Curtains Up Theatre Company really had their work cut out for them when they decided to launch the grand musical THE MUSIC MAN (playing now through September 2nd) and the entire cast and crew did their very best to meet this big musical challenge. This much loved classic by Meredith Wilson has my most beloved (Till There Was You) and least favorite (Gary, IN) song in it, so I jumped at the chance to see it!
One thing that I love about community theater is that you get all walks of life, be it young or old that have a passion for performing; and the one thing that stands out above all the other elements is heart. These members don't do this for fame or glory (or a paycheck), but just for the love of the craft. I also find it amusing that these shows sometimes feel like an extreme design challenge where you have $100 and one room to put on a major musical.......now GO! Honestly community theater gives you an entirely new appreciation for live theater cause anything can happen.
Now not every company can have Equity actors, set changes, OMG special effects or a full band; some companies have to take the more bare bones route. This is exactly what we see from Curtains Up Productions. The set, by designer Eric Franklin was simplistic and rustic, but effective for such a small space and so many actors (the painted Americana landscape backdrop was a nice touch). It consisted of one stationary backdrop with two curtained entrances and lots of set pieces to be placed (although they may have gotten a bit excessive with the amount of set changes). The real feature of the show were the costumes by designer and Artistic Director Tammy Franklin with assistance from Eric Franklin and Amiee West. For such a large cast, I was really impressed that every actor had up to five costume changes that were rich with color and appeared light, cottony and vibrant. The direction by Aaron Paschall was competent, but needed some editing especially with keeping the flow going (have smaller scenes on opposite sides and keep multiple set pieces up instead of changing the set after every single scene, which added onto the running time) and cutting down some of those longer scenes, such as Marion the Librarian and the beginning of Act II (both seemed to last forever). Also this cast was in need of a group improv class as several members were left standing onstage staring blankly at the audience. I know this may not have been in the budget, but a live keyboardist would have been nice for the production, because at times members seem to be struggling with the pre-recorded tracks.
With all of this said, several moments of genius came from the actors and the big numbers of 76 trombones and Shipoopi were quite enjoyable. Natasha Gleichmann was lovely and endearing as Marian and she had quite a set of pipes on her. Her mother, played by Malissa Silvey was spot on with her Irish accent and absolutely wonderful and her interaction with her daughter just brought a smile to your face. Charles Burden as Marcellus Washburn really stole the show and the musical number Shipoopi with his energetic performance. Darren Chilton in the lead role of Professor Harold Hill was acceptable and at times reminded me of Jimmy Stewart, but he lacked charm in his performance. Charles Kolar as Mayor Shinn and his wife, Eulalie Mackecknie Shinn (played by Tammy Franklin) were enjoyable, but needed a little something more. This couple is usually the real scene stealer of the show with a lit of funny moments that have the audience roaring. Had the Mayor pulled a Fodhorn Leghorn (I say...I say...I say) every time he forgot or flubbed a line, his role would have been hilarious! Also his wife was amusing, but if she had really had just been more over the top in voice, expressions, and gesticulations, the audience would have been on the floor! Now the kids really made this show and were just delightful. Two outstanding performances were Caylin West as the adorable Amaryllis and Carter Novinger as Winthrop, who did an awesomely consistent job on his lisp! Also thank you Carter for doing such a good job with my most hated song of Gary, IN that I didn't think it was nails on the chalkboard and found it pleasant! These two young actors show great promise and I look forward to seeing them in future productions! The Quartet made up of Ian Post Green, Glenn Brackett, David Novinger and Aaron Paschall did a great job of blending, even when an injury happened onstage and left them one short. Just remember - the pitch pipe is your friend and don't forget to use it every time (it was missed on their last song which made for some interesting harmonies).