By CHERYL THORNBURG
From the very first stirring note of “76 Trombones” in the overture, the audience was pumped up for the memorable songs and imagery of Meredith Willson’s Tony-award winning classic, “The Music Man” at Steel River Playhouse in Pottstown.
The story is well-known to many people and captures the hearts of each new generation with its upbeat music, memorable love songs and positive message about life and love.
Set in the early 1900s in River City, Iowa, it tells the story of smooth-talking con man, Harold Hill, who hits town and quickly charms the citizens into believing in and investing their hard-earned cash into creating a marching band to keep the town’s youth out of trouble. He sells them instruments, uniforms and promises to teach the kids to play – despite the fact that he has no ability to do so. Suspicious about his plans are the mayor and the town librarian.
Tom Wang plays the Music Man, Harold Hill, and delivers his patter, his sweet-talking and song and dance numbers with ease. From the upbeat “Ya Got Trouble (Right here in River City)” and “76 Trombones” to the haunting ballad, “Till There Was You,” Wang hits just the right note, particularly in the latter, a duet with Marian the Librarian.
Naomi Weiss plays the feisty Marian, the librarian, music teacher and single lady whose mother is constantly encouraging her to find a man and settle down. Weiss has an exquisite soprano voice that lends itself well to Willson’s ballads, the aforementioned “Till There Was You,” as well as “My White Knight” and “Goodnight My Someone.”
Hill’s old friend Marcellus is played by Christopher Sperat and the two add some energetic comedy touches to the show with “The Sadder But Wiser Girl.” Sperat heads up the high energy “Shipoopi” dance number with flair as he encourages the young people of River City to kick up their heels and dance.
The show features many talented comedic actors including Jim Conte as the sometimes befuddled and imperious Mayor Shinn, Sue Murphy as his wife Eulalie Shinn, whose skit about Grecian urns with the ladies of the town is truly unforgettable and Katie Farnum as Marian’s loveable mother, Mrs. Paroo.
The role of Winthrop, Marian’s young brother has been doublecast. Stevie Eurillo played the part at Sunday’s performance and mastered the difficult lines delivered with a lisp. Nathan Esser plays Winthrop on alternate nights.
The show also provides an opportunity for actors of all ages to strut their stuff.
Dona Pizzo plays Zaneeta, the mayor’s daughter, Trent Soto plays Tommy, her boyfriend from the wrong side of the tracks and Riley Keenan plays Amaryllis, one of Marian’s young piano students.
Throughout the show, a barbershop quartet (comprised of the River City school board) featuring Randy Frame, Tom Newmyer, Lee Wesner and John Williams is sidetracked by Hill into singing some classic barbershop tunes to divert them from the task of investigating Hill.
Peter McKenney enthusiastically plays the “villain” of the show, Charlie Cowell, another traveling salesman determined to expose Hill’s chicanery.
Talented remaining cast members are featured in the show’s many songs and dances. They are Erika Blue, Kendall Bowden, Jacob Buckwalter, Simon Daum, Hannah Desko, Sharon Eyster, Nancy Kadwill, Maddie Keenan, Christie Lohr, Sue Lowry, Becka Malanios, Christine Maziarz, Theo Okkerse, Carson Palladino, Jason Scansaroli, and Josiah Swenson.
Putting the entire production together and making it work, are director, Kristin McLaughlin, music director, Julie Eurillo and choreographer, Jessica Bostock
“The Music Man” would be nothing without the music and Barbara Newberry conducts a first-rate orchestra that brings life to Willson’s rousing score and tenderness to his beautiful ballads.
IF YOU GO
“The Music Man” continues through Sunday June 22 at Steel River Playhouse, 245 E. High St., in Pottstown. Remaining performances are Thursday at 7:30 p.m., Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m., and Sunday at 3 p.m. Tickets are $27 for adults ($24 on Thursdays), $24 for seniors ($21 on Thursdays), $17 for students and children ($15 on Thursdays). For tickets, call 610-970-1199, email firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit the website, www.steelriver.org. Group discounts are available.