By Edith McCauley
The opening of Meredith Willson’s The Music Man, originally staged in 1957, gives every member of the audience a look at the past and the familiar songs that became so much a part of all our musical memories. From the opening number, a rhythmic chant, rocking to the movement of the Rock Island train to the unforgettable “Seventy-Six Trombones,” we know every lyric and nuance of Willson’s music.
The LP remains on the shelf that holds the collections of days gone past, and Robert Preston as Professor Harold Hill is still our favorite character. Bernie Yvon in Lincolnshire Marriott’s production recreates the role perfectly. Seeing him in the corridor, my compliment was: “Robert Preston would be proud of your outstanding performance.” He accepted with grace.
Matching him in every way is Joanna McKenzie-Miller, the incomparable Marian. Her clear soprano and dramatic flair equals or surpasses every leading lady who ever played the role. Discovering her love, “My White Knight” and the duet with Yvon, “Till There Was You,” clarifies the romance that so dominates the show. Mary Ernster is Mrs. Paroo, Marian’s mother, the determined lady who, in spite of her own loss, wants true love for her daughter.
The townspeople of River City, Iowa, literally steal the show. Iris Lieberman, as Eulalie Shinn, the Mayor’s wife and her “Lady Friends” personify the gossips of small-town America in “Pick-a-Little, Talk-a-Little,” and when Harold convinces their husbands to harmonize as Barber-Shoppers in “IceCream”/“Sincere,” we know the evening is complete. Of course, my favorite is “Lida Rose,” and when Marian joins in with “Will I Ever Tell You,” my every expectation has been met.
The children are amazing, from Daniel Coonley as Winthrop Paroo and Alison Pogorelc as Amaryllis, they sing, dance and make costume changes that challenge any professional. Musical Directors David Kreppel and Patti Garwood support the cast with orchestral arrangements that keep everyone precisely on key, not an easy task with such a diverse cast. Matt Raftery’s choreography equals that of any Broadway show. There is not a flaw. The sets, costumes and lighting make the entire production memorable.
Andy Hite is the lead artistic director. I had the opportunity to speak with him after the show. Affiliated with Marriott Theatre since 2000, he has worked in theaters throughout the Chicago area. His pride in The Music Man gives him a great sense of accomplishment. Gary Griffin directs, and his skills are evident. The Music Man truly represents the best of theater in the Chicago area.
The Music Man runs through Jan. 9, 2011. This would make a perfect gift for the whole family. The performance schedule is Wednesdays at 1 and 8 p.m., Thursdays and Fridays at 8 p.m., Saturdays at 4:30 and 8 p.m., and Sundays at 1 and 5 p.m. To reserve tickets, call Marriott Theatre Box Office at (847) 634-0200 or Ticketmaster.com. For more information, visit MarriottTheatre.com.
The audience at the opening consisted of every age group. Parents who grew up with this music brought their kids, and seniors shared the evening with friends and family. Do try to see The Music Man…take a trip down memory lane.
From the Dec. 15-21, 2010 issue