Bishop Ireton High School
Although River City, Iowa was in lots of "Trouble", Wootton High School most certainly was not. Their charming production of Meredith Wilson's "The Music Man" was a fun time from start to end.
Opening on Broadway in 1957 but set in the summer of 1912, "The Music Man" tells the story of traveling salesman Harold Hill (Max Ramsay) who runs a scam in the Midwest where he sells instruments and uniforms then skips town with the money in tow. However, in River City, Iowa, he has more difficulty winning over the "Iowa Stubborn" townsfolk, especially town librarian and music teacher, Marian (Taylor Litofsky), who, upon the realization that Hill's scam brought hope to the town, falls in love with him and protects his secret. Hill, in love with Marian, decides to remain in town and is finally accepted when the band comes out and plays Beethoven's "Minuet in G."
Wootton High School took some chances with this production, such as the use of children of all ages in the town ensemble. While it is difficult to integrate children into a large high school production, they added a new element that made the show more special to watch, especially with Winthrop's rendition of "Gary, Indiana", sung by the adorable and very young Colin Cope. The interactions between the cast and the young children made the production more endearing and was a unique take on the show.
Despite occasional tech issues as well as the infrequent rogue child, the actors overall were great at adapting to their environment. This was made possible by the excellent framing of the scenes by the lighting team, which was creative in their use of the double shadows from the spotlights during solos and duets, the colorful background lights during big ensemble numbers, and the fading and brightening in conjunction with the lyrics of "Marian the Librarian". But the most impressive technical aspect was the student pit orchestra, which despite the large size, had a consistently beautiful sound and was able to adjust to an appropriate balance. They demonstrated great professionalism in continuously acting even in the background.
The leads were all great: Mayor and Mrs. Shinn's (Zack Cassidy and Hannah Bruckheim, respectively) timing and interactions kept the audience continuously giggling at their charades, Charlie the anvil salesman (Kyle Hermary) was an unexpected source of humor, and the chemistry between Hill (Ramsay) and Marian (Litofsky) was electrifying. Julia Bergel as ensemble "Pick-a-Little" lady, Alma Hix, took a small character and made her special, and could always be counted on to be heard above the intense harmonies that often accompanied her lines. Charlotte Bergel did the same with her character of Gracie Shinn, who despite having one line, was incredibly humorous and enjoyable to watch throughout the entire show. The barbershop quartet's harmonies were fantastic and a definite highlight, blending seamlessly with Litofsky's pleasant soprano voice in "Will I Ever Tell You/Lida Rose".
But it was Alyssa Herman and Sean Klein, as Zaneeta Shinn and Tommy Djilas, respectively, who stole the show. The chemistry of their characters and acting of their subplot was most fascinating, leaving the audience wanting more, especially from their phenomenal dancing.
All these different aspects made Wootton High School's production of "The Music Man" a "Sincerely" good show that will leave the audience smiling.
Bishop Ireton High School
The house lights dim, the opening notes of the overture swell up from the pit, and the audience is instantly immersed in the "golden age" of musical theater as the cast of Thomas S. Wootton's production of "The Music Man" dance to classic musical numbers to bring the story of Prof. Harold Hill and the town of River City, Iowa to life.
Meredith Wilson's classic musical tells the story of Harold Hill, a traveling salesman who goes from town to town swindling people out of their money by creating a need for a kid's marching band and hightailing it out of town before the band plays a single note. His plans in River City, however, are derailed when he meets Marian Paroo, a stubborn librarian who isn't fooled by his charming exterior and way with words. As they warm up to each other, River City is transformed for the better by Hill's presence.
One of the best parts of this production wasn't what was onstage, but just beyond it - the student pit orchestra was fantastic. Keeping the energy up, adjusting to working with soloists who had quieter voices or trouble with pacing, and bringing the vibrant score of the musical to life, the pit managed to highlight and support the songs onstage while still shining on their own. The orchestra may have had fewer than 40 people, but during numbers such as "Seventy-Six Trombones," the energy and delight was so palpable from the music that it almost felt as if there could be a whole marching band triumphantly leading the number.
The two lead actors gave worthy performances; Max Ramsay artfully brought to life Harold Hill's silver tongue and effortless charisma, leading high-energy numbers and staying in rhythm without sounding robotic. Taylor Litofsky gave a lovely performance as Marian Paroo, exchanging sharp, witty remarks with Ramsay during scenes they shared and shining as a soprano on her own in musical numbers such as "Goodnight, My Someone." The two had excellent chemistry and gave convincing performances that demonstrated character development.
Other notable performances included Sean Klein and Alyssa Herman as Tommy Djilas and Zaneeta Shinn; thought their roles were minor, they were constantly engaged and had apparent chemistry, causing them to steal a lot of the scenes and musical numbers they were in. Zack Cassidy and Hannah Bruckheim fed off each other's energy as Mayor Shinn and Eulalie Mackecknie Shinn, making audiences laugh throughout the show. The audience favorites, however, appeared to be the barbershop quartet, made up of Ameya Deshmukh, Aidan Wilbur, Tejas Iyer, and Matthew Sachs. The four were a charming group despite having little dialogue, and their harmonies didn't disappoint.
This performance was an endearing trip to the golden age of musicals and a reminder to the audience why it has been so well-loved for such a long time. You really ought to give "The Music Man" a try - you'll walk away charmed.