King of Prussia Players opened with a classic piece of Americana this weekend at Upper Merion High School with Meredith Willson’s THE MUSIC MAN. The classic 1957 Broadway musical was the winner of 5 Tony Awards and made into the 1962 smash hit film starring Robert Preston (Tony winner for his portrayal of Harold Hill) and the legendary Shirley Jones.
I’ve said it before, in the current theatre climate of SPRING AWAKENING and THE BOOK OF MORMON, a virtuous story with catchy tunes and beautiful singing is a breath of fresh air (with the exception of the marvelous ONCE). Though it may seem dated and saccharin sweet, this story still echoes timeless themes like unconditional love and repentance.
Newcomer Ryan Haller makes his stage debut as con man Harold Hill, setting his sights on the innocent town of River City, Iowa as his latest conquest. Haller is to be commended for taking on such a hefty role as a novice; with more experience and training, he shows great potential. Collette Anderson, as love interest Marian Paroo sang beautifully memorable songs including Goodnight My Someone and Will I Ever Tell You. I wanted more chemistry between the two stars; unfortunately Anderson appeared a little stiff, though her voice made up for her acting. Haller did not command the stage; however I think in time, he definitely could. I hope he continues his pursuits.
The ensemble cast clearly shone in this production. Tom Blair stood out as the bumbling Mayor Shinn, with his smooth, skilled dancing and presence; he’s hard not to watch and enjoy. His lovely wife Phyllis Blair nicely supported as Mrs. Shinn in a variety of comic bits. The Quartet struck every note with ease; their performance, just perfect. Some of the young dancers livened things up quite a bit, and young Will Dusinberre made an adorable Winthrop. Sue Scott in a variety of supporting roles stood out among the ensemble, along with her husband Danny, I wanted to see them both more. A variety of ages on stage, from toddler to senior, the cast clearly enjoyed themselves.
If I were to nitpick, the set changes dragged with too much emphasis on costume (though Allison Baron and her team should be commended for some splendid pieces) and not enough attention to set and props (where was the Wells Fargo Wagon? a wheel barrow instead?).
That said, the house was packed, the kids had fun, and there were plenty of proud family members in the audience. Director Lawrence Anderson and Conductor Keith Clattenburg put up an enjoyable show which was fun for the whole family.
THE MUSIC MAN
Book, Music and Lyrics by Meredith Willson
Story by Meredith Willson and Franklin Lacey
Directed by Dr. Lawrence Anderson
Conducted by Keith Clattenburg
(guest Conductors Charles Adams for Nov 8-9, Mark Shepperd Nov 14)
November 8 – 16th
King of Prussia Players
Upper Merion Middle School
450 Keebler Rd, King of Prussia