Watch your phraseology! The Music Man at The Stratford Festival
I have a confession to make. Before going to see The Music Man at the Stratford Festival recently, I didn't know much, if anything, about the show. Because I wasn't familiar with the show, I purposefully didn't read anything about it so I would be able to fully immerse myself in the story, being taken along for the ride without knowing where it will go with no expectations. And I'm glad I did. (That being said, I'm about to give you a synopsis of some of the plot. Spoiler Alert!! Don't say I didn't warn you).
Daren A. Herbert stars as Harold Hill, a travelling instrument salesman ends up in River City, Iowa. There, he uses his charms to convince the townspeople that he wants to start a band starring their children, and convinces the parents to pay him for instruction, instruments, and more. But all is not what it seems.
It turns out that "Professor" Hill is actually a slick con man, having run this same scam in several cities before. His intention is to flee as soon as he collects the money, but what he couldn't have predicted is that he'd fall in love with the town's librarian, Marian (played by Danielle Wade) resulting in conflict of conscience for Hill. Should he risk staying in town to pursue his feelings for Marian, or should he flee as planned, leaving her in his wake?
You'll have to go to the show to find out.
Danielle Wade as Marian Paroo in The Music Man. Photography by Cylla von Tiedemann.
This was another world-class production at the Stratford Festival, from opening to bow. Daren A. Herbert, in the role of Professor Hill, was the undisputed star of this show, bringing to life a role that he was born to play. Herbert is a force of nature here, inhabiting the role of Professor Hill so completely, it was as if it could have only been him that The Music Man's creator, Meredith Wilson, had in mind when he penned the words and music in 1962. From his powerful voice to the charisma that oozes from every pore, Daren A. Herbert serves as a shining star in a constellation of terrific performances in The Music Man.
Daren A. Herbert as Harold Hill in The Music Man. Photography by Cylla von Tiedemann.
Other standouts include Steve Ross as Mayor Shinn, the larger-than-life mayor of River City who offers up many comedic moments throughout the show (mostly through his impeccable delivery of the genius writing that has him unknowingly misusing words) and his wife, Eulalie MacKecknie Shinn, played by Blythe Wilson. Another one of my favourite characters was also that of Mrs. Paroo, played by Denise Oucharek. Her fiery spirit, no-nonsense attitude and colourful Irish turn of phrase hit close to my heart, reminding me so much of my Newfoundland-born Nan. Her performance was laugh-out-loud funny. My apologies to the stranger sitting next to me who had to endure my not-exactly-subtle laugh :)
Steve Ross as Mayor Shinn in The Music Man. Photography by Cylla von Tiedemann.
Of course, I couldn't review a show called The Music Man without mentioning the music. This show has some of the best, most fun, upbeat music ever! I defy you not to tap your foot along to the beat. It simply cannot be done. From "Ya Got Trouble" to "Seventy-Six Trombones," every song is memorable. The opening scene, featuring the song "Rock Island," is a personal favourite (wow, that must have taken a lot of practice!) and I have not yet been able to get "Pick-a-Little, Talk-a-Little" out of my head since seeing the show. To me, that's the mark of a great score. (Oh, and when Alexander Elliot belted out "Gary, Indiana" as Winthrope Paroo, he absolutely stole my heart.)
From left: Denise Oucharek as Mrs. Paroo, Alexander Elliot as Winthrop Paroo and Danielle Wade as Marian Paroo in The Music Man. Photography by Cylla von Tiedemann.
The costumes in this show were absolutely wonderful as well. Beautifully evocative of a time gone by, the costumes helped the audience time travel back to the year 1912, when Woodrow Wilson was president, the RMS TItanic would take that most famous ill-fated journey, and the cost of going to the movies was less than 10 cents a ticket. From fancy hats to three-piece suits, the costuming here was brilliantly transporting --- just as it should be.
Blythe Wilson as Eulalie MacKecknie Shinn with members of the company in The Music Man. Photography by Cylla von Tiedemann.
So, we've covered the acting, costumes, and the music. What's left? The dancing. Oh, the dancing. The company in this production of The Music Man was performed some of the best dance numbers I've ever seen. It's very evident that those men, women, and children have passion, athleticism, talent, and dedication in equal measure, as they executed routines and movements that left me saying to myself, How did they do that? I was exhausted from just watching them, and grateful for their talents. Absolutely amazing.
Megan Caines as Gracie Shinn with members of the company in The Music Man. Photography by Cylla von Tiedemann.
Members of the company in The Music Man. Photography by Cylla von Tiedemann.
From beginning to end, The Music Man was a joy to experience. It was by turns funny and touching, with the wonderful acting performances punctuated by unforgettable music and dance. The perfect summer show for the whole family! I highly recommend it.
Heartfelt thanks go out to the Stratford Festival once again for their dedication to creating a barrier-free experience for those, like me, with mobility concerns. My seat was in the accessible section, and I was able to wheel right in the door and right into my spot without issue The automatic doors to the theatre were easy to use and in good working order, and the accessible washroom was spacious and conveniently located -- all things that really matter when mobility is a concern.
The Music Man runs from now through November 3rd. Tickets are available at www.stratfordfestival.ca