Whatever weariness I’d been feeling before we headed to Aurora’s Paramount Theatre last Friday night simply vanished when the curtain went up on the first scene of “The Music Man.”
I couldn’t help but be energized by the remarkable a cappella performance of several male actors, who deftly portray traveling salesmen lamenting the challenges of their work while maneuvering a rocky train ride into River City, Iowa. It was my family’s favorite scene, hands down, but there’s a lot to like about this show.
Set in a small Midwestern town in 1912, this is the tale of one smooth salesman in particular, Harold Hill, and his scheme to hoodwink an entire town into buying into his story that he’s starting a children’s marching band. He plays the townsfolk like a fiddle, but his plan to hop back on the rails with their hard-earned cash and steal away across the prairie before they catch on is foiled when he realizes the impact of his promise on one young boy, Winthrop Paroo, and Winthrop’s spinster sister, Marian, the town’s librarian and music teacher.
He merely woos them at first, but realizing that he matters to them, particularly vulnerable Winthrop, causes him to eventually fall for them, too.
Seems Professor Hill isn’t the only mesmerizing character in this popular musical, which is based on “The Music Man,” a book by Meredith Willson (who also composed the music and wrote the lyrics for the stage).
Indeed, Emily Rhom, the pitch-perfect and sweet soprano who plays Marian, Hill’s cool-customer turned love interest, is without a doubt the vocal standout in this production. Of all of the characters, hers seems particularly well cast, but my family was also particularly impressed with and entertained by actress Liz Pazik’s portrayal of the mayor’s wife.
Truly gorgeous costumes, a fabulous orchestra capably directed by Michael Mahler and fantastic singing overall, which includes fun turns by a barbershop quartet-esque group of men clearly mesmerized by Hill’s slick ways, all conspire to make this a top-notch show, but my daughter Holly was most impressed with the cast’s energetic dancing because the ladies danced “in high heels!”
At one point on opening night, a sign hanging amid the otherwise perfect set suffered a minor malfunction, but the show must go on, and indeed it did.
We were surprised it didn’t conclude with a rousing ensemble number, perhaps a reprisal of “Seventy-Six Trombones,” for example.
This “Music Man” lacks the wow factor of “Annie,” another musical recently directed by Rachel Rockwell at the Paramount (which also starred Rohm, as Grace Farrell), but overall, this show, which runs through Feb. 3, is wonderfully entertaining for all ages and well worth the price of admission.
Does the “Music Man” face the music and find redemption? Visit www.paramountaurora.com for tickets and see for yourself.
• Jennifer DuBose lives in Batavia with her husband, Todd, and their two children, Noah and Holly. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.