Regional Reviews: Florida - West Coast
Also see Bill's review of The Musical of Musicals (The Musical!)
The Music Manhas it all, memorable songs ("76 Trombones," "Trouble," "Goodnight My Someone," "'Til There Was You"), fine secondary songs ("Marian the Librarian," "The Sadder But Wiser Girl," "Shipoopi"), and a great story populated by a stage full of colorful characters. Musical comedy just doesn't get all that much better than this.
The Music Man is a good choice for an opera company. Musically, there is a lot that requires legitimate singing, its a dance-heavy show (major dance breaks in "76 Trombones," "Marian the Librarian" and "Shipoopi"), and oh the luxury of a full orchestra. I was surprised that there are only 11 players listed here, it feels and sounds much more like 20. The cast wear body mics, but I think they are off for musical portions or at least turned down, so that the audience can enjoy the sound of the human voices. St. Petersburg Opera fields a more than 40-member cast, which includes a super hard working dance ensemble of 10. All these people give the production extra oomph.
Peter Kendall Clark is our Harold Hill, one of musical theaters great roles. It calls for solid singing, dancing, acting and a healthy dose of charisma, as the townspeople fall for him one by one. Mr. Clark is strong on the singing, quite decent in the dancing, just a little lacking on the charisma. Marian Paroo is a quintessential ingenue role. Because it has in the past been taken by several legendary Broadway leading ladies (Barbara Cook, Rebecca Luker), she has been played with dashes of spice. Molly Mustonen does well by the glorious music given to her in this role, including two of the above mentioned memorable songs as well as "My White Knight" and "Will I Ever Tell You." One of the glories of her performance is the chemistry with her on stage mother, Paula Broadwater and brother, the adorable Jackson Orchard.
Daren Kelly is properly flustered as Mayor Shinn while Becca McCoy dominates as his wife, Eulalie McKechnie Shinn. Matthew Krob, Adam Cannedy, George Slotin and Branch Fields nicely cover the tight harmonies of The School Board members who form a barbershop quartet, if lacking the deep knowledge of each other's vocals that would allow them to slide in and out of cadential endings. Company regular Lucas Levy is charming as Hill's old sidekick, Marcellus Washburn. David M. Bevis as bad boy Tommy Djilas and Olivia Sargent as Zaneeta Shinn are the lead dancers, leading four other excellent couples. Any other performers who are not named here, even in named roles, add dimension, allowing me to believe I am looking in on a living, breathing community.
Artistic Director Mark Sforzini conducts with a sure hand. The dance music is kept lively, allowing the dancers to make such a positive impression.
Director/choreographer Deanna Dys does an inventive job with the limited stage of The Palladium. Action that needs to move, does, tableaux are effective, and the storytelling is clear and concise. It may be that Ms. Dys and cast allowed themselves to view the classic Robert Preston/Shirley Jones film adaptation a bit more than necessary, because so much of the choreography seems copied directly from it (which was done by Onna White, who also choreographed the original stage production). It doesn't matter, they dance their hearts out. Scenic designer Warren Sodt has done a great job with the stage limitations, and costume designer Glen A Breed fills the stage with eye-popping period attire. Keith Arsenault lights with a sure hand, and Maggie D. Harris-Caudill is our wig and makeup designer.
Asolo Repertory Theatre is opening their season with what will be a splashy production of The Music Man in November. I can sort of imagine ahead of time how these two productions will differ. Each will have their own particular strengths. With a work this wonderful, I say bring it on, I can't wait to visit River City again and soon. In the meantime, Tampa Bay musical lovers can't miss St. Petersburg Opera's fine version.
St. Petersburg Opera's The Music Man through July 8, 2018, at the Palladium Theater, 253 Fifth Ave. N., St. Petersburg FL. For more information see www.stpeteopera.org.
Cast (in order of appearance):
Conductor: Mark Sforzini