If ever there were a talent worthy of the title, “The Music Man,” surely it would be the founder/director of Class Act Productions, Keith Brumfield. Last weekend that talent was thoroughly on display (both onstage and off) in the group’s delicious presentation of Meredith Willson’s classic musical, “The Music Man.” The show added generously to the long list of joys that Brumfield has brought to both audiences and his young performers over the better part of the past decade. From the opening strains of the lovely Overture (Musical Director, Rae Moses and his fine 11-piece orchestra), to the train conductor’s call for “All aboard for River City, Iowa,” we are ever so sweetly transported back to the American heartland of 1912. It would be a pleasant trip for one and all.
Performed in a nicely designed railway coach (the first of many fine set designs from Jonathan Shelledy and scenic artist, Joan Rothhammer), the opening number, “Rock Island,” is a tongue twisting, a cappella composition that was well done by the cast of Traveling Salesmen. A woman seated near me in the audience wisely observed, “This must have been the first rap song!” It was just one example of the incredible musical variety that comprises Willson’s masterpiece.
Then came our first peek at the lovely Town Center set, filled with a huge and colorfully dressed cast (Sandy Braddock, costumes, and Kym See, makeup), that must have approached the better part of a hundred in number. Under the fine lighting designs of Blake Minor, the scene had the pristine clarity of High Definition, and the vocal purity of the ensemble’s wonderful “Iowa Stubborn.”
Next, our male lead, talented Grady Randle, arrives as Harold Hill, the role made famous by Robert Preston. With solid back up from the chorus, and with a pleasant voice that shows great future potential to balance speed and articulation, Randle immediately showed his fearless courage in tackling the exhausting “Ya Got Trouble” number that Preston made look so easy. A smooth scene transition takes us to the lovely parlor of the Paroo family home. Alyssa Porter gives us an affectionate Mrs. Paroo, and our vocally gifted co-star, Lindsay Gunther, plays her daughter, Marian, as Marian’s sweet piano student, Amaryllis (Georgia Wilkinson), joins the two with fancy cross-hand piano work. Highlights here included the intricate “Piano Lesson” song, and the charming “Goodnight My Someone,” with its sweet closing duet on the rotating set.
In a well-staged Fourth of July scene, we meet the wonderfully pompous Mayor Shinn (Sean Rooney), and his amusing wife, Eulalie (Diane Goldsmith). The “Seventy-Six Trombones” number was a full cast knockout with the spectacular ensemble choreography of Heidi Sweet that permeates the show. The “Sincere” quartet that followed was a winner as well, featuring Brumfield himself in a rare onstage appearance covering the high notes for this talented foursome. The quartet would charm the audience further with “Goodnight Ladies,” “It’s You,” and the superb counterpoints of “Lida Rose,” opposite Marion’s elegant, “Will I Ever Tell You?” Meanwhile, the Pick-A-Little Ladies do a wonderful job of gossiping in song.
Randle brings boundless enthusiasm to the challenging “Sadder But Wiser Girl,” and to the well choreographed “Marian, the Librarian,” played out on a fine bi-level set. Gunther shows more of her impressive vocal skill in “My White Knight,” and then a spirited, full cast “Wells Fargo Wagon” closes Act One on a very high note.
In the supporting comic role of Marcellus, Ian Ramirez opens Act Two by skillfully leading the Teen Chorus in a “Shipoopi” full of hoedown dancing fun. Other fine supporting performances came from Kirk Van Sickle as devilish Tommy Djilas, Ruthie McKinney as the Mayor’s giggling daughter, Zaneeta, full-voiced Damian Valdes as suspicious salesman, Charlie Cowell, and Cole Thompson as Marian’s lisping little brother, Winthrop, who does quite well by the song “Gary, Indiana.”
Lovely forest scenery, shadowy lighting, and a delicate ballet highlight the Footbridge scene that is crowned by the glowing Gunther’s elegant, “Till There Was You” duet with Mr. Randle. Framed atop the footbridge like the bride and groom on a wedding cake, the pair seemed perfectly matched to capture romantic enchantment as the joyful evening closed with the long awaited marching band. Score another win for Class Act Productions!
(The Villager 7.21.05)
(The Courier 7.22.05)