Twinkling fairy lights and the scent of cedar make just the setting alone in Stanley Park’s Malkin Bowl worth the ticket price. Add a feel-good, charming comedy musical performed by Theatre under the Stars and it’s the perfect place to curl up under a blanket and watch a show.
The Music Man is a classic Broadway hit that won five TONY awards during its first run 50 years ago. Professor Harold Hill is a conman posing as a marching band organizer, who travels the States selling musical instruments and band clothes to kids and then packs up and moves on without teaching them a note.
From the opening song ‘Rock Island’ – a catchy blend of vocal rhythms and toe-tapping sounds – to the final scene, the cast give it their all.
The show begins with Hill’s arrival in River City, Iowa, where he finds a way to stir up a need for a boy’s band by trying to make an issue out of the billiard hall having a pool table. Professor Hill [Daren Herbert] manages to walk the line between charming and slimy, so the audience is rooting for him by the end. Most of the townsfolk are taken in by him but Marian [Samantha Currie], the no-nonsense librarian, is suspicious of this so-called Music Man.
Despite its swindling theme, the musical is a light-hearted affair and there are plenty of comedic moments, especially from the bumbling mayor Shinn [Gordon Doerkson] and his wife’s band of dancing friends, who provided light relief throughout.
Musically, the songs move the story along nicely and vary the pace – from the pomp of ‘Seventy-Six Trombones’ sung by Hill as he whips the town into a band-loving frenzy to the gossipy ‘Pickalittle (Talk-a-little)’ where the mayor’s wife’s friends discuss Marian behind her back.
A highlight were the quartet of school trustees whose mission it was to get Hill’s papers, but every time he managed to distract them into singing a harmonious song such as ‘Sincere’ and they would disappear into their own musical world.
Favourite characters included Marion’s meddling Irish mother Mrs Paroo, perfectly played by Barbara Pollard, and her son little lisping Winthrop [Aidan Wessels] who stole everyone’s hearts with his gradual emergence out of his shell, helped along by Hill.
It soon becomes clear that through some digging around in her library books Marion has discovered some dirt on Hill, but she decides to keep quiet as she’s falling in love with him, despite her original indifference towards him.
The second half of the play switches gears to become a good old-fashioned love story and in songs such as the well-known ‘Till there was you’ Marion and Hill’s chemistry starts to sizzle. As the play races towards its ending the audience are on the edges of their seats to find out whether Hill is going to run away, or stay with his librarian, his love…
Clever set design by Lauchlin Johnston sees piano-shaped love seats and trombone fences set the scene and Chris Sinosic’s gorgeous 1912 costumes express River City’s transformation from a dull Iowan town to a colourful place full of music, fun and laughter.
Just like the River City residents, at the end of the show the audience was left tapping their toes, humming along and with big smiles on their faces.
Go visit the Music Man at Malkin Bowl, Stanley Park on Saturday August 18th