Regional Reviews: Florida - Southern
The Music Man
Set in the rural town of River City, Iowa, in 1912, the story concerns a con-man named Harold Hill (Matt Loehr). His latest scheme is posing as a boys' band organizer and leader who sells band instruments and uniforms to naive townsfolk, and then skips out with the cash. In River City he meets a prim librarian and piano teacher named Marian Paroo (Mandy Bruno), too shrewd to be taken in by his smooth talk. Though she quickly learns he is an imposter, Marian softens her attitude toward Hill when he helps her younger brother Winthrop (Aaron Simons) overcome his fear of social interactions due to the loss of his father and his lisp. As the people of the town are transformed by his energy and the excitement of something new at hand, Marian protects Harold as she waits to see how his scheme will unfold. Caught off guard by his feelings toward her, Hill in turn risks being caught in his own scam as the unlikely couple begins to fall in love.
Matt Loehr (Harold Hill) is an extraordinarily gifted dancer and comedic actor. His playful style is reminiscent of Sean Hayeswhich comes as no surprise as he understudied Hayes in the recent Broadway revival of Promises, Promises. This production takes full advantage of his dancing, placing him front and center in many of the choreographed numberseven dancing his way between some of the scene changes. While he is delightful and energetic, he is lacking the edge needed to portray a character described as an infamous womanizer. Marian refers to him as a "common masher" after their first meeting, and he is said to have had his way with at least one woman in 102 counties. While Loehr has chemistry with Mandy Bruno (Marian), it is one of seeming fondness and friendship rather than romantic love and passion. With that said, Loehr is undeniably talented. His Hill is just a bit too much the mischievous pied piper rather than the manipulative skirt-chaser. It is important we see love change him from being a rogue to a family man. In order for that to happen, he needs to be a rogue first.
Mandy Bruno is a lovely Marian. She is appropriately stand-offish at first, allowing her heart to be warmed by Hill's kindness toward Winthrop. She has a beautiful singing voice, marred only by her inclination to place "h"s before words beginning with vowels. Dennis O'Bannion is a delightful Marcellus in "Shipoopi." As Mrs. Paroo (Marian's mother) Elizabeth Dimon is spot on with her Irish brogue and matronly warmth and wit. John Felix as Mayor Shinn and Anna McNeely as Eulalie Shinn are the consummate comic acting pair. He capitalizes on the scripted verbal blunderings of the pretentious mayor, and she finds every nuance in his overly fussy wife.
The Maltz has provided excellent lighting and sound, beautifully played and sung music, and wonderful choreography. There are some minor concerns about rural Iowa being portrayed so polished and cute by scenic designer Depoo. There is greater concern with costuming by Rivera. It seemed his goal was beauty and grandeur over appropriateness to character, location and time period. Marian's parade of gorgeous gowns and dresses are impeccably tailored but incredibly wrong for a librarian living in a River City. They would only have been right had she been a wealthy young woman living in a major city such as New York or Chicago. Overall, the production of The Music Man at the Maltz is a visually joyful and pleasing one indeed, and it is highly unlikely that one will ever find one better choreographed and danced.
In addition to The Music Man, Meredith Willson also wrote the musicals The Unsinkable Molly Brown and Here's Love. Other work includes three autobiographies, assorted film scores, symphonies and chamber music, and a handful of popular tunes such as "It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas." His many awards include the Presidential Medal of Freedom, presented posthumously by President Ronald Reagan in 1987.
The Music Man will be appearing at the Maltz Jupiter Theatre through December 16, 2012. The Maltz Jupiter Theatre is a 550-seat, nonprofit, community-based Equity regional theatre belonging to the League of Resident Theatres, and the Florida Professional Theatre Association. This theatre employees both local and non-local Equity and non-union cast and crew members. The theatre is located at 1001 Indiantown Rd. (just off of A1A) in Jupiter, Florida. For tickets and complete information on the theatre's offerings, contact them by phone at 561/ 575-2223 or 800/ 445-1666, and online at www.jupitertheatre.org.
* Indicates member of Actors' Equity Association, the Union of Professional Actor's and Stage Managers
^Designates member of United Scenic Artists