Friday, August 10, 2018

QUICK TAKE REVIEW By Beverly Creasey The Piper Pays Him!

He’s so slick that folks don’t even know they’ve been had, ‘til he’s on the train fifty miles away, about to swindle the townspeople at the next stop. He’s Harold Hill, THE MUSIC MAN, temporarily in residence (through August 12th) at the Reagle Music Theatrecelebrating their fiftieth anniversary this summer.

Meredith Wilson’s hit musical has won a slew of prizes, including five Tony awards… and Reagle’s many productions over the years have been recognized by the local critics. So how do you make this MUSIC MAN stand out above the others we reviewers have seen at Reagle? You get Susan Chebookjian to restage the original Broadway and film choreography and make it look like a million bucks. Nothing can compete with a top flight chorus of fifty professional hoofers.

Director/choreographer Chebookjian kicks up the comedy as well as those heelsbut without stinting on the charm and romance: After all, the quintessential traveling salesman meets his match in River City’s Marian the Librarian and the clinches have to touch our hearts. (They do and I have the wrinkled hankie in my purse to prove it.) You might think casting for corn would be a gamble but this is Iowa for heaven sakes. I found Mark Linehan’s jaunty music man absolutely refreshing. He knocks ‘em dead from the get-go with a snappy, rousing “Ya Got Trouble.” Then he does it again, with “Seventy Six Trombones.”

Jennifer Ellis’ Marion the Librarian doesn’t just “fall” in love; she plays a willing participant, all the while keeping her petticoats starched and proper, not an easy trick to pull off. No saccharine bookworm, she. Ellis’ wry smile tells us that she might just enjoy the mayhem erupting on top of the reading tables!

Reagle has music director Dan Rodriguez at the helm so you know the singing is first rate, even from the childen (Jonathan Tillan and Cate Galanti). Many of the performers in the secondary roles often have principal roles in other shows, so even the smallest of gestures adds to the whole. Reagle favorite Harold “Jerry” Walker returns in top form as the wonderfully clueless River City Mayor. Lori L’Italien, too, scores laughs as the Mayor’s over-enthusiastic wife. I could go on: The always willing, easily distracted barbershop quartet… the gossiping ladies, singing counterpoint… the spectacular, syncopated opening number: I had forgotten what a lovely, genuinely funny show THE MUSIC MAN is. Don’t miss the train.