There are certain American musicals so entrenched in the canon, they might as well be listed in the dictionary under 'musical.' The Music Man, the 1957 Tony Award winner by Meredith Willson, is one such musical. The Maltz Jupiter Theatre's rendition, running through December 16, honors the timeless qualities of this classic, while still managing to imbue it with a modern energy.
Set in 1912, the show opens with the arrival of the Music Man himself, Professor Harold Hill, in River City, Iowa. A music man only by deception, Hill is a con artist/salesman who travels from town to town encouraging parents to purchase band instruments and uniforms under the guise that he will teach their children to play. As noted many times, Hill does not know one note from another, so his con rests on him fleeing town before anyone wises up. This becomes all the more difficult when Hill falls for the local music teacher/librarian, Marion, leaving him to choose between extending his long con or planting roots in Iowa.
Matt Loehr shines as Professor Harold Hill. In addition to being a dead ringer for John Cryer (of Two and a Half Men fame, or, as I prefer to remember him, Duckie from Pretty in Pink), Loeher prances across the stage with unparalleled vigor, making even the most daunting dance numbers appear a walk in the park.
And the dance numbers are over the top. If there's one thing you'll learn from seeing The Music Man, it is Iowans talk really fast, and dance even faster. Charged with lighting-paced lyrics and dance steps, the ensemble shines in every imaginable way. "Seventy-Six Trombones," led by Loeher, is a whirlwind of flashy choreography (courtesy of Shea Sullivan) that left audience members on their feet. The highlight, a cancan line to rival the Rockettes.
My favorite ensemble member, Mayor Shinn played by John Felix, did not dance much but provided me with a new favorite word: phraseology. He weaved in and out of the town square setting (beautifully constructed using forced perspective), the ever-present miser out to rid the town of Hill.
Other standouts include the entire Paroo family; Marion (Mandy Bruno), her mother (Elizabeth Dimon) and younger brother, Winthrop (Aaron Simons) who overcomes the most adorable speech-impairment through the confidence he finds in joining the band. Bruno has the voice of a songbird and Dimon nails her turn-of-the-century brogue. All in all, they are a family unit for whom one cannot help but root.
If you've never seen The Music Man, the Maltz Jupiter Theatre's production is the perfect introduction. With unforgettable songs (seriously, just try to get "Gary, Indiana" out of your head), grand dance numbers and turn-of-the-century nostalgia, it truly is the perfect example of the classic American musical.
To learn more about the Maltz Jupiter Theatre or to purchase tickets to The Music Man, visit jupitertheatre.org