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Santa Maria Sun / Art

The following article was posted on July 21st, 2009, in the Santa Maria Sun - Volume 10, Issue 19 [ Submit a Story ]
The following articles were printed from Santa Maria Sun [santamariasun.com] - Volume 10, Issue 19

Follow the music

The Music Man leads audiences to a happy place

By SHELLY CONE


Odd couple
Professor Harold Hill (Andrew Philpot) and Marian Paroo (Jackie Vanderbeck) are the unlikeliest of lovers, as she knows what mischief he’s up to.
PHOTOS COURTESY LUIS ESCOBAR/REFLECTIONS PHOTOGRAPHY STUDIO/PCPA
Take a walk in the good ol’ summertime to a place of ice cream socials and long conversations on the front porch. It’s where parents worry about keeping their sons moral, and a new pool table in town can illicit concern by the suggestion of serious trouble.

You’ve entered River City, a small town in Iowa in the early 1900s. The city’s clean appearance and its pastel-and-straw-hat-clad residents certainly appeal to Professor Harold Hill, a traveling con man, who even takes the Iowans’ contrary nature as a challenge instead of an obstacle.

PCPA’s Music Man rouses audiences with a lively romp through the unsuspecting town, featuring irresistible songs and music that make theatergoers bounce in their seats. The actors—so well cast—lead the audience to fall for the residents of River City and all of their stubborn Iowa ways.

The musical by Meredith Wilson follows Hill (Andrew Philpot) as he tries to convince the townsfolk that they need a boys band to keep kids off the streets and out of the newly stocked pool hall. He collects money from residents for instruments and uniforms, and the locals begin buzzing about the band. Only Hill doesn’t know a thing about how to teach or play music.

His intent to cheat the residents of their dreams and money starts to unravel, however, when he meets local librarian Marian Paroo (Jackie Vanderbeck).

Lean, nimble, and handsome, Philpot portrays the perfect con man no one can resist, crooning with the right touch of comic timing in songs like “Marian the Librarian.” Ultimately, Marian can’t resist either. Though she learns his swindling secret, she can’t help but fall for him. With a stellar voice, Vanderbeck belts out songs like “Till There Was You” and “Goodnight, My Someone,” revealing the vulnerability thawing under her cold-as-ice façade.


Wishful thinking
Harold Hill doesn’t know a thing about how to play an instrument, so he teaches his “students,”—including Winthrop (Chase Kelly)—the Think System, which he likens to whistling: No one teaches you how to use your lips to whistle, you just do it.
PHOTOS COURTESY LUIS ESCOBAR/REFLECTIONS PHOTOGRAPHY STUDIO/PCPA
When the wayward duo finally realizes they’re in love, Hill risks getting caught in the act to be with her.

Erik Stein gives a comically memorable performance as Marcellus Washburn, Hill’s former partner-in-crime turned River City local. Kitty Balay Genge plays Mrs. Paroo—Marian’s widowed mother—and gets some opportunities to show off her vocal chops. She has such a wonderfully melodic voice, it’s a shame we don’t have more of a chance to hear her.

It’s also worth noting the great performances by the children in the cast—especially Chase Kelly, who plays the lisping Winthrop Paroo.

Though River City is fictional, it’s based on Mason City, the birthplace of creator Meredith Wilson. Wilson played the flute in John Philip Sousa’s famous band from 1921 to 1923. He then joined the New York Philharmonic Orchestra from 1924 to 1929. Later, he moved to Hollywood and was musical director on many of the famous radio shows of that era.

It took more than six years and 40 different drafts for Wilson to finish The Music Man. When he did and the play opened in 1957, it was a hit. It went on to nab five Tony Awards, even beating out West Side Story for Best Musical. It garnered Grammys for “Till There Was You,” “Pick-A-Little,” “Ya Got Trouble,” and “76 Trombones.” Later, the Beatles scored a hit with their version of “Till There Was You” in 1964—it would be the only song from a Broadway musical the Beatles ever recorded. The play also became a highly acclaimed movie in 1962, with a TV version released in 2003. In 2005, The Music Man was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant.”


Get in ‘Trouble’
The Music Man plays through Aug. 1 at the Marian Theatre in Santa Maria and Aug. 7 through 23 in the Festival Theater in Solvang. For more information, call 922-8313.
With the exception of some cultural reference from the early 1900s, the play is easy to follow and a great family production that harkens back to a time of innocence, revelation, and change. The Music Man incorporates patriotism (it takes place on and around the 4th of July) and wholesome Americana and slips easily between telling the story in dialogue to belting it out in song. The opening number, for instance, involves salesmen talking on a train. Their words are crafted to be delivered in a cadence that becomes the actual sounds of the train on the track, and the actors’ movements perpetuate the illusion that they’re in a bouncy rail car. The effect is so much fun to watch. Similarly, the cast—especially Philpot—is amazing in the performance of the fast-paced, potentially tongue-twisting “Ya Got Trouble.”
 
Director Michael Jenkinson said the play is relevant today because it focuses on the power and possibility of change, the belief in the nature and necessity of a supportive community, and a confidence in oneself and one’s ability to overcome challenges and barriers.

Arts Editor Shelly Cone uses words like “swell!” Contact her at scone@santamariasun.com.




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