The multiple award-winning musical, ‘The Music Man,’ opened at the John W. Engeman Theater last week. Although more than 50 years have passed since its Broadway debut, the show has lost none of its magic, humor or ability to tug on our heartstrings. Under the direction of Igor Goldin, the Engeman cast brings it all to fruition so beautifully and enthusiastically that they make it new again. Prepare to be bewitched, and to fall in love with the characters. You won’t want it to end.
Meredith Willson, who penned the book, music and lyrics for the show, was not only an extremely gifted composer, songwriter and playwright, but a man with a deep understanding of the dreams, hopes and wishes that are the province of the heart. The musical showcases his genius.
Carl Sagan once said that serendipity is the optimistic belief that there is something marvelous around the corner, something not yet discovered, yet magnificent. It is this feeling of hopeful anticipation that “Professor” Harold Hill, aka “The Music Man,” brings with him when he breezes into River City, Iowa. Willson modeled River City after his hometown of Mason City, Iowa, a slice of small town America that he knew like the back of his hand. Yet theatergoers will immediately be enchanted by Josh Zangen’s set which features a beautiful latticework-laced gazebo framed by trees is reminiscent of Northport Village Park.
The good professor is a smooth-talking con artist who has his act down to a science. Like Mr. Willson, he has an uncanny understanding of what makes people tick and he uses it to get the townsfolk to fork over money for a children’s band. The only person immune to his charms and skeptical about his motives is the comely but aloof town librarian, Marian Paroo, whom he’d actually like to get to know better.
Robert Gallagher, who previously played romantic leads in Engeman’s ‘South Pacific’ and ‘The Sound of Music,’ was born to play the title role of the traveling Pied Piper. He has a commanding presence, an astounding singing voice, and a great sense of comedic timing. Kim Carson, who played opposite him in ‘South Pacific,’ stars as Marian Paroo. She has the voice of an angel and the face to match. Her rendition of the lovelorn lament, “Goodnight, My Someone” melted my heart.
The supporting cast assembled by Stephen DeAngelis is impeccable and audiences will be delighted as each one eventually takes his or her place in the spotlight. Ray DeMattis is wonderful as the verbally befuddled Mayor Shinn and Jennifer Tully, Engeman’s Artistic Administrator, is hilarious as his histrionic wife, Eulalie Mackecknie. Carlos Lopez, who plays Professor Hill’s wing man Marcellus Washburn, has a true knack for comedy, and really struts his stuff when he sings “Shipoopi.”
Winthrop Paroo, an adorable boy whose lisp has rendered him painfully shy, was played by Jeffrey S. Kishinevskiy on the night that I saw the show. I predict great things for this little star who can really belt out a song. Patti Mariano, who plays Marian’s very Irish, impulsively frank mother, garners a lot of laughs. I loved the mellifluous crooning of the Barbershop Quartet made up of Richard Costa, Kenny Francoeur, Kevin Necciai and Kilty Reidy.
The show hits all the high notes in terms of the music. Director James Olmstead and his crew deliver the goods big time, making the unseen six piece pit band sound like a full piece orchestra. With so many wonderful songs, it is hard to choose a favorite, but mine included “The Sadder-But-Wiser-Girl,” “Till There Was You,” and of course, the beloved classic, “Seventy-six Trombones.”
I heartily commend everyone involved with this production. Ryan Moller’s costumes are spectacular as is the hair and make-up design by Kurt Alger. You’ll see some of the fanciest footwork that ever graced the Engeman stage, thanks to Antoinette DiPietropolo’s fabulous choreography. Cory Pattak’s lighting augments the ambience.
‘The Music Man’ runs through May 18, but buy tickets early this family-friendly show could very well sell out! The Engeman Theater is located at 250 Main St., Northport Village. Tickets can be purchased at the theater’s box office, by calling (631) 261-2900 or by visiting www.engemantheater.com.