The Music Man

The Music Man

The Music Man
By Meredith Willson and Franklin Lacey
Directed by Mark Brotherton
Music Direction Steven Chicurel
Orchestra Conducted by Laszlo Maoris
Starring Andrew Conners and Alexis Matavi
UCF Conservatory Theatre, Orlando FL

This is the sort of production I haunt theaters hoping to see. “The Music Man” ranks high as an America musical theatre chestnut, it’s packed with great music, great characters, and a great romance that you’ll fall in love with yourself. Harold Hill (Conners) works as a small time grifter; he’s cleaned out Illinois and today crosses over to Iowa to give traveling sales men a bad name in that state. His sells entire towns musical instruments and uniforms and musical instruction books, but can’t play a note himself. It’s not the most evil scam ever, he DOES deliver the hardware, it’s just that his software hasn’t been written yet. In stuffy River City he runs up against two barricades – skeptical Mayor Shinn (Jean Michel Rousseau) demands his credentials, and the town piano teacher Marian Paroo (Matavi) might be past her “sell by” date but she knows a thing or two about music. Her mother (Stephanie Trull) is on Hill’s side, she recognizes a last chance when she sees one and encourages a romance. The mayor was easier to deflect, Hill convinces his easily distracted School Board (John DeLisa, Trevor Starr, Gabe Friedman, and Derek Antoniazzi) they are masters of acapella barbershop harmony worthy of working a Disney Cruise. They actually are excellent, there little singing numbers (“It’s You”, “Lida Rose”) were charming. Marian sees through the scam, but also sees the wisdom of her mother’s advice especially when Hill gets her traumatized little bother Winthrop (Jason Zavit) to open up. Marian comes around, falls in love, but Hill still has a job to do that might be construed as deceptive, but really boils down to the ultimate job of all musicals – He’s here to sell us all a dream.

And it’s a dream of a show. The newly merged UCF theatre and music departments pull together a massive production. There an orchestra of two dozen plus musicians, there’s the cleverly choreographed barber shop numbers, and a soaring musical score that fills the Main Stage Theater. Conners seems to be judging each action he takes, he bluffs, charms, dodges and keeps every one off guard but full of hope. Opposite him is Marian, she exudes imminent spinsterhood with her heavy and conservative dress emphasizing her fear of commitment and the deception of men. She’s right about the deception part but a little deception beats load of lonely. To manage the press of actors, director Brotherton takes a nod from “Our Town” and keeps everyone on stage and seated in uncomfortable hardwood chairs when they are not acting. There’s more set than “Our Town”, but it’s a dreamlike faced of fake building fronts that thumbnail the actual locations without actually becoming them. Another brilliant piece of stage craft is the opening “Rock Island” number; the salesmen play cards and jostl and set up Hill’s background as the train rumbles along. Hill’s sidekick Marcellus Washburn (Jeffery Peacock) did some great dance moves in his all-too-short introduction to “Shipoopi”, and the Mayor’s wife (Edmarie Montes) and her dance ladies were completely silly dancing their “Ode to a Grecian Urn” number. Even little Jason Zivot was darling as the Cute Kid.

So let’s review – here’s a full blown production of a great musical with full orchestral backing, clever staging, great acting, and all by cast that’s for the most part still leaning their chops. It show what sort of magic can occur on stage, and we are privileged to have it here in Central Florida.

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