76 trombones plus one con artist equals TROUBLE
The award-winning "The Music Man" is the latest shining star at The Barn Theatre. The setting of the romantic musical comedy "The Music Man" is July 4, 1912. Its writer Meredith Willson, a future flautist with John Phillip Sousa, would have been 10 years old at that time. A young is musician influenced by a year that marked the sinking of the Titanic, the opening of Fenway Park, and the addition of Arizona as a state. It was a time of relative peace in the world and a strong sense of American pride and purpose.
The story opens as con man "Professor" Harold Hill arrives in town, ready for his next swindle within the tightly bound social network of the River City, Iowa, inhabitants. His plan -- to sell them band instruments and uniforms and then skedaddle. With no formal musical training, he must convince the small town Iowans that he is indeed a trustworthy and talented musical aficionado. He expects to abscond with their money, yet they, and the town librarian, end up grabbing hold of his heart.
Hill, played expertly by David Lanning, captures the attention of the townsfolk on stage as well as the ones in the audience. His lithe frame, charming good looks and captivating smile are an extension of his energetic and positive character. His early nemesis, the lovely librarian Marian Paroo, played by Darcy Lease Gubrud, is a perfect physical and character match for him. Gubrud's extensive musical background and inherent acting ability shines in this production. Her song "Goodnight My Someone" may have you grabbing a tissue.
Other favorite songs from The Music Man include "Iowa Stubborn," the wonderful school board member quartet's "Sincere," the town ladies with "Pick-a-Little, Talk-a-Little," the classic "Gary, Indiana," and the romantic "Till There Was You."
Favorite moments include the feisty Mrs. Paroo, played by Shari Sletta, giving her daughter Marian the what-for; watching the River City kids perform; and stage veteran Laurie Allen in the role of the mayor's wife/drama queen Eulalie Mackecknie Shinn.
Clearly the director, Al Rohman, put his heart and soul (and perhaps his left foot as well!) into this delightful recreation of the original Grammy, Tony and Academy award-winning play. A large cast, and especially one performing a musical, is also a challenge to a choreographer. Charlie Olson does an expert job at moving the River City Townsfolk through their paces in a fluid movement of music and song. The realism of the characters is further enhanced by the first-rate period costumes and styling.
"The Music Man" is one of those feel-good, can-do, patriotic American-as-apple-pie type of plays with a happy ending. "The Music Man" will lift your spirit, sooth your soul, and make you want to wave Old Glory while you see a parade or two this summer.
"The Music Man" runs tonight through Saturday, and June 16-19 and 23-26. All shows are at 7:30 p.m.
Beverly L. Knudsen, master of arts, Department of History, St. Cloud State University, has reviewed shows for The Barn Theatre in Willmar and the Little Theatre in New London. She has acted and done costuming for the Little Theatre and was a production assistant at the Ridgewater College theater.