‘Music Man’ at Timber Lake a rave.
By Sue Langenberg
Classic musical comedy, “The Music Man,” opened last night at Timber Lake Playhouse as the summer stock theatre continues a fast pace of entertainment this 52nd season. Opening performance was a huge success as the infectious rhythms pulsed through a nearly sold house.
The show was directed and choreographed by TLP’s executive director Jim Beaudry, who brings about an end result of impeccable timing and masterful moves that unfolds all that a production should be. There can be laughter during silence and apparent unruliness in “Seventy-six Trombones,” all within the genre of an exact style of presentation.
That style of presentation of classic musical comedy, as Beaudry defines, takes root from early 20th century vaudeville acts of songs, dance and hilarity. Difficult to get right, Beaudry notes, but from opening train rhythms throughout reprises of “Seventy-six Trombones,” he got it right. That would include the vaudevillian struts that could have been Jimmy Durante or the Marx brothers.
The action pits a slick con-man selling imaginary music bands to innocent small towns, womanizing his way to whistle-stop River City, Iowa. He doesn’t read a note of music, and fools everyone until the true love interest of local librarian awakens an honest heart.
It was no accident that composer/conductor/playwright Meredith Willson originated the book, music and lyrics for this show that opened on Broadway in 1957. One could almost observe that Willson was destined to dwell within the set of ‘Music Man.’ He was born early 20th century in a small town in Iowa, took his music everywhere, most specifically as flute and piccolo player in John Philip Sousa’s band. Not to mention his Hollywood nominations for musical scores including Charlie Chaplin’s “The Great Dictator,” “The Little Foxes” and radio contributions with Burns and Allen and Jack Benny.
And (sigh) he also fell in love marrying his high school sweetheart. Meredith Willson is to “The Music Man” as Leonard Bernstein is to “West Side Story.”
This TLP production was an extraordinary gathering of talent from musical director Cindy Blanc throughout marvelous stage comings and goings and a cast of 30 some actors.
Slick role of Harold Hill was the wonderful work of Cody Jolly, who makes his TLP debut from the Conservatory of Theatre Arts Webster University. Jolly will always have a successful stage journey as a character actor with all the bells and whistles a performer needs.
Romantic lead soprano Sarah Larson also debuted at TLP and sang her way through the role of Marion Paroo. She upheld the beauty of vibratos in this show through, “The Piano Lesson,” “My White Knight” and familiar song, “Till There Was You.”
Judy Knudtson as soloist role of Mrs. Paroo returned to deliver her professional energy and solid characterization, especially in “The Piano Lesson.” Tim Wessel as Marcellus delivered all that the role could possibly be, as well as bumbling Mayor Shim by Matthew Webb and hysterical Hannah-Jo Weisberg as Eulalie MacKecknie Shinn and roles Zaneeta by Genna-Paige Kanago and Gracie by Kallie Zuidema to complete the family dysfunction.
The song “Pick-a-Little, Talk-a-Little” was most precisely delivered by Terrie Miller, Tayloir Pace and Weisberg, sounding much like the piccolo that playwright Willson had intended. School Board a capella singers were Elliot Marach, Gilbert Domally, Alex Johnson and Brandyn Day who always found their pitch no matter how long the musical gaps. And, of course, the performances of Will Boze as Winthrop and Vivian Lobdell as Amaryllis were charming.
Filling the cast and stage were solo performers that include Keven Strunk, Kathleen Brinkmeier, Lexie Plath, Zak McMahon and Brad Field as well as the necessary Citizens of River City.
Must enjoy “The Music Man,” continues at Timber Lake Playhouse and runs through matinee July 14. All evening performances are 7:30 p.m. except Sunday July 7 at 6:30 p.m. Saturday July 6 matinee at 3 p.m., Sunday and Wednesday matinees at 2 p.m. Appropriate for all ages and group rates available. Tickets go fast, and TLP is a hop, skip and a jump to 8215 Black Oak Road, in the boonies of Mt. Carroll. Contact the box office at (815) 244-2035 or www.timberlakeplayhouse.org for more information.