THE MUSIC MAN, produced by The Muses Project
Woodlands Auditorium, Hot Springs Village, AR
The Muses’ Home 428 Orange Street, Hot Springs AR
review by Yvonne Tutelli, The Theatre Tattler
Friday night’s performance of The Music Man at The Woodlands Auditorium in Hot Springs Village paved the way for two more performances there and three performances following at The Muses home in downtown Hot Springs.
From curtain up to resounding final curtain applause, the cast and crew of Meredith Wilson’s beloved Iowa-set musical comedy must of felt all a-glow, all the way through the standing ovation. The excitement was contagious.
Music Director Gloria Kim led the small stage band replete with horns, (of course) set the tone with Wilson’s time-honored hooky musical numbers. After all these years the toe tappin’ tunes are the kind cannot forget days after the performance. Fast-talking Professor Harold Hill, personified by full-voiced Stacy Murdock, blows into town to set up his scheme: find an evil vice to be stamped out in small town America and replace it with a brass marching band, selling instruments and uniforms to the unsuspecting would-be musicians, and then performing his own fabled disappearing act.
Of course local librarian–and piano teacher, Marion Paroo, confidently played by Deleen Davidson, sees through Hill’s sketchy scheme, but falls for him anyway after he engages her shy lisping brother, Winthrop.
Played by T.J. Doss, Winthrop brings the house down with his energetic spot-on portrayal: Doss is a very talented young man with mega-stage presence. Mayor Shin and his wife Eulalie (Tom Cooper and Lola Patrice) are a gas to watch, as are all of the featured players and dance ensemble. The Muses Project’s production is purposely sparse, standing on its own sheer and riveting talent, supported by a few view rear projections, some dynamite costumes, and the brass instruments which finally do actually arrive!
Meredith Wilson’s The Music Man, circa 1957, scooped five Tony Awards that year including Best Musical and won the first ever Grammy for Best Musical Theater Album. It is a part of American Musical Theatre history, and indeed a part of Americana, depicting the innocent lives of a small town Iowa town in a much gentler time. Looking back on this era, as well as the construction of this musical, is an absolute must for anyone seeking a clue into successful musical theatre template, especially in 2022.
Davidson’s voice is absolutely lilting, lovely, and her Marion practically beams her luminescent admiration for her counterpart, after a fashion. Stacy Murdock’s rich baritone clearly rings out the anthem of hope and product of visualization: “76 Trombones”. Build it and they will pay, Professor Hill. Produce it and they will come, Ms. Davidson, come to hear the beautiful duets between Marion and her wayward ‘professor’, and revisit 1912 River City…a ‘place’ in Iowa.
This musical is of course on Broadway at this writing, starring Hugh Jackman and Sutton Foster. The value of producing revivals on Broadway is not only in the box office, and not only because of any lack of new musical concepts, or even newer directions for musicals to set forth on. Producing the gems of the golden old classics keep those who saw the original Broadway productions of the same engaged and turns on a whole new generation to the mastery of the song, the story, the template that make the musical comedy a truly American invention. And an older theatre lover makes a great patron or Angel. It’s this knowing that the producers of this The Music Man, The Muses Project, project in each production they mount, drawing new audiences to classics, operatic and theatrical. They remain true to their mission statement: “Using the creative, performing, and healing arts to experience creative renewal and deep understanding of the need for artistic expression and life balance.” It was a truly entertaining evening.
A 501-(c) 3 non-profit, this group consistently brings high quality stage offerings to ever-
growing audiences. September will find The Muse Project staging the beloved Viennese
Opera Die Fledermaus in and nearby Hot Springs. A worthy cause and a glorious nite of
beautiful music is a calendar date to set. Performance dates are September 11th, 17th
and 18th both in Hot Springs Village and at the home of The Muses Project in downtown
photo credit: Sandy Johanson