Children's Theatre of Annapolis is bringing Meredith Willson's "The Music Man," an autobiographical reminiscence of life in small-town America, to life for eight performances this month.
Judging by the skilled acting, singing and dancing at a recent rehearsal, this classic American musical seems a perfect fit for the 35-member CTA cast, whose actors range in age from 12 to 18.
In his first Children's Theatre directing assignment, Jose de la Mar exhibits great rapport with the kids, inspiring their self-confidence and drawing a high degree of professionalism.
Music director Blair Haldeman's rehearsals have resulted in accomplished solo work and group harmonies, and choreographer Jason Kimmel's showy numbers were well executed.
"The Music Man" debuted on Broadway in December 1957 and immediately allowed Willson to join the first rank of Broadway composers.
The plot centers on "Professor" Harold Hill, who arrives in River City, Iowa, in 1912 to sell to parents marching band instruments and uniforms that he never intends to deliver. His plan to skip town is altered by his attraction to strait-laced town librarian Marian Paroo, who guesses Hill's plan but sees beyond to the hope the prospect of forming a marching band has inspired. Hill reforms his con-man ways, and Paroo becomes less stuffy. Bright, shiny instruments arrive and the children learn to play well enough to satisfy their parents and provide a happy ending.
Hard at work and well into their characters were Martin Thompson as Hill, Hayley White as Marian, Molly Dukes as Marian's Irish mother, Mrs. Paroo, and Hunter Feick as Marian's shy, lisping younger brother Winthrop.
Kevin Berry is a comedic Mayor Shinn, who has better luck controlling the town than he has with his family, and Stevie Mangum summons the right smart-guy image to play salesman Charlie Cowell, would-be debunker of Harold Hill.
Others include Addie Binstock, who revealed her comic flair as the mayor's wife, Eulalie MacKecknie Shinn.
A classic musician, Willson produced a charming score that has aged well, and are now classics: "Seventy-six Trombones," "Ya Got Trouble (Right Here in River City)," "Lida Rose," "Till There Was You" and " Gary, Indiana." These songs have an authentic Americana quality and share a deceptive simplicity that can prove vocally challenging.
At the rehearsal, Annapolis High School senior Thompson and Broadneck High School junior White as the leads deliver a polished version of the "Seventy-six Trombones" and "Goodnight, My Someone" duet - two songs that have the same melody set to march tempo in "Trombones" and to waltz tempo in "Goodnight" - tunes with the similarity not readily detectable. Not only are Thompson and White accomplished singers and dancers, they are totally convincing actors in their leading roles.
Creating notable barbershop harmony in "Lida Rose" and "Good Night Ladies" in rehearsal was the quartet of Joshua Mooney as Ewart Dunlop, Zachary Konick as Oliver Hix, Fred Fletcher-Jackson as Jacey Squires and Justin Showell as Olin Britt.
The dancers displayed spectacular energy and precision in the execution of their numbers. The group includes Emma Bedlin, who serves as dance captain, and Bridget Creel, Cassidy Hamilton, Nicole Todaro, Samuel Baca, Justin Binnix, Mark Hollerbach and Jamie Murray.
If you go
"The Music Man" opens Friday at 7:30 p.m., with evening performances Saturday and Jan. 15 and 16, and at 2 p.m. Saturday and Jan. 10, 16 and 17. All performances will be at CTA's 280-seat theater, 1661 Bay Head Road in Annapolis (in Bay Head Park at the former Nike site). Tickets are $15 for adults, $12 for children 12 and younger and seniors 65 or older and can be ordered by calling the CTA hotline at 410-757-2281 or online at childrenstheatreofannapolis.org.