Looking at WNY’s visual art, theater, music, and dance scenes.
Sep 13, 2012
04:18 AMTalk about Arts
Spree Theater with Darwin McPherson: The Music Man
THE MUSIC MAN at MusicalFare Theatre (running through October 14). Pictured (l to r): Wendy Hall, Diane Curley, John Kaczorowski, Kerrykate Abel, Beth Donohue and Maria Graham.
We’ve got – Theater! Right here in the Queen City! With a capital “T” which rhymes with “C” which stands for “Cool!”
I hope Meredith Willson will forgive my paraphrasing of his lyrics as I introduce this review of The Music Man, now playing at MusicalFare. A great deal of credit for my enthusiasm has to go to director Chris Kelly (and his close collaborator choreographer Bobby Cooke) for his effectively efficient eye when it comes to the economic execution of musicals.
Customarily, The Music Man gets underway with the “Rock Island” number, which is set on a train, where a number of salesmen lobby Wilson’s ping-pongish lyrics (“You can talk, you can talk, you can bicker-bicker-talk” “Whaddayatalk? Whaddayatalk?” “…but you gotta know the territory!”) around the car in choo-choo rhythm. Kelly and Cooke up the ante by having the passengers perform the locomotive sounds and movement sans a train set. It sets the stage quite definitively for both the plot and its creatively kinetic presentation.
Kelly utilizes MusicalFare’s small stage to its best advantage by keeping most of the space open for movement. Mobile platform ladders add layers of height along with constant motion. Minimal props are brought on and offstage with backwall projections establishing scene settings. Modern staging devices like these help keep this classic theater piece fresh and innovative.
Starring as con man Prof. Harold Hill, John Kaczorowski is reminiscent of Robert Preston (who made the part famous) with his robust, confident voice, but certainly makes the part his own. Though he doesn’t seem the least bit sinister as a crooked salesman, he is certainly clever enough to pull the wool over the eyes of the Iowa townsfolk who buy his pitch about needing to buy musical instruments from him to subvert the corruptive influence of a pool hall.
His heart is changed by Marian the librarian, who is swayed (though not entirely convinced) by his inspirational assertions of the power of music. Amy Jakiel (who co-starred with Kaczorowski just last month in Legally Blonde: The Musical) offers a strong voice and a charming presence on stage.
Along with strong leads, MusicalFare’s The Music Man is enhanced by an enticing ensemble. Eric Rawski and Kerrykate Abel add extra wit as Mayor Shinn and his snooty wife, Eulalie. David Bondrow (also a standout in “Rock Island”), Diane Curley, and Wendy Hall are especially notable for amusing little character bits that are in the background, but really help to keep the stage alive during the comic and music pieces. Kelly’s frequent collaborators, the music group The Albrights, also contribute strong musical support.
All of Meredith’s unique and rousing compositions, like “Ya Got Trouble,” “Seventy-Six Trombones,” “Pick-A-Little, Talk-A-Little,” and “Til There Was You,” among others, are well served by Kelly, Cooke, and their dedicated cast. Even on the technical side, The Music Man sings with fine lighting and projection design from Chris Cavanagh and excellent costumes by Kari Drozd.
Overall, this melding of traditional material, talented musicianship, and technical machinations makes The Music Man a production for all generations. If nothing else, it proves that Chris Kelly certainly knows the territory.
The Music Man continues through October 14 at MusicalFare at 4380 Main Street in Amherst, on the campus of Daemen College. Tickets are $39, you can call the box office at 716-839-8540. Student and military discount available.