'Music Man' at the Goodman Theatre is somethin' special

'Music Man' at the Goodman Theatre is somethin' special
James Konicek (Olin Britt), Ayana Strutz (Townsperson), Matt Casey (Townsperson), Tommy Rivera-Vega (Tommy Djilas), Kelly Felthous (Zaneeta Shinn), Christopher Kale Jones (Jacey Squires), Geoff Packard (Harold Hill), Alejandro Fonseca (Townsperson), Laura Savage (Farmer's Wife / Townsperson), Adrienne Velasco-Storrs (Townsperson), Sophie Ackerman (Amaryllis Squires) and Ron E. Rains (Mayor Shinn) Photo credit: Liz Lauren

 “I always think there’s a band, kid.” – Harold Hill

Goodman Theatre closes out its 2018/2019 Season with a major revival of "The Music Man,"  Meredith Willson's feel-good musical comedy about con man Harold Hill, who stumbles upon River City, Iowa with the grand promise of a marching band, but lacking even an iota of musicality.

The play, first produced on Broadway in 1957, garnered five Tony Awards including Best Musical. In 1962 it was adapted for the screen with Robert Preston playing Hill and Shirley Jones as Marian the Librarian.

Artistic Director Robert Falls talks about his history with "The Music Man" saying, "Like many theater fans, I first encountered The Music Man early in life—Meredith Willson’s ebullient portrait of small town American life, with its musically diverse score, hearty humor and richly painted characters showed me, at that youthful age, the possibilities of theater as an art form,” said. “I can think of no better director for this task than Mary Zimmerman, whose longtime love of epic stories has, in recent years, led her to investigate classic musicals. She has created a revival of The Music Man with virtuosic performances and eye-popping designs that nonetheless connects to the Midwestern setting and sensibility that defines the work.”

The current revival at Chicago's Goodman Theatre, directed by Mary Zimmerman starts out strong with a masterful “Rock Island” salesmen (and woman) train scene whetting one's appetite for more.

The cast, the costumes, the staging and the music are all first class. Here's a look:

The score of the "Music Man" is somethin' special and can't help but put you in a good mood. Jermaine Hill's music direction amplifies that even more ensuring that each note rings out fully from the 12-member orchestra.

Based on the story by Willson and Franklin Lacey the production is led by Geoff Packard, who returns to the Goodman, following his well received performances in The Jungle Book (2013) and Candide (2010), as con man Harold Hill.

If you were expecting a Robert Preston clone or even Bernie Yvon who starred in the Music Man at the Marriott a couple of years before his untimely death in 2014--that's not exactly what you are getting with Packard.

Although Packard captured the con part of the formula well he does not capture the neediness or heart of Hill with the exception of his touching relationship with Marian’s shy, lisping young brother Winthrop in a wonderful portrayal by Carter Graf. 

Monica West as Marian Paroo, has  the pitch perfect voice to deliver her classic songs including "Till There was You,"  "Goodnight My Someone" and "My White Knight." 

Geoff Packard and Monica West in "The Music Man" at the Goodman Theatre, directed by Mary Zimmerman. (Liz Lauren photo)

Geoff Packard and Monica West in "The Music Man" at the Goodman Theatre, directed by Mary Zimmerman. (Liz Lauren photo)

Daniel Ostling's set brings River City alive through detailed period pieces that work well throughout but especially the train set in the opening scene.

Rating: 3.5 stars
What: "The Music Man" has been extended at Goodman Theatre through August 18, 2019,
Where: 170 N. Dearborn in the 856-seat Albert Theatre.
Tickets: ($45 – $142; subject to change)/ are available at GoodmanTheatre.org/MusicMan, by phone at 312 443 3800 or at the box office (170 North Dearborn).

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