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Regional Reviews by Gil Benbrook

The Music Man
Scottsdale Musical Theatre Company


Matt Newhard, Lindsay Urbank and Cast
Community theatre productions of well-known musicals tend to be hit or miss. While the material and songs are well known by audience members, the cast and physical production elements generally lean toward the substandard. Often, cast members, especially the ensemble, aren't much more than window dressing, not knowing how to properly act in the background of scenes, and the sets, costumes and lighting can be minimal and unimaginative. So I'm happy to report that the Scottsdale Musical Theatre Company's recent production of The Music Man got just about everything right with winning leads, a fun ensemble, and a minimal yet effective design.

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. Of course, 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 Hill's lack of credibility. However, when Hill is able to bring her younger and extremely shy brother Winthrop out of his shell, she finds herself at a crossroads—and she just might be falling in love with the con-man himself. Is Hill actually in love with Marian, too, or is he scheming her along with the town? With a score of well-known tunes like "76 Trombones," "My White Knight" and "Trouble" and a well written comical book, The Music Man is a crowd pleaser.

Director David Hock assembled a first rate cast led by Matt Newhard as Hill and Rebecca Woodbury as Marian. Newhard had the right balance of charm and chutzpah to pull off the con-man who, while we know from the beginning he's scheming people, we still like. He also showed a nice, rich voice that he put to good use in both his comical and romantic songs and he also had no problem delivering the fast paced "Ya Got Trouble," a song that even a seasoned pro can easily get hung up on. Woodbury has a beautiful, warm voice that soars over the audience on the two big love songs in the show "My White Knight" and "Till There Was You." Newhard and Woodbury are also fine actors, something that I can pleasantly say about every single actor in the show. From Hector Coris, who played Hill's former con-man salesman friend Marcellus, to David McKibben and Lindsay Urbank who portrayed the Mayor Shinn and his wife, and also real life brother and sister Joshua and Isabelle Jensen who played Marian's brother Winthrop and his friend Amaryllis, every single actor more than delivered on both the dramatic and comical dialogue and elements of the show. Each actor made each character memorable and realistic. I can't say enough about Joshua and Isabelle Jensen. Isabelle had only one scene and a few lines of dialogue but she nailed her line readings and got the comic timing of her lines perfectly. Likewise, Joshua expertly put across the part of a shy boy, with a serious lisp in fact, and his part in the dramatic scene in act two with Newhard and Woodbury was emotional without being cloying. The barbershop quartet of Bill Kane, Galen McClain, Tom Lyon and Ray Estes also perfectly let their newly discovered joy of singing as a quartet grow organically out of the dialogue scenes.

Hock and choreographer Hilary Hirsh painted lovely scenic pictures with their very large cast, with some of the many show-stopping numbers building perfectly. And Hock and Hirsh's use of the large ensemble was very effective, with the ensemble members each adding nice touches to their scenes, even those stuck in the background. This was very impressive, since the large orchestra took up the left 20% of the stage, so the cast had even less of a stage to work on. Even with a cast of around 40 the stage only very rarely felt cramped.

A minimal yet effective set design by Jennifer Alexander was matched nicely with an effective lighting plot by Jonathan Rooney. And, while the sets and lighting might have been a little sparse, the non-stop parade of colorful period perfect costume designs by Paul Snatic allowed the entire production to rise to lovely heights.

The only downside? This production is no longer playing as it ended its limited four show run this past Sunday.

You can get information on the Scottsdale Musical Theatre Company's upcoming production of Cabaret, which plays from March 13-16, 2014, at www.scottsdalemusicaltheater.com.

Directed and staged by David Hock
Choreographed by Hilary Hirsch
Musical Direction by Christie McKibben
Orchestra conducted by Kevin Hayward
Scenic Design by Jennifer Alexander
Scenic Art Production by Speed Pro Imaging
Costume Design by Paul Snatic
Costumes provided by Mardi Gras Costumes
Lighting Design by Jonathan Rooney

Cast

Matt Newhard: Harold Hill
Rebecca Woodbury: Marian Paroo
Hector Coris: Marcellus Washburn
Priscilla Bertling: Witta Paroo
Ray Estes, Bill Kane, Tom Lyon, Galen McLain: The Quartet
Joshua Jensen: Winthrop Paroo
Isabelle Jensen: Amaryllis
David McKibben: Mayor Shinn
Lindsay Urbank: Eulalie Mackenzie Shinn
Danielle Shore: Ethel Toffelmier
Jennifer Blom: Alma Hix
Nicole Bond: Maud Dunlop
Jessica DeVivo: Mrs. Squires
Haley Johnson: Zaneeta Shinn
Corey Gimlin: Tommy Djilis
Bill Diekmann: Charlie Cowell
Thom Radke: Constable Locke
Tzipporrah Anderson: Gracie Shinn


Photo: Scottsdale Musical Theatre Company

--Gil Benbrook


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