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Regional Reviews: Phoenix

The Music Man
Mesa Encore Theatre
Review by Gil Benbrook | Season Schedule

Also see Gil's recent reviews of Love Is Here to Stay: A Gershwin Cabaret, Assassins, and She Loves Me


Zac Bushman and Lauren Koeritzer
Photo by Denise Sowers Desoto
Featuring such well-known tunes as "76 Trombones," "My White Knight," and "(Ya Got) Trouble," and a well written comical book, The Music Man is a crowd pleaser of a show. Mesa Encore Theatre's production of this beloved musical is fairly solid and features an exceptional performance by Lauren Koeritzer as Marian, the librarian.

With a score and book by Meredith Willson, The Music Man tells the story of a small town in 1912 Iowa where traveling salesman Harold Hill, a "professor" of music, swindles parents out of their hard earned money to pay for instruments and music lessons for their "troubled" boys. Hill has no music background and plans to skip town with the cash before teaching the children anything about music.

Librarian Marian Paroo doesn't fall for Hill's con act, knowing he is too good to be true, and makes it her mission to prove his lack of credibility. However, when Hill is able to bring Marian's younger and extremely shy brother Winthrop out of his shell, she finds herself at a crossroads and realizes that she just might be falling in love with the con man. Is Hill actually in love with Marian too, or is he scheming her along with the town?

Director Damon J. Bolling has assembled a fairly good cast for this well-known show, led by Zac Bushman as Hill and Lauren Koeritzer as Marian. Bushman has a lovely singing voice and he has no problem delivering the fast-paced "(Ya Got) Trouble," which is truly an accomplishment due to the intricate nature of that song. He exudes plenty of charm, though he lacks a little of the chutzpa to effectively pull off the seedier parts of this con man. Koeritzer is superb as Marian. Her stunning, soaring and clear voice delivers lovely performances of her two big love songs, "My White Knight" and "Till There Was You." She also effectively displays Marian's disdain for Hill with well delivered quips and facial expressions. It is an all-around sensational performance.

The majority of the large ensemble cast deliver engaging performances. As Hill's former con-man friend Marcellus, JT Turner is bright and funny with rubbery legs that add plenty of humor to his dance moves in the song he leads, "Shipoopi." As the mistrusting Mayor and his wife, Tim Shafer and Shelly Trujillo are a hoot. Priscilla Bertling is full of life as Marian's mother, and Ben Kubicki has a lovely stage presence and command of his role as Marian's younger brother Winthrop. Kerry Jordan, Clayton Marlowe, Steve Morgan and Darryl Poenisch make up the barbershop quartet who exude happiness in their newly discovered joy of singing together.

Bolling and choreographer Danny T. craft some very effective moments, with the dance movement growing organically out of the stage action. They also use the large ensemble quite successfully throughout the show. T.'s moves include plenty of varied steps which, with just one or two exceptions, are danced well by the cast. Kerry Jordan's set design features a few large pieces and several smaller ones to efficiently portray the town's library, main square, and the Paroo home. Amy Shafer's colorful and abundant costumes are excellent. CJ O'Hara's music direction achieves some lovely sounds from the large cast, though a few instrumental sections of the score, including the overture, sound thin due to the small size of the orchestra.

MET's production of The Music Man is fun filled, with firm direction, successful creative elements, and a cast who deliver the charm and warmth of Willson's rich characters and toe-tapping songs with ease.

The Music Man runs at Mesa Encore Theatre through November 20th, 2016, with performances at the Mesa Arts Center at 1 East Main Street in Mesa. Tickets can be ordered by calling (480) 644-6500 or at mesaencoretheatre.com.

Producer: Suze St. John
Director: Damon J. Bolling
Music Director: CJ O'Hara
Choreographer: Danny T.
Stage Manager: Kendra Lytle
Technical Director/Set Designer: Kerry Jordan
Lighting Designer: Bret Reese
Sound Designer: Tom Drewnowski
Properties: Trine Bradshaw
Assistant Properties/Set Dressing: Amanda Holt
Costumer: Amy Shafer
Assistant Costumer: Pam Pershing
Hair/Make-Up: Angela Kabasan

Cast:
Harold Hill: Zac Bushman
Marian Paroo: Lauren Koeritzer
Marcellus Washburn: JT Turner
Mrs. Paroo: Priscilla Bertling
Mayor Shinn: Tim Shafer
Eulalie Shinn: Shelly Trujillo
Zaneeta Shinn: Alexia Lorch
Gracie Shinn: Paige Shafer
Amaryllis: Sophia Matin
Winthrop Paroo: Ben Kubicki
Tommy Djilas: Tad Morgan
Charlie Cowell: Doug Marks
Pick-A-Little Ladies:
Maud Dunlop: Angela Kabasan
Ethel Toffelmoir: Meaghan Katz
Mrs.Squires: Kelsey Pokatello
Alma Hix: Emily Walter
Quartet Members:
Ewart Dunlop: Kerry Jordan
Olin Britt: Clayton Marlowe
Oliver Hix: Steve Morgan
Jacey Squires: Darryl Poenisch
Female Ensemble: Bethany Baca, Daeun Chung, Gwendolyn Clark, Lacey Dixon, Julia Jordan, Rebekah Patton, April Rideout, Misty West
Conductor/Male Ensemble: Ben Bozovich
Male Ensemble: Stephen Johnstun
Constable Locke/Male Ensemble: Marco Monacchio
Youth Ensemble: Josh Boenzi, Gabriel Juarez


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