The Music Man

By John Swartz

The St. Paul’s Centre production of The Music Man is happening the balance of the week. Considering only a few of the cast members have performed with other companies, and several more have been in plays St. Paul’s has done in the past, most of the cast are pretty new to being on stage. I suspect though, many of them do sing in the church’s choir.

Because of those considerations, you’ll be surprised at how well this show comes off. In particular there are several song and dance routines with a couple dozen players on stage that sound very good, and the dancing is well coordinated and executed.

If you don’t know the play, there are a couple tunes from this play you do know. Of course 76 Trombones is one of them. The other one which is instantly recognizable might cause some younger people in the audience to think, “I didn’t know the Beatles wrote tunes for musicals.” It’s not that Till There Was You wasn’t a well-known tune before 1963, but the Beatles certainly introduced the song to an entirely different audience, and in this age, it’s probably the best known version of it.

The song wasn’t even written for The Music Man. Sure playwright Meredith Wilson wrote it, but Eileen Wilson recorded a slightly different version in 1950, The Music Man debuted in 1957.

Lynda Lewis (Mrs. Paroo) and Megan Francis (Marian Paroo)

The melody is a theme which pops up a number of times as the play heads to an end. Marian Paroo (Megan Francis ) sings it. Megan hasn’t been on stage for at least 20 years, but the theatrical training she lived when she was a working actor (she’s now a school principal) was very evident. Putting a microphone on her for the singing parts is kind of redundant.

The very first ‘song’ in the play is Rock Island. I saw the film version of this play a long time ago and forgot a lot of it, so it was like everything was new to me, again. The thing about this song is it predates the Sugarhill Gang’s Rapper’s Delight by about 20 years. Rapper’s Delight is often recognized in the mainstream as the first example of Rap music, though there are several other contenders, some even decades before Wilson, which haven’t gained traction.

I’m sure there are other tunes which utilize the recitative form of Rock Island which predate Wilson, but the lesson is, firsts don’t always come out of thin air, and somewhere exists an example older than the hills. Heck even dragging out the classical term recitative implies age.

Stuart Todd (Harold Hill) and Randy Nichol (Marcellus Washburn)

The preview I saw was obviously the first performance conditions run-through with all the working parts in play (lights, sound, band, costumes, etc) and hopefully some of the audio issues I noticed have been addressed. The piano playing was often louder than it needed to be. Most of the cast wear microphones, but the final overall level still needs to be lifted.

The finale, when the younger cast members appear as the band they were wearing uniforms from Dan Austins’s Guelph Collegiate Vocational Institute marching band.

I also learned not to underestimate the ability of the folks at St. Paul’s to put together a musical which can stand alongside some of the other stuff we get to enjoy in Orillia.

You can get tickets online for remaining performances Thursday, Friday, and Saturday, with matinees Saturday and Sunday. You can also have dinner before the show Friday and Saturday, but you have to get those tickets between 9 a.m. and noon at the church office on Thursday.

(Photos by Swartz – SUNonline/Orillia)

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