THE MUSIC MANBook, Music, and Lyrics by Meredith Wilson
Based on the story by Meredith Wilson and Franklin Lacey
Stolen Shakespeare Guild
Directed by Lauren and Jason Morgan
Choreographer: Monica Glenn
Stage Manager: Charles Wood
Costume Designer: Lauren Morgan
Set Designer: Lauren and Jason Morgan
Master Carpenter: Allen Dean
Scenic Designer: Lauren Morgan
Props Designer: Jennifer Stewart
Light Designer: Brandon White
Props Artisan: Jean Jeske
Sound Designer: Jennifer Stewart
Stan Graner as Harold Hill
Lauren Morgan** as Marian Paroo
Barbara Catrett as Mrs. Paroo
Jack Spurgin as Winthrop
Marlee Fraser as Amaryllis
Delmar Dolbier** as Constable Locke
Nolan Shaver as Marcellus
Cory Carter as Ethel
Bert Pigg* as Mayor Shinn
Cindy Matthews as Mrs. Shinn
Maya Michalski as Gracie Shinn
Damian Gravino as Charlie Cowell
Brad Smith as Ewart Dunlop (Quartet)
Jacob Catalano as Jaycee Squires (Quartet)
David Johnson as Oliver Hix (Quartet)
Gary Payne as Olin Britt (Quartet)
Nancy Lamb as Maud Dunlop
Margaret Vogel as Mrs. Squires
Rema Martinez as Alma Hix
Kevin Carter as Salesman #1/Adult Ensemble
Robert Fry as Salesman #2/Adult Ensemble
Leslie Walstrom as Adult Ensemble
Julie Molina as Adult Ensemble
Jessica Peterson as Zaneeta
Jake Harris as Tommy Djilas
Victoria Lee as Teen Ensemble/Dance Captain Teen Ensemble
Catie Wilkerson as Teen Ensemble
Haden Strawn as Teen Ensemble
Emily Emmett as Teen Ensemble
Kwame David Lilly as Teen Ensemble
Brandon Sanders as Teen Ensemble
Theodore Morris as Teen Ensemble
Claire Morgan as Ensemble
* Member of Actor’s Equity Association
** SSG Ensemble Member
Reviewed Performance: 8/18/2018
Reviewed by Ann Saucer, Associate Critic for John Garcia's THE COLUMN
The leads, Stan Graner as “Professor” Harold Hill (aka Greg, aka the titular Music Man) and Lauren Morgan as Marian Paroo (aka Madame Librarian), are superb and have good chemistry. Morgan’s voice is gorgeous. Graner does a great job with a tricky character. His Music Man cheerily skips through life, indulging his wanderlust and entertaining himself with mischief, but without malice. Graner makes this character’s reformation believable.
I hesitate to describe the opening number, Rock Island, because it is so original that I cannot do it justice. Traveling salesmen on a vibrating train chant rather than sing, informing the audience who the eponymous Music Man is. The timing is perfect down to the second, and the effect is mesmerizing.
On a lark, the Music Man gets off the train at River City, Iowa, a small town that the playwrights mock in the Iowa Stubborn song. He proceeds to execute his often-repeated scam of convincing a town that their problem, which he gins up, must be solved by the creation of a boy band. The Music Man stirs things up in a wonderfully staged and performed musical number, Ya Got Trouble. He weaves through the small town crowd whipping up fear over a pool table – so chosen as the Music Man’s faux culprit simply because it is new.
At the end of four weeks, the Music Man delivers the instruments and uniforms as promised, but not the promised lessons on how to play music. One key to his redemption, however, is that he instructs the town in things that are ultimately more important. He transforms the relentlessly bickering School Board members into a melodious acapella quartet, bored teens into delighted dancers, and gossips into readers. All the while he serves up lessons in social justice, confidence, and living in the moment.
The other key to his redemption is that he falls in love. The Music Man and Marian the Librarian awaken the best in each other. Both put themselves at risk for love. This is what love stories used to be, and should be. It is so much more interesting than the RomCom movie drivel to which we have been subjected. The maligned and misunderstood town librarian is both a romantic and a realist, and Morgan’s finely calibrated performance works. Morgan knocks it out of the park with her Till There Was You.
Other musical highlights include Seventy-Six Trombones, Goodnight, Ladies (dulcetly performed by the talented Quartet), The Wells Fargo Wagon, and Gary, Indiana.
The fast-paced ending is perfectly synchronized and performed. The ultimate resolution is hilarious because it actually makes sense. (If you’ve been to a lot of recitals you’ll get it.) (Not that I’m speaking from personal experience, mind you; I’ve heard rumors.)
The entire cast is great. Bert Pigg delivers a fun, funny, and fantastic portrayal of a small town Mayor. Mayor Shinn is an arrogant, snobby, wind bag, but Pigg also makes him sympathetic, as well as frequently charming, particularly during his humorous exchanges with Mrs. Shinn, played by a funny Cindy Matthews. As the very silly Ethel, Cory Carter also earns well-deserved laughs. Jake Harris, playing Tommy Djilas, is convincing as the teen subjected to the Mayor’s ire.
Jack Spurgin is every bit Opie-adorable in the role of Winthrop. He can sing and act; clearly a natural with a future in theater.
The consistently strong cast includes a Teen Ensemble that perfectly does its job in the context of the play’s text. Their function is to illustrate how much fun the town youngsters are having learning a new dance and anticipating a band. Every single teen genuinely looks like they are having a great time. Their joy is necessary for understanding Marian’s character arc.
The set is perfectly painted down to the last brush stroke. There are store fronts for the Hotel, Billiard Hall, Squire Livery Stable, and the house that Marian the Librarian shares with Winthrop and her Irish mother, played beautifully by Barbara Catrett. The set design makes great use of the space and adjusts to the house interior for an amusing piano lesson for Amaryllis (a cute Marlee Fraser).
I cannot say enough about the numerous period costumes. Each one was authentic and tailored to fit. The girls in the Teen Ensemble were able to dance notwithstanding the ample skirts called for by the setting. And some of the hats, adorned with colorful feathers and bows, were pieces of art in and of themselves.
The props were also impressive. The books and sheet music were pristinely matched to the time period. The versatile lighting allowed for effective scene changes.
Overall, Stolen Shakespeare does a fantastic job. I recommend this production for the several enjoyable musical numbers, kid-friendly text, and strong character portrayals.
Stolen Shakespeare Guild
August 17 through September 2, 2018
Fort Worth Community Arts Center
1300 Gendy Street, Fort Worth, TX 76107
For information and Tickets call 1-866-811-4111 or go to http://www.stolenshakespeareguild.org/SSG%20Box%20Office.html .