Thursday, July 01, 2010

'Music Man' provides quality family entertainment

The Mount Washington Valley Theatre Company kicks off its 40th season with an enjoyable production of Meredith Willson's familiar family-friendly classic, “The Music Man,” which opened Wednesday at the Eastern Slope Inn Playhouse in North Conway, N.H. and is running through July 10.

“Music Man” first opened on Broadway in 1957 and has gone on to become one of the touchstones of American musical theater spawning several revivals on Broadway, the 1962 film version starring Robert Preston and a TV movie starring Matthew Broderick in 2003.

The music man of the title is Harold Hill (Grant Golson), a con artist, who arrives in River City, Iowa, to perform his usual con: selling musical instruments, instruction books and uniforms to the parents of the local children and promising to form and lead a youth band. Here's the rub: Harold has no musically talent and plans to skip town right after he is paid.

It is four weeks before everything arrives, which gives Harold plenty of time to court Marian (Megan Buzzard), the local librarian and music teacher. What Harold doesn't expect is too actually do good for the community and fall in love with Marian.

The plot is basic stuff with that timeless theme of love being able to get a crooked guy on the right path. It is nothing groundbreaking, but it doesn't have to be. The story is merely a clothesline to string the songs and jokes together. This is light, fluffy, feel good entertainment and director Clayton Phillips' production captures that sense of colorful fun.

Golson as Harold Hill carries the show quite nicely. This is his third season with the company and regular patrons of the theater will recognize him from such shows as “Cabaret,” “Fiddler on the Roof” and “The Producers.” Here he is ideally cast as the hustling huckster. He is charming with a big smile and convincingly puts the town under his spell.

Golson is particularly good on “Ya Got Trouble” where he excites the community to believing they have a rebellious youth in need of the structure of a band and in the rousing “76 Trombones,” which along with “Shipoopi” features some lively choreography by Bryan Knowlton.

One of the best things about show is a barbershop quartet that Harold amusingly cons four feuding locals into forming. Low and behold, the quartet is actually quite good and is easily coerced into singing at any moment. Andrew Lipman, Dov Rubenstein, Evan Smith and Jesse Havea sound great together and are always a welcome presence on stage.

Buzzard as Marian makes for an appealing love interest. She effectively plays being cold and reserved and slowly melting under Golson's charisma. She has a naturalistic stage presence and a powerful singing voice.

Although the Mount Washington Valley Theatre Company is a professional company, regulars of local theater will spot some familiar faces from the community.

Kevin O'Neil is very funny as the mayor who is constantly telling people to “watch your phraseology” even though he quite often gets things backwards himself. Caroline Nesbitt amuses as the mayor's wife, who is tricked into heading up a dance group with disastrous results. It is also nice to see Kyle Mulcahy, last seen in “Bare,” as one of the townspeople.

Although this is a well-mounted production, it is hard to avoid that on a couple occasions the music drowned out the singing and on the reprise of “Pick-a-Little, Talk-a-Little” the overlapping and contrasting lyrics canceled each other making it difficult to make any sense of what was being sung. This was opening night and perhaps this issue will be worked out as the run progresses. These moments are isolated and don't undermine the overall quality and enjoyability of the show.

Tickets are $32 and may be reserved at the box office at 356-5776, which is open daily from 11 a.m., or online at

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