Broadway Classic Comes to Life at Steel River Playhouse: THE MUSIC MAN

by Walter Bender

There is a reason classic shows are classics…while the times may change, the way these shows affect us stays the same. Some shows make us laugh, some make us cry, some make us think, and some just make us feel good. And some…those special few…can make us do all of the above. While there’s not a lot of deep thought required in THE MUSIC MAN, it remains one of the all-time favorite musicals for a reason. It’s one of those truly feel-good musicals. Steel River Playhouse in Pottstown is closing their 2013-14 season with a production of this timeless classic. And, they’re doing it very well indeed.

THE MUSIC MAN tells the tale of “Professor” Harold Hill, con-man extraordinaire, and his visit to the serene River City Iowa. It is there he meets old friend Marcellus Washburn, Mayor Shinn, his wife Eulalie McKecknie Shinn, local street tough Tommy Djilas, the local school board and newly formed (by Hill) ladies dance committee, and the local librarian, Marian Paroo, her mother Mrs. Paroo, and brother Winthrop. Hill sells the town on the need for a band to offset the terrible trouble they have…a pool table in the billiard hall. And, of course, Hill will sell them instruments, instruction books, uniforms, and teach them to play, via a revolutionary “Think Method.” But will Hill’s scheme be thwarted by Marian, by travelling salesman Charlie Cowell, or by some other happening?

This is a very tight production. The acting is stellar, music is tuneful and delicious to hear, and the choreography is precise and perfect for the production. Hill is played with glee by Tom Wang, and has enough of the slick shyster in the early stages of the play to make you almost dislike him. Marian (Naomi Weiss) is mistrustful, yet is won over by Hill’s charm. Mayor Shinn (a delightful Joe Conte) is bluster and balderdash. The School Board (John Williams, Tom Newmyer, Randy Frame, Lee Wesner) do the barbershop quartet numbers well, and a couple missteps early on were easily forgotten by the beautiful harmonies and strong finishes. The talented Susan Murphy brings a blustery quality to Mrs. Shinn and allows herself to be the (intentionally) overacting center of attention when needed. Trent Solo is solid as Tommy, and Christie Lohr is delightful as Gracie Shinn.

Kristin McLaughlin did a wonderful job in bringing this production to life. The scenes moved alone nicely, flowing from one to the next with minimal interruption. Musical Direction (Julie Eurillo) and Choreography (Jessica Bostock) were equally solid. Costumes (designed by Ally Boughter) were beautiful and suggested the era perfectly. This is a fun night at the theatre. Join this delightful cast in River City…and in Pottstown.

Book, Music and Lyrics by Meredith Willson
Story by Meredith Willson and Franklin Lacey
June 5-22, 2014
Steel River Playhouse
245 E. High Street
Pottstown PA 19464
(610) 970-1199


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