West Springfield High School
The brilliant sound of "76 Trombones" filled the air of Bishop Ireton High School's theatre as they took a trip to Iowa to welcome "The Music Man" to their stage.
Opening on Broadway in 1957, Meredith Willson and Franklin Lacey's "The Music Man" chronicles the arrival and stay of the cunning and conning Harold Hill in River City, Iowa. While attempting to defraud the citizens of River City by convincing them to invest in the marching band he intends to create, Hill meets and starts to pursue Ms. Marian Paroo, the town's learned librarian and piano teacher. "The Music Man" tells the story of their love and is a testament to the human capacity for growth.
The "76 Trombones" may well be the "cream of every famous band," but the voice of Elina Viana is the cream of high school theatre. Viana's command and control of her voice as Marian Paroo was impeccable. It moved with a flexibility often seen only in professionals; particularly in "My White Knight," Viana's voice floated with an effortless power and smoothly hushed to be equally as soft and sweet. That same tenderness carried over into Viana's acting. She carried herself with a grace and poise that seemed right out of a John Ford western. Viana showed the heart versus head conflict Marion experiences over her love for Aidan Furey's Harold with such nuance that she would be fit for any stage the world could give her.
Pushing Marian to give Harold a try was Lauren Allen's Mrs. Paroo. Allen embraced Mrs. Paroo's Irishness and played it to full effect. Her accent was remarkably consistent and incredibly accurate, even while singing and dancing. Allen played Mrs. Paroo loud and headstrong, which made for some wonderful comedic timing.
On the other side of Marian and Harold's relationship, pushing Harold to get out of town after the con, was Evan Jarosiewicz's Marcellus Washburn, Harold's old friend now living in River City. Jarosiewicz's acting was some of the most natural and consistent in the show. Whether belting out "Shipoopi" or dancing and swooning with Furey in "The Sadder-But-Wiser Girl," Jarosiewicz came across as very authentic, and although he was juxtaposed with the townspeople by virtue of being complicit in Harold's scheme, he still embodied the spirit of small-town America.
To see that small-town spirit, one need not look any further than the rousing production numbers dotted throughout the show, for which Bishop Ireton pulled out all the stops. The choreography of Gabriela Ramirez, Rachael Pulice, Maren Baisley, and Elizabeth D'Souza made fantastic use of space, coming out into the audience for the likes of "76 Trombones" and filling the far reaches of the stage's aprons in "The Wells Fargo Wagon." Ramirez also stood out as a dancer, floating across the stage in the ballet of "Marian the Librarian," which she choreographed with Sofia Meller.
The sets of River City were both simple in nature and yet remarkably detailed. To set each scene, designers Brendan Carreon, Eve Wisneski, Joseph Murray, and Charlotte Rayder used periaktoi, which are rotatable triangular prisms, to smoothly move from setting to setting. Accenting the set were incredibly thoughtful details, ranging from a small birdhouse by Marian's door to 3D books on the library shelves. They gave the set a homey, welcoming feeling that fit beautifully with the show as a whole.
Bishop Ireton's "The Music Man" was a triumphant reminder of the goodness of human nature. Anyone can find happiness with a little growth, even when they've "got trouble." Sometimes, they just need to "give Iowa a try."
Fairfax High School
"Pile up enough tomorrows, and you'll find you've collected nothing but empty yesterdays... I'd like to make today worth remembering." With their heartwarming and riveting performance of "The Music Man," Bishop Ireton left audiences with a powerful production worth remembering.
Conceptualized by Meredith Willson, "The Music Man" opened on Broadway in 1957 and played 1,375 performances. In 1958, the show won the Tony for Best Musical, beating the iconic show, "West Side Story." In recent years (2022), the show had a Broadway revival starring Broadway legends Hugh Jackman and Sutton Foster as the iconic leading duo. The narrative follows Harold Hill, a con man traveling "band organizer" who dupes Midwesterners. When he arrives in River City, Marian the Librarian does some research and discovers the fallacy Hill is creating. But, when Hill makes positive changes in the town, Marian begins seeing the good in him, and they fall for one another.
Aidan Furey who portrayed Harold Hill was nothing less than enchanting. Hill has an abundance of patter-songs that require thoughtful breathing and precise rhythm, which Furey accomplished with finesse. Additionally, he consistently exhibited a trans-Atlantic accent almost akin to Jimmy Stewart, furthering the classic quality of his portrayal. Furey controlled scenes with grace and ease, contributing to the confident, but sometimes-slimy nature of Hill. Alongside him was Elina Viana who portrayed the uptight Marian Paroo. Viana's vocals were on par with many classically trained singers. By the end of her rendition of "My White Knight," the audience was applauding and cheering before the conclusion of her 14-second sustained note. Though her vocals were astronomically impressive, her acting abilities were equally impressive. Her acting throughout all her songs was a masterclass on how to develop character and keep audiences engaged. Together, Furey and Viana had impeccable chemistry which climaxed during the beautiful duet, "Till There Was You." Their dynamics encapsulated the heart and passion of the show.
Other highlights of the show were the performances of Lauren Allen as Mrs. Paroo and Isabelle Phillips as the Mayor's Wife, Eulalie Mackecknie Shinn. Both performers showcased intense commitment to their characters which resulted in extremely entertaining performances. Allen had an impressively consistent Irish accent which she continued while singing, making her character believable. Phillips had an outstanding comedic presence which grew throughout the show. In moments like her rendition of "The National Anthem," Phillips knew exactly what to do to elicit a reaction from the audience, which was extremely successful. Though their characters were different, the dedication they had to their characters was not!
The sets designed by Brendan Carreon, Eve Wisneski, Joseph Murray, and Charlotte Rayder created a space that further immersed the audience into River City, Iowa. Through small details like clothes in the shop windows, and patriotic bunting scattered throughout, the set brought River City to life. Additionally, the costumes by Michelle Dorman, Claire Gibbons, Madison Bridges, and Eleanor Schmutz were period-accurate and thoughtfully designed in a way that helped the audience track characters throughout the show. Each ensemble member had a designated color for their look, which made it easy to spot the performers from song to song. Together, the tech aspects polished the production and gave it an air of professionalism that is rare for most high school performances.
For a town that is supposed to be stiff and stubborn, Bishop Ireton's production of "The Music Man" had audiences clapping along with the gleeful people of River City before the show even concluded. From masterful performances to imaginative tech, Bishop Ireton showcased the importance of letting loose and opening oneself to love and joy.