Regional Reviews: Florida - Southern
The Music Man
Beginning as a patriotic homage to his hometown of Mason City, Iowa, bookwriter (with Franklin Lacey), composer, and lyricist Meredith Willson tells the story of "Professor" Harold Hill (Avenue Q's Tony-Award nominee John Tartaglia), a traveling con artist and chameleon who poses as a band organizer and leader when he arrives in River City, Iowa, in the 1950s. Planning to swindle the townsfolk out of their money like he's done many times before, Hill runs into old-mate-gone-straight Marcellus (Wesley Slade), who tells him to be wary of the real music teacher and librarian in town, Marian Paroo (songstress Julie Kleiner). Wasting no time in attempting to woo lady Paroo, Hill sets his sights on her but she's not falling for it. The rest of the townspeople, however, are not hip to his slippery ways. One by one, they follow his seeming lead, cajoled into thinking that he has musical skills, but they only fall prey to his fast talking and fast escaping instead. The jig ultimately is up, but the journey in between is peppered with lighthearted entertainment and comedy.
From the opening scene and throughout, The Music Man is vibrant, jubilant and cheeky. From the train ride from Rock Island, Illinois, to River City, Iowa, Hill's reputation precedes him. But rather than present him with sad, evil or villainous undertones, Willson and Lacey opted to go funny instead. Against Nicholas Doyle's attractive, multi-colored train set, the cast members bob and sway and repeat strings of lyrics in "Rock Island." Though this introductory number requires a lot of hard work and skill from its performers, the shtick gets old.
The period costumes are always a welcome sight. Though understated in tone and style, they are very comely and seem to be custom-tailored to each actor. Doyle's set design persists in wowing the audience. The building facades alternate between brick and colorful wood, but the juxtaposition is pleasing to the eye.
Choreographer David Wanstreet and director Norb Joerder work together to produce some thrilling, energetic and nimble performances, highlighting the specialties of each actor, singer and dancer. Standing out amid a remarkable cast are Austin Carroll (Hot Shoe Shuffle's Tip) and the bickering board members who form the barbershop quartet. While the show is exhilarating and very engrossing, there is almost always a lot going on onstage. And while sensory overload can be a positive thing for a theatrical performance, there could be a few more quiet and straight moments here.
This production works because of the efforts of everyone involved. During its 2-1/2 hours with one 15-minute intermission, everyone works toward a common goal: for the satisfaction and enjoyment of the patrons. It is a tremendous feat for everyone to navigate the stage, led by Tartaglia making his Wick debut and Kleiner returning after a successful role as Polly in Crazy for You. This duo has wonderful chemistry, and they keep us invested in the story. The supporting cast and ensemble are just as strong. While the kinks aren't completely smoothed out, they don't distract from these noteworthy and electrifying achievements. It is sure to appease and astound.
The Music Man runs through December 26, 2019, at the Wick Theatre, 7901 N. Federal Highway, Boca Raton FL. Performances are Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30 p.m. and Wednesdays, Thursdays, Saturdays and Sundays at 2 p.m. Tickets are $75-85. For tickets and information, visit www.thewick.org or call 561-995-2333.