‘The Music Man’ at 2nd Star Productions

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Second Star’s current production of The Music Man takes its audiences back a full century to the (fictional) town of River City, Iowa in 1912. This classic tale of a con-artist who wins over skeptical townspeople and finds love along the way will enchant you and get your toes tapping.

Professor Harold Hill (Lee Nicol) and the cast of 'The Music Man' singing '76 Trombones.' Photo courtesy of 2nd Star Productions.
Professor Harold Hill (Lee Nicol) and the cast of ‘The Music Man.’ Photo courtesy of 2nd Star Productions.

This version of the musical, with music, lyrics, and book by Meredith Wilson, and musical directed by Joe Biddle, has it all: strong singing, impressive choreography, a hugely talented cast of believable characters, and a set that rivals national tours of musicals that play professional theaters in D.C. Why go downtown, when you can enjoy such a spirited, energetic, uplifting show in our own backyard? (Not to mention at a fraction of the ticket price!).

I won’t waste time with a synopsis of the plot, as The Music Man debuted on Broadway in 1957, and it has been performed countless times in the decades that followed. If you aren’t familiar with its story, here is a synopsis. Some of The Music Man’s famous songs include “(Ya Got) Trouble,” “76 Trombones,” “Marian the Librarian,” and “Till There was You.”

Instead, read on to learn why this Second Star production will win over and entertain the whole family.

E. Lee Nicol (Professor Harold Hill) could make one happily fork over money to buy sand while standing in a desert, he’s that credible as a consummate (albeit crooked) salesman who convinces the town in short order to start a band for the youths. It is no surprise to read in his program bio that he pursued theater on the Big White Way in New York City. How lucky we are that he’s now returned home to Baltimore. He’s a triple threat – talented in dancing, singing and acting. And he delivered energetic renditions of “(Ya Got) Trouble,” and “76 Trombones.” Also, his dancing is athletically reminiscent of Gene Kelly. What a delight!

Another extremely talented force onstage with time pursuing his dream performing in NYC is Andrew Gordon, who both choreographed the show and dances in the ensemble. His tall stature and elegance reminded me of Tommy Tune. Gordon gets the energetic dancers not only to kick up their heels, but also do graceful lifts, cartwheels, and splits, smiling all the while. The dance numbers just sparkle. Standouts include Tabitha Thornhill (Dance Captain) and Michael Mathes.

Emily Mudd is glorious as Marian Paroo. She sings with authenticity  in “My White Knight” and “Till There Was You” with Nicol, and is lovely to watch as she transforms her own “Think System” about Professor Hill.

Also, you will savor the gorgeous harmonies the impromptu barbershop quartet (Nathan Bowen, Brian Binney, Kevin Cleaver and (tenor) David Merrill delivers in “Sincere” and “Lida Rose.” Merrill was especially hilarious with his antics.

The Barbershop Quartet (Nathan Bowen, ). Photo courtesy of 2nd Star Productions.
The Barbershop Quartet (Nathan Bowen, Brian Binney, Kevin Cleaver, and David Merrill). Photo courtesy of 2nd Star Productions.

Brian Mellen, as  Marcellus Washburn, Nicol’s sidekick, leads the cast in the energetic “Shipoopi.”

The entire ensemble – dancing teens, the kids and the parents of River City all bring lots of energy onto the stage, making it fun to watch them react to what others are saying or doing. There is plenty of good acting going on among those who don’t actually speak lines.

Then there’s Jeanne Louise, who plays Eulalie Shinn, The Mayor’s Wife. Mrs. Shinn loves to be the ringleader of over the top group dancing and theatrical poses. What a hoot! She also studied in New York City and performed there for some 20 years, and clearly is having lots of fun playing this role.

All these characters and the rest of the townsfolk – 40 performers in all – look spiffy wearing the right styles of 1912 attire. Costumers Jeanne Binney and Beth Starnes smartly altered a few of the dresses to permit rigorous dancing without losing the narrow skirt look. The costumes provided a nice variety of colors and patterns and textures.

Speaking of colors, patterns and textures brings us to the set design and in particular, the set painting. The Music Man takes place in many spots in and around River City. Director Jane B. Wingard, who is also the Set Designer, assembled a talented team to assist her in creating the feel of a small Midwestern town from yesteryear. It included store fronts (check out the way the plate glass windows were suggested with the paint treatment, very clever!), a park setting, house porch, town square, a library interior, and the show opens with an amusing depiction of passengers on a train in motion. The complexity of the set made for a few longish scene changes, but each time the lights came up it was another “WOW” moment worth the wait. I dare say if you catch a performance towards the middle or end of their month long run (It closes November 14th) the scene changes will become shorter.

In the darkened theater I looked around and saw a man tapping his fingers during the big production numbers and a lady in the next row was bobbing her head in time with the music. The show charmed us all, and the cast received a well deserved standing ovation.

Marian Paroo (Emily Mudd), Winthrop (Andrew Sharpe), and Mrs. Paroo (Carole Long) perform "Gary Indiana." Photo courtesy of 2nd Star Productions.
Marian Paroo (Emily Mudd), Winthrop (Andrew Sharpe), and Mrs. Paroo (Carole Long) perform “Gary Indiana.” Photo courtesy of 2nd Star Productions.

So there you have it – Second Star’s production of The Music Man delivers a top-notch musical theater experience not to be missed. It truly is community theater at its very best!

Running Time: About Two hours and 40 minutes, including intermission.

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The Music Man plays through November 14 at 2nd Star Productions performing at The Bowie Playhouse – White Marsh Park Drive in Bowie, MD. For tickets, call the box office at (410) 415-3513, or purchase them online.

LINKS:
Meet the Cast of 2nd Star Productions’ ‘The Music Man’: Part 1: E. Lee Nicol.

Meet the Cast of 2nd Star Productions’ ‘The Music Man’: Part 2: Emily Mudd.

RATING: FIVE-STARS-82x1555.gif

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Jenna Jones
Jenna Jones Paradis has spent much of the past 10 years producing shows for Prince George’s Little Theatre, including Once Upon a Mattress last season. She was on their Board of Directors from 2008 to 2016. In 2016 she appeared onstage at Laurel Mills Playhouse (The Vagina Monologues) and Greenbelt Arts Center (Dinner with Friends.) Back in the day, she majored in theater arts management at Ithaca College and studied theater at the Duke Ellington School of the Arts in Washington, DC. Her “real job” is as a Volunteer Coordinator for the Smithsonian Associates Program, Jenna is an enthusiastic supporter of the all-volunteer community theater movement in the local DC area. There’s so much great amateur talent gracing these stages, for the sheer love of it.