Meredith Wilson’s musical, The Music Man, first hit Broadway in 1957 reaching the silver screen (1962), the small screen (2003) and finally, after 60 years, the wonderful Windmill Theatre - courtesy of Littlehampton Players Operatic Society.
The show is perhaps best known for two songs, Seventy-Six Trombones and Till there was You, both of which featured in its short overture played by an excellent backstage band of six led by Musical Director, Daniel Paine. This show was the directing debut for LPOS member, Emily Dadson who has appeared in several recent shows.
We began with a group of travelling salesmen on a train heading for River City, Iowa, in 1912. In a superb display of rhythmic speech, slickly tailored to match the start, onward journey and judder to a halt in River City they discussed the benefits of cash versus credit and a rogue conman, “Professor” Harold Hill who, unbeknown to them, was quietly sitting in a corner of the carriage.
Prof. Hill, played by talented debutant Matt Hughes-Short, was visiting River City to convince the residents to start a band and thus reduce delinquency in the local youth. He would procure the instruments and uniforms, teach and lead the band using his own think system. His ulterior motive was, of course, to take their money and run but he took a shine to the only trained musician in town, piano teacher and librarian Marian Paroo (Louise Martin). Marian was looking for her perfect husband and initially rejected his advances partly because she had secretly discovered Hill’s musical pedigree was bogus, from a non-existent conservatory.
As the story progressed, Hill managed to convince the locals to part with their cash even persuading the male school board to form a barbershop quartet. This quartet sounded fabulous in Goodnight Ladies and Lida Rose - perhaps they might perform together again in the future? We also heard fine singing from all of the company in various group scenes which included the arrival of the Wells Fargo Wagon with the instruments. Particularly effective was Pick a Little which featured the ladies of the town in a splendidly staccato chorus. We enjoyed some great dancing, choreographed by Jan Coombes, in Shipoopi.
Eventually Marian and her wooer did get together but a jealous rival salesman exposed Hill’s fraud and he was hauled before the assembled townspeople to be tarred and feathered. However, the think system had worked and on to the stage came by the newly- formed band of young musicians, in splendid uniforms, to play Beethoven’s Minuet in G and save the day. The show ended with a rousing chorus of Seventy-Six Trombones to rapturous applause from a most appreciative audience,
Several children performed with distinction especially Dominic McGreevy (Winthrop) who sang with great confidence in Gary, Indiana. How wonderful to see that this local society is actively encouraging the younger generation both to partake in and experience live entertainment. Remarkably, as confirmed by their trainer Laura King, the band children had indeed started rehearsals as absolute beginners thus adding a splendid authenticity to the whole thing!
Well done LPOS and good luck with your next production of Oklahoma later this year.
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