1. “The Music Man,” now playing at the Durango Arts Center, runs a swift, spritely course in only two hours with intermission. It’s fast, fun and tuneful.
2. Director Jason Lythgoe has assembled a cast of adults and children, coached them well, and created an interpretation of an American classic that is lively and true.
3. A cast of seemingly thousands contains kids who know their lines, their songs, their dance steps, and rustle on and off stage as if they were veterans. The adults put a little polish on the shine.
4. Set and Lighting Designer Eric Bulrice’s functional set turns park benches into library book cases and the town hall swivels into the Paroo House on Main Street. The town bank discretely sports one sign, the name of the principal sponsor, Alpine Bank.
5. Costumiers Theresa Carson and Natalie Cohn provide snappy turn-of-the-century dress for all the children, seven gossiping women, the mayor and town leaders, including the River City School Board.
6. Choreographer Emily Simpson Grandt has staged complex dance numbers as well as charming tableaux.
7. Baritone Nicholas Parker plays the super confident salesman Harold Hill with a wink, a smile and a winning manner.
8. Lyric soprano Melissa Kirschstein plays the heroine, Marian Paroo, with intelligence, a touch of skepticism and a clear, lovely voice.
9. The central pair is ably aided by soprano Cierra Taylor as Mrs. Paroo, Julian Zastrocky as Mayor Shinn, Connor Fitzpatrick as the disgruntled, rival salesman Charlie Cowell, and Lucas Spaeder as Winthrop Paroo.
10. The Mixed Nuts barbershop quartet slides on stage twice and delivers period music that underscores the time and place of this wonderful American musical.
11. The music is simply wonderful. “Ya Got Trouble” is Hill’s fast-paced verbal description of a town with a youth problem. It’s a classic salesman’s pitch that sets up his big sale. It’s catchy, memorable and might remind you of the political campaign engulfing the country in present time. Everybody knows “76 Trombones,” “Goodnight My Someone” and “Till There Was You.” I’ll also bet on “Gary, Indiana.”
12. Composed by Meredith Willson, with an original story by the composer and Franklin Lacey, it opened on Broadway in 1957 and won five Tony Awards. After its long Broadway run, the musical spawned the first film version in 1962 with the inimitable Robert Preston as Harold Hill, a bold, brassy con artist. In 2003, a TV version appeared featuring Matthew Broderick as Hill. The stage production continues to play all over the country in community theaters and on college campuses.
“The Music Man” may well be the quintessential American musical. It’s about a small town, a frustrated mayor and his various constituencies, rambunctious youth, and a corn-bred gullibility to traveling vendors selling some aspect of the American Dream.
If you’ve never seen it, or if you’ve only seen the movie or the television version, you owe it to yourself and your family to see this vigorous, small-town stage version.