Ensemble Shines In Low Key “Music Man” At The Muny

music-76Hot, humid weather slowed things down for the opening night of “The Music Man” at the Muny but that didn’t stop the singers and dancers from pumping some much needed life into this production. A great supporting cast added to the effort to keep things from wilting. This is an all-American classic and the music alone can lift your spirits so, despite the humidity, the audience enjoyed the Meredith Willson score.

music-quartetThe cheers were long and loud for the delightful barbershop quartet as J.D. Daw, Adam Halpin, Joseph Torello and Ben Nordstrom blended beautifully with the classic “Lida Rose” and the rest of the melodic ditties when these sworn enemies constantly get distracted by Harold Hill’s music cues to elude their prying for his credentials. Veteran Broadway and film star, Mark Linn-Baker is a blusterous Mayor Shinn and Nancy Anderson is also wonderful as his bewildered wife, Eulalie Mackecknie Shinn.

Todd Buonopane shines as Harold Hill’s (or should we say, Greg’s) friend, Marcellus Washburn and leads the crowd in the rousing “Shipoopi” number. Local favorite, Michael James Reed, plays the thorn in Professor Hill’s side, Charlie Cowell- anvil salesman and Elizabeth McCarthy is a precious Mrs. Paroo. Owen Hanford charms as Marian’s brother, Winthrop and Halli Toland as Zaneeta and Colby Dezelick as Tommy Djilas are a great pair.

music-troubleWhat slows the show down are the two leads- Hunter Foster as Harold Hill and Elena Shaddow as Marian- the infamous librarian. In a very low key performance, Mr. Foster seemed to have trouble with lines on opening night including some of the lyrics. While Ms. Shaddow seemed a bit “older and wiser” than her youth would indicate. Being a strong ensemble show with “can’t miss” music, it didn’t completely dampen the crowd (the St. Louis weather took care of that), but it did seem to distract from the usual, bubbly feeling you usually get from “The Music Man.”

music-mayorDirector Rob Ruggiero kept the show moving and choreographer Chris Bailey kept the dance moves sprightly and energetic. Musical director James Moore kept up the spirit of this lively show and Amy Clark’s costumes are right on the mark. The Michael Schweikardt set design is a bit off putting as well as we had several set pieces portraying different settings and we really didn’t get a chance to visit the actual Madison Park Fairgrounds, although the bridge for the lovely “Till There Was You” was excellent. John Lasiter’s lighting design is also to be commended.

music-librarySo, “76 Trombones” blazed the way and it’s always a delight to see this stirring, classic American musical. With a few bumps in the road, it’s still a wonderful show that will stir you and occasionally bring a tear to your eye. “The Music Man” plays at the Muny through July 11th to be followed by the Mel Brooks creation, “Young Frankenstein.”

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