62 Dunham Road, Beverly, MA
1(978)232-7200 or www.nsmt.org