The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, November 12, 2010


Savoyards bring The Music Man to a new generation

Katherine Bishop (“Gracie Shinn”) sings “Iowa Stubborn”. Harriet Ketchen is front left. (Photo by Priscilla Stevens)

Who has never seen it? Who cannot sing, or at least hum, “Seventy-six Trombones”? Who knows (okay, maybe thanks to the Beatles), “’Til There was You”? Now really confess to your colorful past: who has actually been in The Music Man?

With the possible exception of Oklahoma, The Music Man is without doubt the most familiar and most performed musical in America, and has been since its 1957 debut on Broadway. If, however, the great band playing “Seventy-six Trombones” has somehow passed you by, or if your children or grandchildren have yet to experience it, you have your chance beginning this weekend in Corey Auditorium as our own Savoyard Light Opera Company (SLOC) opens this well-loved musical right here in River City, er, Carlisle. SLOC specializes in introducing classic musicals and operettas to new generations of theatergoers, and their 2010 production of The Music Man is no exception. It is lively, it insists on an excellent musical standard, it is colorful, and it never loses its sense of fun. This is family fare for all ages.

Sets, designed by Matt Descoteaux and built by, among others, Carlislean Jim Miller, and lighting designed by Mike Bromberg take the audience back in imaginary time to fictional River City, Iowa. We reach there by train, we stop at the depot, and the town unfolds as a cross between Grandma Moses and Norman Rockwell Americana; a town that never existed, but that we can imagine as clearly as we can the taste of apple pie. The time is the early part of the 20th century, when men wore straw boater hats and stiff collars and women wore hobble skirts, enormous hats, and high button shoes. Costumes, designed by Carlisle’s Kathy Booth, are a visual treat. Other Carlisle talent on the production staff include Phil Drew, producer; David Freedman, graphic designer; Bill Cooney, ticket manager; and Susie Schmidt, auditions coordinator.

The production looks and feels just right: corn-fed, rosy-cheeked, solid, and inhabited by a cast of energetic “Iowans” who are “so by God stubborn/We can stand touchin’ noses/For a week at a time/And never see eye-to-eye./But we’ll give you our shirt/And a back to go with it/If your crops should happen to die./So, what the heck, you’re welcome,/Glad to have you with us./Even though we may not ever mention it again!”

Heading this vivacious group are Elaine Crane as the feisty Marian (the Librarian) Paroo, whose sweet and lovely soprano was last heard in the SLOC 2007 production of The Gondoliers, and John Alzapiedi, last heard by SLOC audiences as Frank Butler in 2008’s Annie Get Your Gun. Alzapiedi brings mischief and wry humor to the role of Harold Hill, the con man who tries to swindle the stubborn Iowans into spending their hard-earned cash on a boys’ band and ends by finding true love right there in River City and risking arrest to stay there. Hill’s famous patter song, “Ya Got Trouble,” (SLOC Gilbert and Sullivan veterans are skilled in patter songs) is set in a syncopated rhythm and is considered the standard by which all actors playing Hill are measured: those who do not master it surely have “trouble with a capital T.” No problem here: Alzapiedi’s “Ya Got Trouble” will have the audience on its feet applauding.

Chuck Holleman (“Mayor Shinn”) listens to director’s notes. (Photo by Priscilla Stevens)

The Music Man is known for its large cast of supporting players as well: chief among them are Mayor Shinn and his wife Eulalie, immortalized on film by Paul Ford and Hermione Gingold, and here rendered hilarious by Carlisle’s Chuck Holleman and Hopedale’s Paula Moravek. Katherine Bishop and Stephanie Malis, also of Carlisle, are the Shinn daughters Gracie and Zaneeta. Piano student Amaryllis is Carlisle’s Reilly Harring. Young Tommy Djilas, who is very interested in Zaneeta Shinn as well as being the boy who brings the band to life, is played by another Carlislean, David Gordon, and the ensemble is sprinkled with a host of talented Carlisle singers and dancers of all ages: Emilie Carr, Ben Collison, Harriet Ketchen, John Knobel and Linda St. Francis. Liz Bishop and Heidi Harring join their daughters in the cast to make this a family affair. In addition, a specially chosen ensemble of musicians from the Carlisle School band, including Lindsay Klickstein, Lindsay Ryder, Connor Lofdahl, Thomas Salemy and Julia Konuk round out Carlisle’s contributions to this high-spirited, high-stepping cast of “the finest virtuosos, the cream of ev’ry famous band.”

The Music Man has something for everyone: love songs, big production numbers, solos, duets, spoken music, band and barbershop music, great high-kicking and soft-shoe dancing, and even an ice cream social. Music Director Kathryn Denney sets a lively tempo matched by Jay Newlon’s sparkling choreography, and Stage Director Jerry Bisantz (who has played Harold Hill himself) never lets the fun factor drop. Bring the family and expect to leave the theater smiling, marching and singing.

The Music Man opens at Corey Auditorium on Saturday, November 13, at 7:30 p.m. Additional evening performances are November 19 and 20, and 2 p.m. matinees are on November 14 and 21 and offer an invitation for “children in the audience to join the cast and crew onstage for a special close-up look at how the magic of live theater is made.” Ticket information is available on the Savoyards’ website, Tickets may be purchased online, by mail with a ticket mail order form available online, by telephone at 1-978-371-SLOC (7562), directly from cast members or at the door. ∆

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