The Music Man - at the TI Playhouse
Is there Trouble in River City? Through August 20
WATERTOWN, New York (WWNY)
The Music Man at 1000 Islands Playhouse
Meredith Willson’s The Music Man has been part of American culture since it debuted on Broadway over 60 years ago. It has been revived on Broadway three times, in 1980, 2000 and presently it is running with Hugh Jackman and Sutton Foster in the leads. The current revival has been plagued by the pandemic which not only forced a delayed opening, but periodically forces the production to go dark. Imagine paying the upwards of $300 to see the mega stars involved only to open the program and see the little white paper telling you that a very talented understudy is on the boards for your performance.
No matter, because you can see a perfectly crisp and enjoyable production just across the border at 1000 Islands Playhouse in Gananoque. The musical opens with the fantastic, acoustic “Rock Island” which many consider the first rap song ever written. Willson wanted to break rules and bend barriers of musical theater writing, and this great song, set on a train in the early 20th century informs us that the composer was an innovator and hard worker.
Undoubtedly The Music Man is nostalgic, but that is part of its charm. For those who don’t know the story, meet Professor (a dubious title) Howard Hill; a charismatic, charming con-artist. He is both reviled and worshipped by his colleagues, some of whom condemn his amorality and others who envy his monetary success. He is in for the long con, ingratiating himself into small towns, illuminating the moral problems looming with the local youth and offering the expensive solution; a boy band, complete with instruments and elaborate costumes that parents pay for. Hill (David Leyshon) plans to abscond with the money before he conducts any parades or concerts for the new band. Hill has smooth sailing as the townspeople fall for him, one after another. Even the skeptic Mayor (David Talbort), eventually caves and believes Hill is sincere. However, one person who doesn’t fall for Hill so quickly, is savvy, intelligent Librarian and Music teacher, Marian Paroo (Kate Blackburn). But fighting her aversion to Hill becomes harder and harder the more she gets to know him.
Blacbkburn and Leyshon both have terrific singing voices and complement each other well. Talented director Stephanie Graham has done amazing things with the staging. The production both feels big and intimate at the same time. Especially impressive is the children’s ensemble. Their enthusiasm and professionalism are terrific. They are a blast to watch.
Design elements are on point. I especially loved Brandon Kleiman’s set design. There is something beautiful and soothing about its simplicity, yet functionality. When it comes right down to it, that is what The Music Man brings to us all, comfort, joy, and plain old-fashioned fun. Once again, the 1000 Islands Playhouse delivers. There may be trouble in River City but there is harmony at The Springer Theater on the glorious St. Lawrence River.
Playing through August 20
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