It’s a love story — a silly, romantic love story. Hill’s not looking for anyone to cramp his style, just someone to use for his devious purposes. Marian won’t deign to socialize with some stranger who just hopped off the train — no. The object of her affection must be esteemed, educated and respectable. But apparently she’s never been wooed like this before, and he’s never found anyone who could love him despite his prominent character flaws. In the end, love bears all things, after all.
The good, clean fun begins aboard the train as a group of traveling salesmen breaks into a hilariously choreographed song-and-dance number (“Rock Island”) about their infamous contemporary, the one who leaves a wake of soured prospects behind him wherever he plies their common trade. But the full splendor of the CCMT production is first revealed in the following scene, set in pristine downtown River City, Iowa, with towering building facades, expansive green-covered grounds and polished faces in starched petticoats and shirts tucked into suspendered knickers, the townspeople strolling the grounds and dancing as they sing about their stubborn provinciality (“Iowa Stubborn”).
Jennifer Perry’s choreography is bright and animated throughout, and the players carry out their moves in graceful synchronicity. Crisp, clean costuming by Liz Martin matches the storybook setting, and a live orchestra, led by Kevin Roland, is icing on the cake, providing delightful accompaniment for the songs including a marvelously executed “Ya Got Trouble.”
The musicians sound plenty of sweet emotion for the barbershop quartet-style “Lida Rose” as well as for the romantic ballad, “Till There Was You,” perhaps the ultimate vehicle for Britt’s flawless expression of her character’s sugary voice.
Director Scott Denison brings every element of this fun-filled production together in a cohesive, happy style. The scenes are bright and polished, the dancing is sharp and energized and the voices are clear and strong. Everything fits, not a hair out of place — a commendable and appropriate accomplishment for such an idyllic musical tale.If there is anything at all lacking in the production, it may lie in the personality of the central character.
Harold Hill is a flim-flam man, a sleazy seller of snake oil, so to speak. Yet in this CCMT rendition, that aspect of his character is almost too well hidden. We know Harold is planning to leave the townsfolk high and dry, that he’s cozying up to Marian only to bolster his credibility, but Anthony’s characterization of the swindler isn’t slippery or shifty. He dresses nicely, fitting in with the natives, but not overly so. Nothing in his ensemble, nor in his manner, voice or gait, suggests caution. A little vaudevillian snark might have lended the character an interesting added dimension.
All in all, CCMT does a spectacular job with “The Music Man.” The sights and sounds are vibrant and uplifting. The music and choreography are imaginative, sharp and expressive. If you love a good musical, this one’s for you.
Coming up next at Lesher is the 18th-century comic drama, “Mirandolina!” Center Repertory presents a new adaptation of the Carlo Goldoni play by director Timothy Near. “Mirandolina!” opens Friday, April 3. Call the box office at 925-943-7469 or visit www.centerrep.org for more information.
If You Go
“The Music Man” continues at the Lesher Center for the Arts, 1601 Civic Drive, Walnut Creek, through April 19. Tickets are $45 to $65 and are available by calling the Lesher Center box office at 925-943-7469 or online at www.lesherartscenter.org.
Elizabeth Warnimont is a freelance writer specializing in the performing arts. She is also a substitute teacher for the Benicia Unified School District.