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St. Louis

The Music Man
Produced by Stages St. Louis

Also see Robert's review of Frost/Nixon

The 2008 season at Stages St. Louis comes to a rousing close with a splashy production of Meredith Willson's The Music Man, about as evergreen as a musical can get and always as much fun to see as it is to hear.  There were a few hiccups on opening night, but there were plenty of those lovely moments, unique to musical theater, in which the audience is simply enthralled by perfect combinations of material, talent and performance.

A case in point was the scene in which the barbershop quartet, on one side of the stage, sings the sweetly beautiful Lida Rose, and then Marian Paroo, on the other side, sings "Will I Ever Tell You"—first solo, then as a kind of duet with the four men. The words are poetic, the music is ravishing, and the singing was pitch-perfect just a brilliant scene.

Or, the second-act reprise of "Gary, Indiana" when people in the audience were looking at each other in open-mouthed delight at the singing and dancing of young Spencer Milford as Winthrop Paroo.

And there was Shipoopi, with the rousing choreography of Dana Lewis and the always-meticulous direction of Michael Hamilton sparking the ensemble to a show-stopping performance.

The Music Manis a patchwork quilt of such charming scenes and of delightful character roles which linger in the memory like the scent of apple pie. This production offers splendid performances by Whit Reichert as Mayor Shinn, Gretchen Hewitt as the inimitable Eulalie Mackecknie Shinn, and Peggy Billo as Mrs. Paroo among many, many others.

Graham Rowat and Christy Morton bring physical charm and big voices to the leading roles of Harold Hill and Marian Paroo, and Lindsay Kraemer and Jake Pfarr dance with energy and flair as the young lovers Tommy Djilas and Zaneeta Shinn.

Visually, this production is both charming and well thought out; Dorothy Marshall Englis's costumes are a rainbow of pastels, conceived with sensitivity both for period accuracy and for character, and the set, designed by Gene Emerson Friedman and lit by Matthew McCarthy, is cleverly practical and whimsical at the same time.

There aren't many shows better suited to a September night than The Music Man, and in the hands of a company like Stages, with the creative genius and the resources to do it right, it makes an evening in the theater that folks will be reminiscing fondly about for a long time to come.

The show will run through October 5 in the Robert G. Reim Theater in the Kirkwood Civic Center; for ticket information, call 314-821-2407 or visit www.stagesstlouis.org.


-- Robert Boyd

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