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The North Carolina Theatre doesn’t need 76 trombones or 110 cornets to stage a big, brassy, absolutely beautiful production of The Music Man by Meredith Willson. Former “Dukes of Hazzard” star and 1999 Tony Award® nominee Tom Wopat and Broadway star Jacquelyn Piro Donovan light up the Raleigh Memorial Auditorium stage with a pair of incandescent performances as the title character and the small-town girl who finally convinces career conman Harold Hill to go straight.
New York director/choreographer Richard J. Sabellico makes a most auspicious NCT debut with his imaginative and exuberant staging of this classic of the American musical theater; musical director Edward G. Robinson and the large and lively NCT orchestra make the familiar tunes in Meredith Willson’s musical score sparkle anew, like priceless gems of the finest color and quality; and the spectacular sets (originally designed by James Fouchard for the Pittsburgh Civic Light Opera) and fabulous period costumes (furnished by Costume World and supplemented by outfits crafted by costume supervisor Cindy McGowen) make The Music Man a feast for the eye as well as the ear.
Tom Wopat is Tom Terrific as Harold Hill, an itinerant swindler whose Big Con is his preposterous claim that he can form the local boys into a marching band and teach every Midwestern mother’s son to play a musical instrument with his revolutionary “Think Method.” (Hill brazenly claims that novice musicians can learn to play simply by thinking their way through the melodies, as he eagerly pockets parents’ advance payments for musical instruments, band uniforms, and instruction booklets.)
A superb singer with superlative comic timing, Wopat makes Hill a lovable scamp, eager to fleece the citizens of River City, IA, until he unexpectedly falls in love with town librarian Marian Paroo—and cannot light out for parts unknown with the proceeds of his cynical scam.
Jacquelyn Piro Donovan, who has a soaring operatic voice, makes a most memorable Marian the Librarian. Her vibrant versions of “Goodnight My Someone” and “My White Knight,” and especially her duet with Wopat on “Till There Was You,” are simply magnificent.
Lamont Wade and Terri Gervais are highly amusing as the cantankerous Mayor Shinn and his ditzy wife Eulalie Mackecknie Shinn; Vinny Genna is a pip as Harold Hill’s nemesis, anvil salesman Charlie Cowell; and Joyce Weiser gives a warm and winning performance as Marian’s mother Mrs. Paroo. But second grader Michael Perez steals many a scene with his precious portrayal of Marian’s painfully shy, lisping little brother Winthrop. (Harold Hill’s many kindnesses toward the poor fatherless boy finally bring Winthrop out of his very fragile shell — and melt Marian’s heart in the process.)
Jack Doyle, Leslie Feagan, Bob Freschi, and Ric Ryder play the school board, whom Harold Hill forms into a first-rate barbershop quartet. Then, for the rest of the show, they harmonize happily on “Sincere,” “It’s You,” “Goodnight Ladies,” and “Lida Rose.” Kirby Ward is good as Harold Hill’s old pal and erstwhile partner in crime Marcellus Washburn, and Peter Leskowicz and Aimee Henderson are delightful as “bad boy” Tommy Djilas and Mayor Shinn’s gloriously goofy daughter Zaneeta, whom Tommy courts at great peril against her father’s wishes.
Personable performances by stars Tom Wopat and Jacquelyn Piro Donovan and crisp comic characterizations by a stellar supporting cast, director/choreographer Richard Sabellico’s splendid staging and high-stepping production numbers, and spirited musical accompaniment by musical director Edward G. Robinson and the 25-piece NCT orchestra all combine with colorful early-20th-century costumes and gorgeous scenery to make The Music Man a must-see musical. The show’s sets (especially the scenery for the final nighttime scenes, set outside on a starry, starry night) are simply awesome.
The North Carolina Theatre presents The Music Man Tuesday-Friday, Nov. 7-10, at 8 p.m.; Saturday, Nov. 11, at 2 and 8 p.m.; and Sunday, Nov. 12, at 2 and 7 p.m. in Raleigh Memorial Auditorium in the Progress Energy Center for the Performing Arts, 1 E. South St., Raleigh, North Carolina. $23-$68. NCT Box Office: 919/831-6950. Group sales (for groups of 10 or more): 919/664-5204 or http://www.nctheatre.com/group_sales.html [inactive 3/09]. Note: The 2 p.m. Nov. 11th performance will be audio described by Arts Access, Inc. North Carolina Theatre: http://www.nctheatre.com/. Internet Broadway Database: http://www.ibdb.com/show.asp?ID=6353. Internet Movie Database: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0056262/. Tom Wopat: http://www.wopat.com/front.html (his official web site) [inactive 5/09], http://www.ibdb.com/person.asp?ID=65643 (International Broadway Database), and http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0941374/ (International Movie Database). Richard J. Sabellico: http://www.ibdb.com/person.asp?id=78133 (International Broadway Database) and http://www.imdb.com/name/nm2236790/ (International Movie Database).