“The Music Man” a review

"The Music Man"

"The Music Man"

Ah, to live in a world where the most dastardly thing about to spoil society is a pool table. Where people dress nicely and behave with some decorum. And where harmony is all about. You can step into that picture for at least for a couple hours or so, at Riverside Theatre’s splendid professional production of “The Music Man.”

For sure, harmony is the motif here – from the images of rolling Midwest farmland (shown in a couple of gorgeously painted drops with copies of Grant Wood art masterpieces) and beautiful scenic design, to the exquisite voices and excellent orchestra.

To dust off your memory, “The Music Man” story, written by Mr. Wilson and Frank Lacey, concerns fast talking con-man “Professor” Harold Hill who convinces the people of River City, Iowa, to buy band instruments and uniforms for their children. Being in a marching band will keep the kids off the street, he says. Worried that the introduction of a pool table in the town will corrupt the youth, the citizens agree.

In the meantime, Harold Hill falls in love with the town’s lovely librarian, Marian. His pursuit is dampened, however, when another traveling salesman is determined to expose him as a fraud.

Within this is some of the most memorable music in American musical theater – “Ya Got Trouble,” “Till There Was You” and, of course, “Seventy-Six Trombones.”

The story is well told by director and choreographer Vince Pesce, who keeps his players beautifully picturized at all times. His choreography is terrific, especially with the library scene and the exacting opening spoken number in which train passengers deliver syncopated dialogue to match the train’s movement.

And what a superb professional cast, many of who have Broadway credits.

Tony Lawson brings romantic charm to Harold Hill and a powerhouse voice which easily leads the cast in “Seventy-six Trombones.”

So, too, Jennifer Hope Wills, who was Christine in the Broadway production of “Phantom of the Opera,” delights here as Marian Paroo, the reserved librarian who has a turn of heart and falls in love and delivers the soaring “Till There Was You.”

J.B. Adams is properly gruffy as Mayor Shinn. Beth McVey paints a loving image of the Mayor’s wife, Eulalie, and brings laughs in her Grecian tableaux.

There are so many standouts, including Jody Madaras, Megan Thomas and young Luke Mannikus who is such an adorable Winthrop.

Scenic and lighting designer Allen D. Cornell creates such an appealing visual presence for this production. His choice to use the Grant Wood motif is fitting, since both Wood and the show’s creator, Meredith Wilson, were born near the turn of the century in Iowa. Both men loved their Midwest heritage and extolled those virtues in their works.

And those virtues have resonance in this production. You will be charmed by it and probably not want to leave the world it so lovingly recreates.

SIDE O’ GRITS: “The Music Man” runs through March 18 at Riverside Theatre, 3250 Riverside Park, Vero Beach. Tickets range from $36 to $70. Call 772-231-6990 or visit