HIGHLY RECOMMENDED From the moment the lights dim down for Marriott Theatre’s new production of Meredith Willson’s “The Music Man”, you know that you are in for a marvelous trip, not just to River City, Iowa, but down memory lane ( at least for most of us). This is a musical theater classic that was written to bring pure pleasure and enjoyment to theater audiences and under the leadership of director Gary Griffin, who truly understands the American musical and with the bold choreography of Matt Raftery ( who like a fine wine becomes better with age, and experience), this production is two and a half hours of sheer pleasure. One of the special features of Marriott’s small stage is that there is no glitzy set to hinder the movement of the action, yet they know how to do just enough to let you know where they are and get the job done ( Thomas M. Ryan has done it again).
From the opening train ride number “Rock Island” ( you know, the one with “But you got to know the territory”) with no train, no walls, just suitcases with men sitting upon them, bouncing in perfect symmetry, we feel the movement of the train and we even feel that we have arrived in River City, circa 1912 and thanks to Griffin and Raftery along with a brilliant cast made up of some of Chicago’s finest actors and some of those rising talents, as well, we never feel it slip away. The story is simple. A con-man salesman, Harold Hill ( played to perfection by Bernie Yvon, who despite having some vocal problems was aces) comes to a small town to sell them on a boy’s band with instruments and uniforms knowing that once they get the goods, he will be gone with their money and they will be left with a bunch of instruments, uniforms and broken dreams. But along the way, he finds his heart and in the end, as it did in most of the classical musicals, everyone lives happily ever after.
The town librarian, Marian ( played by Johanna McKenzie Miller, who has quite a set of pipes) is the woman who he seeks and at the end, although she starts off against him, falls for him as well. In fact, they each teach the other a valuable lesson along the way about love ad respect.While they are the main characters in this play, this is a musical that relies on the ensemble members, those who play a specific role and those who play many roles and one thing I have seen over the years at Marriott is that they have by far some of the strongest ensemble members in Chicago. This group is led by the always reliable Mary Ernster as Mrs. Paroo, the incredible John Reeger as Mayor Shim and the near perfect Iris Lieberman as Eulalie Shim. Then of course, there is Professor Hill’s old associate ( who just happens to reside in River City) Marcellus , played by the incredible Andrew Lupp who’s rubbery face and legs take his dance number “Shipoopi” to new heights. Young Winthrop ( Marian’s little brother and ne of the reason’s she and Harold change in the story) is deftly handled by the adorable Johnny Rabe ( on alternating performances, this role is played by Daniel Coonley, who opening nighters tell me was solid as well).
The townspeople, who are the barbershop guys ( Roger Anderson,Elic Bramlett,Paul Pement and Michael Gehrhardt)along with the “Pick-a-Little” ladies (Corey Goodrich,Ericka Mac,Tammy Mader and Holly Stauder) and Adrian Aguilar ( who is really growing stronger in his roles played), Amanda Tanguay(Aguilar’s dance partner; they are so good together) ,Carrie Dobbs,Jameson Cooper, Sean Effinger-Dean,Brandon Koller,Patrick Keefe,Allison Pogorelc,Aston napier,Christina Myers,Peyton Royal, Ryan Schwaar, McKenna Kate Winklemann, Jarrod Zimmerman and the adorable Mollie Rice ( I hope I got them all- none of them should be missed, so I apologize if I did so). This show, filled with great songs and wonderful dance numbers is definitely award worthy ( back in the 50’s, yes over 50 years ago, it was nominated for 11 and won at least five). Songs that will bring back memories- “Til There Was You”, “Seventy Six Trombones”, “Gary Indiana”,”Goodnight my Someone” and of course, the famous “Ya Got Trouble”- wow, what an evening of musical theater.
I must tell you that this is a complete production with great costumes(Nancy Missimi),solid lighting ( Diane Ferry Williams) Solid musical direction ( David Kreppel) and 8 solid musicians under the leadership of the always reliable Patti Garwood. They sound as big as the full orchestra sounded last year in Light Opera’s production in Evanston. From the first note to the last bow and for 2 hours and 32 minutes in between, we the audience were treated to musical theater the way it was meant to be performed and you can do likewise by ordering your tickets right away.
“The Music Man” will continue at Marriott Theatre in Lincolnshire through January 9th ( perfect family fun for the holidays) with performances as follows:
Wednesdays at 1 and 8 p.m.,Thursdays and Fridays at 8 p.m., Saturdays at 4:30 and 8 p.m. and Sundays at 1 and 5 p.m.
Tickets range from $40-$48 ( is this a bargain or what?) and students and seniors save $5 per ticket on Wednesday afternoon,Saturday afternoon and Sundays ( both).
Something truly spectacular on Wednesday and Thursday evenings, you can dinner and the show for only $55 per person. The Marriott Theatre is locate on Marriott Drive ( just south of Route 22 and just East of Route 21) in beautiful Lincolnshire with plenty of free parking on the grounds as well as valet parking available.
To order your tickets call the box office at 847-634-0200 or visit www.Ticketmaster.com
to learn more about the theater and next season visit www.MarriottTheatre.com