You all know the story - a con man comes to a small Iowa town to sell them band instruments, uniforms, and a false promise of musical instruction, bringing music and new life to the stolid town, all the while planning to skip town after he collects the money, until he unexpectedly "gets his foot caught in the door on the way out," realizing that he needs these people to believe in him as much as they need someone and something to believe in. Professor Harold Hill is an expert salesman with a knack for knowing exactly what people need to hear and telling it to them in the most appealing way. He wins the town over person by person, giving the children something to focus on and look forward to, convincing the bickering school board to become a barbershop quartet, prompting the busybody ladies to form a dancing society. But music teacher and librarian Marian, a proud, guarded, and bookish "old maid" with high standards is not so easily won over. She knows the truth about Professor Hill, but when she sees her troubled and withdrawn little brother begin to blossom under his friendship, and the town come together as one, she sees that "the truth" about Professor Hill doesn't really matter. What matters is the joy that he's brought to the town, and even if he does skip town, he will leave them better than he found them.
I love our local actors so much that I'm always a little disappointed when cast lists are released with unfamiliar names at the top. But I need to learn to trust the Guthrie casting department, because they always find just the right person for each role. For as soon as these newcomers stepped on stage, they made me fall in love with them against my will! And truly, this 40+ person cast is a beautiful mixture of about half Guthrie veterans, a half dozen newcomers from the national scene, and even more Guthrie newcomers from within our own talent base, including many of our most above average children.
|Marion and Professor Hill lead the dance|
(Stacie Bono and Danny Binstock, photo by T. Charles Erickson)
-singing, with boundless charm, an ever-present spring in his step, and a knowing roguish smirk on his face (and looking a bit like Joseph Gordon-Levitt), he simply is Professor Hill. Stacie Bono is everything you'd want in Marian the librarian, sensible, smart, and proud, slowly letting her hair down (figuratively and literally) as she lets this man into her life. And her golden soprano voice will give you chills on such songs as "My White Knight" and "Till There Was You." Danny and Stacie are a charming pair with oodles of chemistry and lovely harmonies.
|the marvelous cast of The Music Man (photo by T. Charles Erickson)|
|the train rolls into River City (photo by T. Charles Erickson)|
|Tommy (Brandon Simmons) leads the band as the crowd cheers|
(photo by T. Charles Erickson)
|Grant Wood's Young Corn|
It's obvious that Meredith Wilson wrote The Music Man as a loving homage to his home city of Mason City, Iowa, using people and places he knew as inspiration for the piece. And the Guthrie's production continues in that spirit. As much as we Minnesotans like to make fun of Iowa, we're really not that different, and the values of home, community, pride, and family ring true. If you're a person who loves musicals, you won't want to miss this Music Man that will remind you of why you love musicals. That is, familiar and beloved songs, a huge and hugely talented cast of familiar faces and new, fantastic set and costumes that bring you right into that world, humor, and most important, a meaningful and poignant story told with much heart. The Music Man continues through August 23, but get your tickets soon before they sell out.
*The Guthrie offers backstage tours, in which you can visit the bowels of the Guthrie and see how the stage mechanics work, as well as tour the rehearsal spaces and costume and set shops.