A Classic of the American Musical Theatre in Moorestown, NJ

by Christopher 'Jumbo' Schimpf

THE MUSIC MAN is certainly an American classic, and maybe that’s why it is such a good fit for Moorestown Theater Company. With this production, MTC fulfills its mission to provide families a chance to participate in theater together. It’s apparent in every aspect of the production. As dark and cynical a play as THE MUSIC MAN is, it is rarely produced as such, and certainly isn’t here. MTC is content to play the surface, do some big, loud audience pleasers like “Shipoopi”, and have a good time at it.

The children in the River City Band are conducted by "Harold Hill" (John Comegno) in the Moorestown Theater Company's production of THE MUSIC MAN, playing at the William Allen Middle School in Moorestown, NJ through July 24.

It’s all about wholesome family fun on stage and in the house at MTC. Harold Hill, THE MUSIC MAN, is a con artist who arrives in 1912 River City, Iowa, to swindle the simple townsfolk. His game is to sell the City-zians on a children’s marching band, replete with instruments, uniforms and even technical manuals, and only the lonely librarian, Marian Paroo, is in a position to expose his grift. So what does Hill do? He sets to seducing the girl, of course. Some slick talkin’ and a few songs later, it’s not so apparent who’s bamboozled whom, and eventually the Man’s got to face the Music.

With a cast of well over 70 and a company over 100 strong, MTC brings a lot of families to the stage. The youngest company members looked to be first grade age, and the oldest may well have been their great grandparents. From first-timers to old-timers, every age and experience level was represented. This isn’t a production for discerning theatergoers, but it’s a nice way to spend the afternoon with the kids or grandkids. Ali (9) and Sara (6) sat near the writer with Grandmom Marilyn, and they both had a great time. It was hard for them to pick a favorite part, but they both liked the big song and dance numbers. They were also pretty enthusiastic about joining up to perform next time too.

The show does suffer from some serious pacing problems; the final curtain doesn’t fall for a full 3 hours. This is a play that can easily come in under 2:30, so expect a little fidgeting (especially from Dad). In the meantime, there’s a snack stand with lots of goodies to enjoy at intermission. There are better bets out there for grown-ups, but this is a safe one if you’ve got a pre-teen to entertain.

MTC also made it a point during the brief curtain speech to invite all the kids in the audience, and then their families, to come out and participate in their future shows and camps. This writer would sign his kids up tomorrow if he had any. Auditions for their 6 to 17 year old cast of ANNIE, JR. begin in September, and they’ll be posting more opportunities for all ages soon.

Book, Music & Lyrics by Meredith Willson
Directed by Mark Morgan
July 15 – 24, 2010
Moorestown Theater Company
William Allen Middle School
801 N. Stanwick Road
Moorestown, NJ

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