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A joyous romp

The Alice Busch Theater
07/14/2012 -  & July 20, 24, 26, 28*, 30, August 2, 4, 6, 12, 19, 21, 24, 2012
Meredith Willson: The Music Man
Dwayne Croft (Harold Hill), Elizabeth Futral (Marian Paroo), Jake Gardner (Mayor Shinn), Cindy Gold (Mrs. Paroo), Ernestine Jackson (Eulaie Mackecknie Shinn), Allan K. Washington (Tommy Djilas), Josh Walden (Marcellus Washburn), Henry Wager (Winthrop Paroo), Megan Ort (Zaneeta Shinn)
The Glimmerglass Festival Orchestra and Chorus, John DeMain (Conductor)
Marcia Milgram Dodge (Director and Choreographer), James Noone (set Designer), Leon Wiebers (Costume Designer), Kevin Adams (Lighting)

E. Futral (© Karli Cadel)

This year’s classic Broadway musical at the Glimmerglass Festival is Meredith Willson’s joyous masterpiece from 1957, The Music Man.

The title role is taken by Cooperstown native Dwayne Croft who first performed with the festival in the 1970s when it still used the auditorium of his high school. He does a fine job, especially as he manages to project the spoken dialogue as clearly as the lyrics, no mean feat on an unamplified stage. The large cast whether in large or small roles is good in this respect, better for example than in last year’s Annie Get Your Gun.

Elizabeth Futral is in full charm mode as Marian the librarian. Jake Gardner blusters marvelously as Mayor Shinn.

Several of the cast are from the music theatre world (as distinct from the opera world) and their performances really add sparkle to the proceedings, notably Josh Wakden’s Marcellus Washburn when he steals the show in the “Shipoopi” number. Allan K. Washington is a lively, mischievous Tommy Djilas, Cindy Gold an ultra-charming Mrs. Paroo, and Ernestine Jackson a determined Eulalie Mackecknie Shinn.

The sets and costumes are colourful and the choreography as lively and witty as one could wish.

A significant number of the festival performers this year are people of colour, a factor used to great effect in Kurt Weill’s Lost in the Stars, where the racial divide is central to the story. The Music Man uses colour-blind casting, resulting in, for example Mayor Shinn (white) having a black wife, while their white daughter has a black boyfriend. It works.

The staging is updated to 1946 from the original 1912. The lively adolescents are thus in the swing era rather than ragtime, and Harold Hill makes an appearance wearing a zoot suit. The stunning backdrop, derived from Grant Wood’s bucolic painting of 1930, “Stone Town, Iowa” has a gasoline company’s billboard added to it. But the central joke of the piece involves Harold Hill’s false claim to be a conservatory graduate, from the Gary, Indiana class of 1905 (when the town wasn’t even founded until 1906). This would put him into his early sixties in the 1946 setting, and Meredith Willson did not fashion this work around a May-December match (Miss Paroo, we are told, is an “old maid” of 26). I think the audience could handle a setting of pre-World War I antiquity.

Next year’s musical: Lerner and Loewe’s Camelot, with Glimmerglass favourite Nathan Gunn as Sir Lancelot.

Michael Johnson



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