The Music Man originally opened on Broadway in 1957 and ran for 1,375 performances. The show's success on Broadway led to two film adaptions (1962 and 2003) and two Broadway revivals (1980 and 2000).
True classic theater fans will never tire of Willson's timeless musical score with beloved songs including "Till There Was You", "Ya Got Trouble," "Goodnight My Someone," and the show-stopping "Seventy-Six Trombones.
Of course it always helps if you have an amazing leading cast and ensemble and The Walnut delivers just that. The production features Philadelphia's Jeffrey Coon as "Professor" Harold Hill and Broadway's Jennifer Hope Wills as Marian Paroo, along with 30 local children and a live horse! Pretty much a dream role for Coon, who has been in so many Philly productions we've lost count. Coon captures all the elements of the lovable, swindling traveling salesman. He commands the stage with fine acting and his amazing baritone and the crowd agrees.
Professor Hill never counts on falling in love with the lovely maiden Marion the Librarian. But then most of us fall in love with Jennifer Hope Wills in the title role. Ms. Wills, who has played Phantom's Christine for four years, has only to open her mouth to sing to captivate the audience with her pitch perfect soaring sweet soprano voice. The chemistry between the two is convincing, though Wills character is not as strong willed as one may hope for.
The rest of the principle cast is so entertaining that it is difficult to pick a favorite. River City mayor Shin (Bill Van Horn) and Mrs. Shin (Alene Robertson) are pretty much the "show within the show" displaying a keen sense of comedic delivery.
The children are as talented as the adults. Jared Brito and Lisa Diaz (Winthrop Paroo and Amarylis) are simply a delight. Brito's much anticipated "Gary Indiana" is innocent and believable.
Set in River City Iowa 1912, the fast-talking con man "Professor" Harold Hill arrives promising the townsfolk that he can teach the town's children how to play in a magnificent marching band if they buy uniforms and instruments from him. It's all part of a big swindle as he one by one hood winks the starchy Mid West residents into believing he is the savior of the city while dipping into their pockets to support his charade.
Rounding out the cast are Philly favorites Mary Martello who plays Mrs. Paroo, the doting Irish mother patiently nudging her daughter into marriage and Fran Prisco who plays Marcellus Washburn, Hill's cohort. Prisco is delightfully light on his feet and almost turns" Shipoopi" into an enjoyable musical number!
Marc Robin's choreography and direction are fresh, inventive and lively. Colleen Grady's costumes are lovely.
The Music Man plays at the Walnut Street Theater through January 6th. For tickets and information: 215-574-3550 or 800-982-278 www.walnutstreettheatre.org or ticketmaster
Photo #1 Jennifer Hope Wills (Marian the Librarian) and Jeff Coon (Harold Hill) Photo #2 Nicholas F. Saverine Oliver Hix), Bill Van Horn (Mayor Shinn), Alene Robertson (Eulalie Mackecknie Shinn), Sarah Meahl (Zaneeta Shinn) Photo # 3 Joey Abramowicz, Stanley Martin, Kevin Munhall and ensemble - Photo Credits: Mark Garvin.