Review / Players on the way to another hit

musical theatre / “The Music Man”. By Meredith Willson. Directed by Joseph McGrail-Bateup. Presented by Queanbeyan Players. At The Q, Queanbeyan, until June 25. Reviewed by Bill Stephens.

Deanna Gibbs with members of the ensemble. Photo by Bec Doyle.

Deanna Gibbs with members of the ensemble. Photo by Bec Doyle.

FIRST presented on Broadway in 1957, Meredith Willson’s charming musical fable tells the story of a community in Iowa, duped by a persuasive con-man, Harold Hill, (Gordon Nicholson) into buying instruments and uniforms to form a boy’s band. Hill’s plan comes unstuck when he makes the fatal mistake of falling in love with the town librarian, Marian Paroo (Deanna Gibbs).

Fleshed out by an excellent score containing a succession of lovely songs, including the rousing “Seventy Six Trombones”, a song made popular by The Beatles, “Till There Was You” and what is surely the first rap-song to be used in a musical, “Rock Island”, as well as plenty of juicy character cameos for the large ensemble cast, “The Music Man” is an excellent choice for The Queanbeyan Players.

Heading the enthusiastic, 50-strong cast, Gordon Nicholson, as the music man Harold Hill, sings his songs well, especially “Trouble” and “Seventy Six Trombones”, but elsewhere is surprisingly subdued. The show is called “The Music Man” after all, and that character needs to dominate. On opening night it was Deanna Gibbs, delightfully secure in voice and characterisation, who lead the show.

Deann a Gibbs as Marian Paroo and Gordon Nicholson in the role of Harold Hill.

Deann a Gibbs as Marian Paroo and Gordon Nicholson in the role of Harold Hill.

Bill Lord as the bumptious Mayor Shinn, Kerry Warner as his attention-seeking wife, Eulalie, and Janet Tweedie as Marion’s mother, Mrs Paroo, get the lion’s share of the laughs, while Callum Doherty, as Marion’s lisping little brother, Winthrop, is delightful, especially in his big song, “Gary, Indiana”. Dan D’Abrera as Tommy, Emily O’Brien as Zaneeta, and Jeremy Brown as Charlie Cowell, all contribute strong performances.

Pretty sets and costumes, together with some nice touches by first-time director Joseph McGrail-Bateup, such as having musical director Zach Raffan discover a shining golden trumpet centre stage to commence the show with a rousing trumpet solo and the inclusion of a reference to the famous painting “American Gothic” in the “Iowa Stubborn” number add to the enjoyment.

The imaginative choreography by Kathryn Jones succeeds in making each dance number a highlight, particularly the spirited “Shipoopi”, which involved almost the entire cast in a sustained whirl of movement.

Raffan’s appropriately brassy big band took a little while to settle on opening night, leading to some very brisk tempi, but by second act was sounding so impressive that many members of the audience stayed in their seats to listen to the play-out music.

First night nerves resulted in some pitch problems for the men’s quartet and some of the scene changes for Ian Croker’s attractive settings could be smartened up but, over all, this delightfully nostalgic production of “The Music Man” is well on the road to becoming another triumph for The Queanbeyan Players.

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