Light Opera Oklahoma's current season, themed "Men Behaving Badly," is in full swing and will be through July 14. I caught Sunday's matinee performance of The Music Man, and I left looking forward to what else LOOK had in store.
Let me just say, I don't especially love The Music Man. I'm not saying LOOK didn't do a good job--the company was wonderful--it's just not my kind of musical. I've never really been one for wholesome family fun. But, a lot of people are. And those people will be happy I'm finally reviewing something they can actually take their kids to.
The Music Man, written by Meredith Wilson and set in the summer of 1912, opens with a gang of traveling salesman riding on a train, speculating about a conman they've heard of named Harold Hill, a man who poses as a traveling salesman, selling instruments to parents of children and promising he'll teach them to play and then skipping town with their money and without ever fulfilling his obligation.
They don't know, however, that "Professor" Hill (Ron Loyd) is on the train with them, and he gets off in River City, after deciding to "give Iowa a try."
The people of River City, Iowa, are easily duped, tending to follow the crowd rather than think for themselves. All it takes is one person to stand up and show some authority on something, anything, and the rest fall all over themselves in agreement.
Hill decides River City needs a crisis, a disaster, a "desperate need for River City Boys Band." He creates that need by telling the townspeople that the new pool table (which the mayor owns) will be the demise of their city, bringing nothing but trouble to themselves and their children.
On the night of the Fourth of July celebration, Hill plants the seed of worry on these people's heads and then declares his intention to organize the River City Boys Band with the wildly popular number, "76 Trombones."
The mayor of the town, George Shinn (James Wright), though dim-witted, is skeptical and demands to see Hill's credentials.
As part of his plan, Hill needs to get close to the town's music teacher, winning her over and keeping her out of his way at the same time. In River City, the music teacher is also the librarian and a single, attractive young woman named Marian Paroo (Andrea Leap). She, however, refuses to be hoodwinked by Hill, as the rest of the town has, and goes out of her way to avoid his advances.
Hill will stay in the town four weeks, which is how long it will take for the uniforms, instruments and instruction books to arrive. So he doesn't have to actually "teach" the children, Hill implements a "think program," whereby if the student thinks he can play, he can.
By the end of Act One, the instruments have arrived and Marian, previously out to prove Hill is a phony, is taken in by his charm and the effect he's had on the people in her town.
By Act Two, Mayor Shinn is having Hill followed by the four men of the school board and Marian is hooked on Hill. One of the salesman we met on the train has come to River City to expose Hill for the con artist he is, and he finds Marian first. When she defends him, he warns her that she is not the first librarian to be wooed by Hill. Still, she stands by her man, obstructing this salesman's path to town and to truth.
Now Hill's gotta get out of town.
There's a town social that evening, and the Boys Band is in uniform and ready to play. If the townsfolk go to the social and don't hear any music, he'll be exposed. But he's torn. He wants to stay with Marian. Oh, what to do?
It's a fun show. LOOK did a great job of gathering talent from all over the country to fill the cast. Loyd was especially charismatic. And funny. Not an obvious funny, but a sly, witty funny. He was definitely likeable, with a voice to boot. He's also Sweeney Todd, and I look forward to seeing him in a darker role, seeing his range of talent.
Also notable were Wright as the Mayor (most of my chuckles were on his behalf), Lindsey McKee as the Mayor's wife, Eulalie MacKecknie Shinn, and Leap. McKee's character existed solely for laughs, and she got them. Leap, who is also the Ensemble Director, was lovely as Marian, although I must say I liked her better when she despised Hill.
The story seems sort of misogynistic, if you ask me, but I guess it was set in 1912 and a Broadway smash in the 1950s. It's to be expected then, I suppose, that the women in the cast would be simply there for show or to swoon all over the leading man.
The show was also well-directed (by Artistic Director Eric Gibson) and well-choreographed (by Laura Tyson). The choreography was actually one of my favorite parts. There was always something going on, some group of chorus members moving cleverly in synchronization in the background.
LOOK is a local company that puts together professional shows every summer. You can still catch The Music Man June 30 and July 5, 6 and 8 in the Williams Theater of the Tulsa PAC, 2nd and Cincinnati. Tickets are $24-$28. All shows start at 8pm, except Sunday matinees, which begin at 2pm.
The season also includes Sweeney Todd (June 29, July 7, 10 and 13), Naughty Marietta (June 28 preview, June 30, July 1, 3, 7) and Trial By Jury, which is also a cabaret (July 1 and 8). Look for reviews of those in the coming weeks.
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