Reviewed by Tony Annicone
Bill Hanney’s Theatre by the Sea’s second show of their 84th season is “The Music Man” by Meredith Willson. This musical first opened on Broadway on December 19, 1957 and ran for 1375 performances. Robert Preston played the leading role of Harold Hill both onstage and in the 1962 film version. The show is set in Iowa in 1912 and is the story of the fast talking Harold Hill who cons the good citizens of River City into buying musical instruments and band uniforms by promising to create a boy’s band in the town.
Not knowing a trumpet from a trombone, Hill expects to skip town with cash in hand, only to be caught up in the arms of the beautiful Marian Paroo, the librarian who transforms him into a reformed rogue and a respectable citizen by show’s end. Director/choreographer Richard Sabellico returns in triumph to direct this show once again at Theatre by the Sea. He last directed it in 1991 with Tony Award winning actor Michael McGrath as Harold Hill. Richard and musical director Eddie Guttman obtain stellar performances from the multitalented cast members. They capture your hearts with their high spirited, energetic and exuberant version which wins them a spontaneous standing ovation at the close of this heartwarming family friendly musical masterpiece.
Richard not only blocks the show marvelously but also supplies the show stopping dance numbers, too. Some of his dances include the Charleston, soft shoe, marching, the hilarious Grecian Urn segment especially impressive are “”76 Trombones”, “Shippopi” and “Marian, the Librarian.” Not only is the orchestra terrific under Eddie’s direction but the annunciation of the lyrics is so clear you can understand every lyric wonderfully. The splendid sets are by Kyle Dixon while the multitude of gorgeous costumes is by Jeff Hendry. Leading this talented cast is Jason Ostrowski as Harold Hill. He has a superb singing voice. He goes from a brash uncaring cad to a remorseful person when confronted by a small boy whose life he changed for the better. Jason cons the town into his way of thinking with his “Trouble” number when he convinces them of the evilness of pool and puts the finishing touches to his con with “76 Trombones” and I loved the reversible suit jacket and band leader jacket. Jason and the cast stop the show with the stunning “76 Trombone” number with an exuberant dance that leaves the audience cheering in the aisles. Another standout number is “Marian” with the kids and Jason doing some spectacular dance moves. Another comic number is “Sadder But Wiser Girl” with Marcellus but his true acting test occurs with the reprise of “Till There Was You” when Harold realizes that he really loves Marian after all. He tugs at your heartstrings as he reforms his wayward behavior at last. He looks a lot like Jerry Van Dyke. I last reviewed Jason in “Hello, Dolly” at Theatre by the Sea back in 2010.
Tiffan Borelli also shines as Marian with her superb soprano voice. Her acting is impeccable. Marian’s distrust of Harold is shown strongly at first but she is finally swayed when Harold brings her extremely shy brother, Winthrop out of his shell. Marian eventually falls for him and decides to keep his secret. Tiffan’s fabulous voice soars off the charts up to a high A in “My White Knight” where she yearns to find a down to earth man to love. She also is brilliant in “Goodnight My Someone” where she wishes to find someone to love, “Will I Ever Tell You?” where she yearns to tell Harold she loves in (done in counterpoint with the quartet’s “Lida Rose”) and the very poignant “Till There Was You” where she confesses her love to Harold at last. Tiffan displays her dancing skills in “Marian” and “Shipoopi.” Jason and Tiffan have a lot of chemistry with each other in these roles.
Michael Perrie Jr. plays Harold’s fellow conman, Marcellus wonderfully. He makes his comic lines hit pay dirt and leads the chorus in “Shipoopi”, one of the big dance numbers. He also plays banjo for this number. Michael also sings “Sadder But Wiser Girl” with Jason. I last reviewed him in “Buddy Holly” last year. Mayor Shinn is well played by Tom Gleadow. As Mayor Shinn, he mangles the English language constantly, winning many laughs along the way. His malapropisms are priceless as are he slow burns at the behavior of his wife and his fellow cohorts. Lorinda Lisitza as Eulalie steals many a scene with her outrageous behavior. She and her gaggle of town gossips stop the show with laughter in “Pickalittle” song and the Grecian Urn sequence has to be seen to be believed. Lorinda is hilarious in this role.
One of the best barbershop quartets can be found in this version with Mike Maino, Joe Connelly, Jamie Jones and Bob O’Connell. They display their voices in “Sincere”, “Goodnight Ladies”, “Lida Rose” and “It’s You”, receiving thunderous applause after each and every one of them. Maria Day shines as Mrs. Paroo with her lilting Irish brogue and her sage advice to her daughter on her love life. She plays the doting mother to the hilt while speaking her mind but also displaying the warmth and caring for both her children. Maria shows off her powerful voice in “Piano Lesson” and “Gary, Indiana.” Bobbie Celine Doherty excellently plays Amarylis who has a crush on Winthrop. She hits the wrong note on purpose during “Piano Lesson” and displays a strong singing voice in “Goodnight My Someone.” She steals many a scene with her astounding stage presence. Her rifle scene with Eulalie is hilarious. I last reviewed her as Tootie in “Meet Me in St. Louis” back in 2014. One of the biggest scene stealers is Patrick Conaway as Winthrop. He captures the hearts of the audience at his sympathetic portrayal of this shy, lisping boy who makes a transformation during the show. Patrick’s powerful voice sells “Wells Fargo Wagon” segment when he shows a child’s exuberance at receiving his trumpet and his solo “Gary, Indiana” is also splendid. The confrontation scene with Harold is a standout moment in the show when he demands to know if he is a liar and crook. The trouble making Tommy who dances up a storm is wonderfully played by Taylor Simmons while Chelsea Goen plays his girl friend, Zaneeta who is the Mayor and Eulalie’s daughter. Playing the villain Charlie Cowell is Dan Prior who wants Harold tarred and feathered but is defeated by the boys band at the end of the show. I last reviewed Dan as Fyedka in “Fiddler” last December. Kudos to the singing and dancing chorus in this musical. I have many happy memories of this show having played a member of the boy’s band back in high school. Once again owner and producer Bill Hanney spares no expense in bringing the best entertainment to RI audiences these past 11 years. “The Music Man” is one more feather in his cap. So be sure to run not walk to the box office before this blockbuster musical leaves Theatre by the Sea on July 15. Tell them Tony sent you.
THE MUSIC MAN (21 June to 15 July)
Theatre by the Sea, 364 Cards Pond Road, Matunuck, RI
1(401)782-8587 or www.theatrebythesea.com