Garrett Stack's Theater Reviews

I use a 5-star rating system: 
*  don’t bother
**  some redeeming qualities
*** pretty good especially if you like who’s on stage 
**** excellent artistically and technically 
***** one of those must see shows (rare rating)

****

I’m Garrett Stack and I’ve just come from The Goodspeed Opera House in East Haddam, Connecticut where The Music Man is giving theater-goers a reason to get up and go out. This American classic first opened on Broadway in 1957 and cemented the careers of Robert Preston and Barbara Cook. Shortly into the run the world was marching around and singing 76 Trombones. It has been performed for 60 years and Broadway is expecting another revival in 2020 starring Hugh Jackman and Sutton Foster.

As for Goodspeed, the very difficult and mesmerizing opening number, Rock Island (a.k.a. Ya Gotta Know the Territory), was delivered with perfection by the small male ensemble of salesmen and passengers that set up the audience for a good time. The energy of that opening got everyone’s juices flowing. When The Music Man himself appeared, Professor Harold Hill played by Edward Watts, he was well suited for the role and reminiscent of a young Robert Preston. What he lacked in vocal chops was more than made up in movement, acting, and carriage. Very convincing. He soon got into Ya Got Trouble and Seventy-Six Trombones, both crowd pleasers and well-received. 

The beautiful soprano-voiced Ellie Fishman was also perfect in her role as Marian the Librarian. Her soulful Goodnight My Someone still lingers in my head, and Till There Was You her duet with Harold Hill was perfect. She did her best to resist the “brazen overtures” of Professor Hill but in the end… well you know the story.

I have to note Juson Williams’ performance in a featured role as Professor Hill’s long-time friend, Marcellus Washburn, who knew more than he ought to about the professor. He was excellent. 

Paul Tate de Poo’s sets are especially noteworthy as they created the illusion of much space that is notoriously lacking on the Goodspeed stage. The attention to detail in period décor was noted.

The Music Man is why we go the theater:

We go to be entertained. Check

We go to have highly accomplished theater pros lead the cast. And an ensemble that works their tails off. Check.

We go to see subplots and twists performed well by actors in supporting roles. Check

We go to laugh and cry. Who couldn’t hold back a tear when little Winthrop broke his silence at the sight of his new cornet. Check.

We go to have theater values displayed that dazzle and delight. Check.

We go to hear music that can bring a smile to our face and a book that has some meaning. Check.

If you’re up for a good time at the theater, then treat yourself to The Music Man. It’s at Goodspeed in East Haddam, Connecticut through June 20. 

I’m Garrett Stack and that’s how I saw it – May 1, 2019.

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