Review by Danny Gaisin
Classical musician, arranger and composer Meredith Wilson’s iconic Broadway musical THE MUSIC MAN may take place in 1902 small-town Iowa; but conning, stings; greed & ‘Peter Principle’ politics are just as current and eternal as love. The play has all of these ingredients and director/choreographer Donna Feore makes this iteration her own. The choreography, immaculate direction and even the subtle little touches are not only effective, but seem contemporary.
Director Feore; ‘Prof. Harold Hill’; and a certain youngster named Alexander Elliot are a powerhouse trio that own the production, but it is Feore’s input and focus that are a major contribution.
Daren A. Herbert (Hill) is a quadruple threat [he sings; dances; acts and even brings some comedic moments]. Elliot brings an instinctive acting ability that’s coupled with a perfect sense of timing which belies his young age. Mark his name down for future reference. Then there’s the strong support from the secondary characters. Sarah DaSilva is a worthy pre-teen protagonist for Elliot. Both are utterly adorable! Steve Ross & Blythe Wilson as the town’s foremost family (& River City mayor) bring something special to their role portrayals .
The plot deals with a travelling salesman who is also a major con-man. F.Y.I. The semi-pejorative for such a careerist was ‘Drummer’ and the drumming solos by David Campion during the famous “76 trombones” number are outstanding. One of the earliest songs is ‘Ya Got trouble’. Feore’s directing & Herbert’s Harold Hill give this scene a delightful revival-meeting/sermon-esque treatment that reflects her widely acknowledged creativity. The major choral piece is about all those trombones etc. and the audience gets the benefit of myriad music styles and tempi. Pure Feore and her inspired artistry.
The bit about the arrival of the Wells Fargo wagon is a feat of automation (or major puppetry that showcases the younger members of the cast. The pace is allegretto rather than frenetic so that the audience can appreciate and actually spot & notice the outstanding work by some of the individuals.
There is a line of lyrics that has Marion (Danielle Wade) tell the professor that “there was love in the air” MUSIC MAN viewers will certainly feel that love powerfully enough to carry all the way home! The show is at Stratford’s Festival Theatre.