By Patrick B. McGuigan
A delightful and entertaining production of “The Music Man” has opened the 2012 “Summerstock” season at Mitchell Hall on the University of Central Oklahoma campus. The short drive from MidTown to Edmond certainly has merit, for an evening of joyful and romantic music from some of the best city area’s performers.
Author Meredith Wilson created an enduring story of the con-artist Greg (operating under the pseudonym Dr. Harold Hill) who comes to River City, Iowa with an agenda – bilk the local yockles out of their money for musicial instruments and band uniforms, then pocket the profits and escape before any one figures out he is a fake with no intention (or ability) to teach music to their children.
Lane Fields is Hill, and Justin Larman is Marcellus, a former associate who teams up with the con man for another run at big bucks.
But something happens before Wilson can get out of town. He falls for Marian, the librarian. The gorgeous Melissa Griffith portrays the early middle-age spinster who is convinced she will never find the kind of man who loves both literature and her. She sings “Good Night, My Someone” as she wishes upon the evening star.
The show’s most glorious vocal music comes from the combination of Griffith’s angelic voice with the Barber Shop Quartet of feuding school board members portrayed by Larry Thomason, Jared Thomason, Joey Allen and Mark Winn. Their fusion of “Lida Rose” and “Will I Ever Tell You” is masterfully done without instrumental accompaniment.
The story builds nicely and its presentation seems much shorter than the actual 2-hours plus (with intermission).
Rounding out the cast of principals are William Willhoite (young Winthrop, Marian’s little brother), Jena Nelson (the Widow Paroo), Bill Perry (Mayor Shinn), and Georgia Fiering (Mrs. Shinn). Nice turns come from Arden Hearne as Gracie Shinn, Mackay Whalen as Zaneeta Shinn, Cassie Shaver as Amaryllis, and Joel Swanson as Tommy Djilas. Jim Mitchell nicely delivers some of the key narrative lines as the local constable, and Carse David Parker is the anvil salesman in a nice portrayal.
Town ladies allied with Mrs. Shinn are portrayed by Carol McDonald, Elizabeth Dragoo, Katherine Gates and Janna Rouse Carr.
Performing as townspeople of all ages who dance and sing with enthusisasm and considerable talent are Madison Bookout, Paul Mitchell, Karl Nelson, Sam Briggs, Reed Bentley, Kate Braun, Cody Dent, Caitlin Jones, Ellen Kilgo, Sarah Rose Knoche, Robbie Lee Miller, Taylor Radke, Paige Bush, Ethan Carr, Georgia Davies, Fred DeGrace, Collin McCook, Rafe Nelson, Elsie Offah and Anthony Palmer.
Director Billie Thrash and her team make deft use of the Mitchell Hall performing space, especially so in presenting “Till There Was You” – keeping the focus on the budding lovers in use of a simple footbridge, soft lighting, shadows and a follow spot on Harold and Marian. In theatre, despite an era of increasingly powerful special effects, sometimes less is more – and this scene was an example.
A tip of the hat to the high quality crew on the technical side, including Christopher Domanski (scenic & lighting design), Ashley Bellet (costumes), Sun Hee Kil (sound), Chelsea Dockemeyer (hair & makeup), Ben Whaley (stage manager) and all the rest.
Jim Waddelow conducts the 13-member orchestra who give rich and melodious support to the on-stage proceedings. Musicians included Lane Creech, Jared Cathy, Eric Upchurch, John Shell, Bruce Edward Franklin II, Joshua French, Bill Repavich, Vahn Pholluxna, Rachel Clark, Jose Batty, Curtis Hansen, Shayna Borgfeld and Harvey Crowder.
Evening performance tickets run $20 for adults; matinees are $15. Children four and under are free (this is the kind of play that will hold the attention of youngsters who like music). For information, call 974-3375 or visit suumerstockok.com/tickets/. The box office opens 30 minutes before performances (online sales are “locked” 24 hours before each performance).
The production continues this weekend on Saturday (June 16) at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m., Sunday (June 17) at 2 p.m. Final performances of “The Music Man” will be Friday (June 22) at 8 p.m., Saturday (June 23) at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m., and Sunday (June 24) at 2 p.m. The Summerstock season will continue in July with “Anything Goes.”
Summerstock’s “The Music Man” is delightful and entertaining
By Patrick B. McGuigan
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