By Marlene S. Gaylinn

“The Music Man,” is without a doubt the best musical production seen in recent times at Stamford’s Rich Forum. This stand-out equity show presented by the Summer Theatre of New Canaan, features not only polished, professional actors, singers and dancers, but a full orchestra, colorful costumes, exciting choreography and a huge cast of well-trained, enthusiastic children ranging upwards from the age of five, that you will ever see on Broadway.

The lively show is about a slick-talking traveling salesman who metaphorically gets caught with his foot firmly stuck in the town librarian’s doorway and ends up stealing her heart instead of the town’s fortune. Richard Hartley’s interpretation of the super, musical instrument salesman, Harold Hill, is well timed and tempered -- allowing a believable transition from a sly and selfish scoundrel to becoming a true “mench” – a tender hearted human being with a conscious. Allison Gray as his sweetheart, “Marian, the Librarian,” has a lyrical voice that could charm the devil out of anyone.

Paul Aguirre, as Marcellus Washburn, Harold’s would-be partner in crime, steals the spotlight with his humorous remarks and facial expressions. His body language is remarkable. Despite his heavy frame, he manages numerous leaps and swirls as he characteristically snakes around the stage with great agility.

Joan Carlo plays Marian’s clever, Irish mother, Mrs. Paroo, with typical, sensitivity. The two child leads, Nathan Brenn as Marian’s young brother and Sarabeth Davis as the piano student, have great stage presence and vocal expression -- despite the fact that all of the show’s children have high-pitched voices and need further amplification.

Highlights deserving special recognition are the harmonious Barber Shop Quartet who double as supporting actors (Richard Rowan, Michael Cartwright, William Cruse and Roy Mazzacane) the highly amusing “Pickalittle” ladies who cluck exactly like chickens (Tracy Funke, Sherry Tate, Janice Rudolph and Kristen Englund) and dance partners Ellen Zolezzi and David Moreno who provided a touching, romantic interlude in the “It’s You” ballet. The entire ensemble in the rousing “Shipoopi” number practically raises the ceiling. Nicole Demers (age 6) and Luke Sauer (age 8) will surely capture your attention as the smallest, hand holding, turning partners in this sequence. It’s hard to pick out favorites as each song and dance sequence is a gem: “Marian the Librarian,” Wells Fargo Wagon,” “Goodnight My Someone,” and “’Till There was You,” are among the familiar ones.

Directors Melody and Allegra Libonati evidently did their research towards perfecting each detail of the production. Doug Shakman, the choreographer, succeeded in providing the creative dance numbers and miraculously moved crowds of adults and children attractively on a comparatively small stage. Credit for designing the very colorful and authentic, period costumes goes to Kara Harmon. Scott Cranston and his remarkable orchestra provided extra sparkle to Meridith Wilson’s musical score – even getting into the act during the finale.

The Music man runs at the Rich Forum until July 27 and you should certainly run to get your tickets. Your entire family will enjoy the small town life of our country’s more innocent past and don’t be surprise if you find yourselves marching out of the theatre humming “Seventy Six Trombones.”

For Music Man information and tickets call: 203-966-4634 or visit www.stonc.org.
Marlene Gaylinn is a freelance theatre critic and member of Connecticut Critics Circle. For more reviews on this musical and others consult: ct critics.org.

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