BY SANDY STAGGS
What’s not to love about Artios Academies “The Music Man”? Infectious marches, riveting brass orchestrations, barber shop quartets, quirky townspeople, massive musical numbers and a romance all rolled into a feel-good family show with parts for all ages.
And you’ve only got three more chances to see this sparkling, high-octane show by Meredith Willson that is actually a student/community hybrid staging featuring the program’s talented youth and a slew of more mature performers in many of the adult roles.
And every song is a jewel in his story about a sly music swindler Harold Hill (played by Junior Drew Reynolds) who gives traveling salesman a bad name. He swoops into unsuspecting apple pie communities like River City, Iowa with promises of saving their boys from a life of indiscretion by turning them into marching band virtuosos. But he then meets his match in the town’s librarian Marian (senior Deci Rivera) and changes his life tune.
And it doesn’t hurt to have on board a world-class choreographer like Kimberlee Ferreira whose challenging, kaleidoscope movements elevate the mega-numbers – the SENSATIONAL “Seventy Six Trombones,” the sweet “Marian the Librarian,” and the act two opener “Shipoopi” with the River City ladies in stodgy Victorian workout attire and bows –
The youth in “Seventy Six Trombones” know this routine of marches, dizzying lines, and pantomiming their instruments like the back of their trombone. In fact, it was so well-received on opening night they did it again in a reprise! And it was actually their flash mob video of “Seventy Six Trombones” that lured me down to Fountain Inn to this show. Kids, all your hard work in rehearsals paid off in gold. Hats Off!
The gregarious Mr. Reynolds is extremely likeable in this role and has clearly mastered Hill’s smooth-talking speech pattern and rhythm in a constant flow of head-spinning sleight of hand responses. He has verve and personality and carries the show with flair; and his charm and charisma are convincing in the more intimate courtship scenes with Miss Rivera, a young soprano with the voice of a sparrow. She lends both musical caliber and dramatic strength and sincerity to her librarian persona. And she clearly has a bright future ahead of her with a voice that can open doors at any college theatre program of her choice.
This musical is chock full of zany featured roles and this Artios production fills them with aplomb, especially with Mike Sowers as the well-meaning but misguided Mayor Shimm, who is blessed with some of the show’s most hilarious lines.
The sublime Anna Brown relishes throughout in a wondrously measured, over-the-top turn as his eccentric wife Eulalie, whose absurdities lie more in situational absurdities, rather than her dialogue.
Markel Toler gives a standout turn as Marian’s loving mother Mrs. Paroo, who has made it her mission to marry off her daughter so she doesn’t become a spinster.
And as Marian’s lisping kid brother, the adorable Aaron Pelletier as Winthrop gives a most admirable rendition of “Gary, Indiana.” As does the spunky Riley Fincher-Foster as little Amaryllis in her “Piano Lesson.”
As the Mayor’s teenage daughter Zaneeta and her delinquent boyfriend Tommy, Grace Anne Johnson and Isaac Pelletier earnestly make their case for young love.
Under Colton Beach’s musical guidance, the vocals in lip-twisting tunes like the gossiping, hen-pecking ladies in “Pickalittle” and sparkling ballads like “Til There Was You” are exceptional to the point of pristine.
And the four-part harmonies of local barbershop quartet Collage (Norm Luckett, David Lybrand, Ken Maes and John Ryan) add a real professional quality to shimmering numbers like “Lida Rose” and “Goodnight Ladies.”
Director Melody Yasi (also scenic designer) delivers constant action in this breakneck-speed show with clever set pieces that allow quick transitions. She makes liberal use of the Younts Center aisles, as well as effective staging in silhouette and a pleasant spectrum of color in browns and grays.
Costume director Sandra Staley employs seemingly hundreds of vibrant, elaborate Victorian costumes that are impressively complimented by Elizabeth Nelson’s wig, hair and makeup designs.
Matt Jones is assistant director and stage manager on this production with Brooke Dersch and Nick Yasi on lights and sound.
“The Music Man” is a practically flawless show, but on opening night, the poor salesman on the train in the show’s opener “Rock Island” experienced technical problems with their mics and were poorly-amplified; which is a shame really, because this lyrics are spoken almost hip-hop style to the rhythm of the train wheels, which I am sure the fellows do well. We just couldn’t hear them. Ahhh, but at least they can count this as a great learning moment and introduction to the unpredictable world of live theatre where anything can happen.
“The Music Man” continues April 7-8, Friday at 7 p.m. and Saturday at 2 & 7 p.m. at the Younts Center for Performing Arts, 315 N. Main St. in Fountain Inn. For tickets, call (864) 409-0150 or visit http://www.yountscenter.org. For more information about Artios Greenville, visit http://www.artiosacademies.com.