It's a story of deception, love, fantastic costumes, charming characters, and stuck-in-your-head musical numbers – and although it's set 100 years ago, “The Music Man” is a production that holds strong in today's world.
“It's such a good family show,” said Mandy Gambal, who plays leading lady Marian Paroo in the show. “Not only that, but the music is so beautiful, and everyone knows a song or two.”
“The Music Man” has been performed in venues throughout the world, as well as turned into a movie (twice), and will come to the Little Theatre of Wilkes-Barre stage this weekend.
It tells the story of con man Harold Hill (played by Scott Colin of Little Theatre) who goes from town to town posing as a band leader, selling instruments and uniforms to na´ve residents before leaving with their money. He comes to River City, Iowa, where he meets Gambal's character, the town librarian that, despite seeing right through Hill's act, falls in love with him.
Gambal is no stranger to the ways of her character, as she has played her before at different venues.
“I could play this role every night and keep it fresh,” she said. “I love it. I love this role.”
Warren Rosengrant plays the part of Mayor George Shinn, a man who has his hands full even before Hill comes to town.
“He gets grief from school board members, he's tough with his kids, he's in charge of all the festivities on the picnic grounds, and here comes this spellbinder,” Rosengrant said, “but he knows he's a swindler. 'Oh no, I'm not buying any of these games he's playing with people.'”
Rosengrant is quite the character himself, joking that he had no idea the play was even going on this weekend and that perhaps he should clear his schedule to go perform, but his personality is a good fit for Shinn, a character he describes as “bombastic,” “vibrant,” and “a pretty darn nice guy.”
Even his castmates see the perfect match, especially Barbara Wilson, who plays Shinn's wife, Eulalie Mackecknie.
“She's a match to the mayor in hubris and self-importance,” Wilson said. “She's fun and she's a little outrageous, like her husband, but let me tell you, I cannot match up to Warren on stage. He is just such a good reflection of Mayor Shin.”
Wilson also had a hand off-stage costuming the cast, something she called a bit of a challenge. She studied the fashions of the time, which she said were “changing, becoming less restrictive for women,” something reflected on stage.
The costumes, while beautiful, aren't just there for decoration. In the case of Marian, it tells a story.
“My character starts out very prim and proper, hair pinned up, long dresses with coats,” Gambal said, “but by the end of Act I, she's starting to fall in love, so by Act II, the hair comes down, the dress is a little lower cut, and, finally, in the big romantic scene, I wear a gorgeous light lavender, very flowy dress.”
And yet, even though the characters and costumes are something to suck audiences in, the biggest draw is the music, which includes classic songs like “Goodnight, My Someone” and “Seventy-Six Trombones.”
“There's not a song you can't leave singing,” Wilson said. “It's also about the idea of the change music brought to the town, which is something I believe in: music enhances life.”