Meredith Willson’s 1957 great hit “The Music Man” recently opened at the Engeman Theater in Northport. Set in 1912 in Willson’s hometown, called River City, Iowa, in the show, it chronicles the plans of a con man/traveling salesman to bilk the city out of thousands and skip. All of the above were neatly integrated in the production.
It had all of the things a musical comedy should have: variety, exquisitely performed choreography, impressive singing and an engaging plot. The armature of the production was Antoinette DiPietropolo’s choreography. Yes, there was Rob Gallagher as Harold Hill, the “Music Man,” whose singing and dancing were extraordinarily powerful as usual; yet without DiPietropolo’s terpsichorean talent there would have been a weak spark in the nucleus of the visual entertainment.
The Engeman has a wide stage, and every square centimeter was used. Every aspect of dance was put into play: classical ballet, interpretive, modern and more. Directing was the job of Igor Goldin who was confronted by a massive responsibility of blocking and interpretation. His resume, loaded as it is with many awards, stood him in good stead to take on “The Music Man.” His stage skills had eminent success in this show.
Backing all of these rhythms was James Olmstead directing on piano, Joe Boardman on trumpet (whose skill your scribe has praised previously for his ability in the very upper register), Frank Hall on trombone, Mark Gatz and Marni Harris on reeds and Josh Endlich on percussion. Endlich had alot of march-tempo effort, and he made it sound like a platoon of drummers.
Gallagher was undoubtedly the star. His stage presence alone, along with his sense of timing, while integrating all this with singing and dancing, put him on the apogee of which there was no perigee.
Kim Carson, her tall angular beauty enhancing her plangent voice, teamed up with Gallagher both in “Shipoopi” and individually on “Till There Was You” with penetrating effect. There was plenty of comedy with Mayor Shinn (Ray DeMattis) and his wife, Eulalie (Jennifer Collester-Tully). His mangling of the English language culminated in (to his wife) “Not one poop out of you!!” to which she responds, “He means peep!” Then there was his incomprehensible simile, “like a buttonhook in a waterbucket.”
Collester-Tully was particularly sharp as the foil … er, wife. The diminutive dynamite of Carlos Gomez as Marcellus was effective as the comic Leporello. Since the setting was 1912, a barbershop quartet was featured, consisting of Richard Costa, Kevin Necciai, Kilty Reidy and Kenny Francoeur. Their really close harmony stood beautifully in contradistinction to the production numbers and solos.
In a well-played child’s part, Shane Anthony McGlone sang “Gary Indiana,” showing great promise. That made-for-the-stage character, portly Burl Ives look-alike Doug Vandewinckel was the lecherous Charlie Cowell. All he needs to do is walk on stage and the character he is playing comes to immediate life.
The ensemble members responsible for all the kudos for dancing were: Larry A. Lozier Jr. (dance captain), Nathan Applegate, Tara Carbone, Karli Dinardo, Danielle Mia Deniz and Chris LeBeau.
The happy coalescence of talent is what made this show a hit. However, talent is not a finished product — it needs coordination, training, rehearsing and support. This is what the Engeman brings together; a host of expertise in the aesthetic dimension with sharp skills in directing, choreography, singing along with those unsung backups like Costume Coordinator Ryan Moller, sound design by Craig Kaufman and lighting design by Cory Pattak. The result: great theatah.
The John W. Engeman Theater, 250 Main St., Northport will present “The Music Man” through May 18. Tickets are $60 to $65. For more information, call 261-2900 or visit engemantheater.com.