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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, February 22, 2013 - Volume 41 Issue 8
The Music Man strikes up the band
Arts & Entertainment
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The Music Man strikes up the band

by Eric Andrews-Katz - SGN A&E Writer

THE MUSIC MAN
5th AVENUE THEATRE
Through March 10


The Music Man is one of those shows that stem from the Golden Age of musical theater (roughly, the late 1940s through the early 1970s). Musicals of this era formed the backbone of the American Theater Songbook, with standards such as the rousing anthem '76 Trombones,' the longing ballad 'Goodnight, My Someone,' and the warning cry of '(Ya Got) Trouble.' The 5th Avenue Theatre seems specifically designed to put on nostalgic shows such as this one, and its current production of The Music Man - with its beloved songs, fun story, and excellent choreography - is no exception.

'Professor' Harold Hill is a fast-talking con man who has come to River City, Iowa. Under the pretense of being a boy's band conductor, Hill swindles the community out of their money with the promise of teaching their children music through the 'think method,' i.e., if you think about it long enough, you'll be able to play. Hill also sets out to seduce spinster librarian Marian Paroo, a voice of logic and reason who could expose Hill for what he really is.

Several cast members shine in this production but the real standout is Laura Griffith as Marian. Griffith's voice continues to be in excellent form, as she's proven several times in leading roles at the 5th. She exudes a hardened exterior to cover Marian's inner shyness and we, the audience, are completely aware of when she first lets her guard down. She sings extremely well and when she croons the heartfelt 'My White Knight,' there isn't a soul in the audience who doesn't share in her loneliness and longing.

Gabriel Corey plays Tommy Djilas, the town's juvenile delinquent. The man knows how to perform on a stage and does very well in his role. Keeping an eye on him won't be difficult as the audience is drawn to the kick that goes just a little higher and the head that 'pops' just a little more than those of the other dancers. There is a fine line between having natural ability and purposely pulling focus from one's stagemates, and Corey dances this line with a comfortable grace and a cocky little smile.

RACEY A NATURAL
The title role goes to Broadway veteran Noah Racey. He takes it on with the ease of a slick snake-oil salesman, which is the exact definition of Harold Hill. Racey sings with a voice that is easily heard and dances with smooth motion. He embraces his character's charismatic charm with a comfortable confidence and exudes it throughout the entire performance. What he sells, we buy, along with all the other residents of River City. The result is an entirely family-friendly evening of theater, the most risqué word of which is, well, 'shipoopi.'

The Music Man opened on Broadway December 19, 1957, with book, lyrics, and music penned by Meredith Wilson. Starring Barbara Cook as Marian Paroo, the musical was the first to present Robert Preston in a singing role. Running for more than 1,375 performances, it was originally nominated for eight Tony Awards and won five, including Best Actor, Best Actress, and Best Musical. When the time came for the movie (released in 1962), many of Hollywood's leading men, when offered the title role, reportedly answered, 'Not only will I not take the role, but if Robert Preston doesn't do it, I won't bother seeing it.' The film was nominated for five Academy Awards, winning one for Best Musical Score. The Music Man has since enjoyed two Broadway revivals (starring Dick Van Dyke in 1980 and Craig Bierko in 2000), and a TV remake was produced in 2003 starring Kristin Chenoweth and Matthew Broderick.

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