The Music Man

 

Book, Music and Lyrics by Meredith Willsonmeredith willson

Directed & Choreographed by Rachel Rockwell

Music Direction by Michael Mahler

At the Paramount Theatre, Aurora, IL

The Paramount Theatre’s The Music Man is a tuneful, lavish uncut version that pays homage to the 1957 original.

Director Rachel Rockwell’s production of the 1957 classic ode to the folks of Iowa is in good hands . Featuring fabulous 1912 costumes (design by Melissa Torchia), terrific choreography and smooth dancing, The Music Man unfolds as a toe-tapping, family friendly  musical comedy. At only $46.90 for the best ticket, audiences will get a full Equity acted and full orchestrated Broadway musical- at half the price of a Loop tour. The beautiful Paramount Theatre, which seats 1880, allows theatre patrons in the Far Western suburbs to enjoy fine musicals.

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Rockwell’s production is a high-styled and good looking affair that has many veteran “A” list players including Don Forston, Michael Accardo, Mary Ernster, Michael Aaron Lindner, and Liz Puzik. These performers are often seen in Chicagoland musicals but often under appreciated. They are the backbone of Chicago musicals. Add young Johnny Rabe as Winthrop Paroo and the supporting cast are most effective.

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But what makes The Music Man work is the actor who plays Harold Hill, the huckster who arrives to fleece the rube in River City, Iowa in 1912. This fast-talking conman must be charismatic, charming, and quick-witted.  In a curious bit of casting, Stef Tovar, a talented dramatic actor, was cast as Harold Hill. I must say that Tovar rose to the occasion as he landed his lyric-challenged numbers like “Ya Got Trouble” and the march anthem “Seventy Six Trombones.”  Tovar exuded charm and chutzpah.  His high tenor voice (the role is best for a baritone) sounded a tad strained but, over all, Stef Tovar was a endearing Harold Hill. It is nice to see an actor rise to the challenge and Tovar sure stretched himself. Kudos to director Rachel Rockwell for taking a chance here. Tovar didn’t let her down.

The other player important in The Music Man is the lady who plays Marian Paroo, the Liberian. Emily Rohm’s beauty, outstanding voice and acting chops made her the ideal Marian. She and Tovar created enough sparks to make the romance believable. Hopefully, we’ll see Emily Rohm as a leading lady in future musicals.

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But, ultimately, what makes The Music Man so enjoyable are the big production numbers and the rich sprinkling of humor. Besides the marches, the musical has fun showstoppers like “The Wells Fargo Wagon” and  the barn dance styled “Shipoopi” with stylist tunes like”The Sadder But Wiser Girl.”  Terrific romantic ballads such as “My White Knight” and “Till There Was You” and the cute “Gary, Indiana” sung nicely by Johnny Rabe  complete the fine blend of waltzes, marches and anthems that remind us of the innocence of early 20th Century America. The Music Man is a great Broadway musical that needs to be revived for each generation to experience. It was nice to see many children and teens in the opening night audience. Take you children and young folks to the Paramount Theatre in Aurora to see what a “great’ musical is all about. The low ticket price  and the expert production values makes the ride out west to Aurora worth it.

Highly Recommended

Tom Williams

Talk Theatre in Chicago podcast

For more info checkout The Music Man page at theatreinchicago.com

At Paramount Theatre, 23 E. Galena Blvd, Aurora, IL, call 630-896-6666, www.paramounttheatre.com, tickets $34.90-$46.90, Wednesdays at 1:30 & 7:30 pm, Thursdays at 7:30 pm, Fridays at 8 pm, Saturdays at 4 & 8 pm, Sundays at 1 & 5 pm, running time is 2 hours, 30 minutes with intermission, through February 3, 2013