"THE MUSIC MAN," through Aug. 9, Ellen Eccles Theatre, 43 S. Main, Logan (435-750-0300 or utahfestival.org); running time: 2 hours, 30 minutes (one intermission)
LOGAN — “The Music Man,” following the lively baton of conductor Karen Keltner, took a couple of bars in the overture to get up to speed in its matinee presentation, but once there, the Utah Festival Opera and Musical Theatre orchestra kept a steady, train-like, listen-close-or-you’ll-miss-it pace throughout the Meredith Willson musical. The orchestra, the ensemble numbers and the delightful solos all gave the production a familiarly that washed over audience members like a warm Iowa rain in July.
Con man Harold Hill makes his way to River City, Iowa, with his latest way to dupe for a dime: creating an all-boys band. He sells the naive townsfolk all sorts of supplies, from instruments to uniforms, with the intent to skip town before they realize he doesn't know a thing about music. But when the local librarian catches his eye, Hill's perfectly laid out plan becomes a bit more complicated.
When one character is a focal point to the degree Professor Harold Hill is in “The Music Man,” the actor carrying that focus had better be up to the task, or the production is in "trouble, right here in River City." Luckily, this production is in good hands in the form of Curt Olds. Olds has the movements, the confidence and the con-man brashness down perfectly.
Assisting with the heavy lifting in “The Music Man” is Vanessa Ballam as Marian Paroo, "madam librarian." In the first act, Ballam does prim and proper very well. And right on schedule, as the plot calls for such things, the seeming lack of chemistry felt early between Olds and Ballam improves and hits just the right emotional notes toward the production’s end.
The songs offered up by Marian are right in Ballam’s wheelhouse and range, and she is at ease throughout her presentation and always easy to listen to.
Stealing the show was the roving quartet of River City school board members, at first quarreling but under the tutelage of Hill, providing a handful of solid barbershop quartet-type numbers. Particularly pleasant was the high tenor of Brian Skoog, and every moment on stage by the quartet was a highlight.
Ensemble numbers were well done, and it was always satisfying when the stage was full. Set changes were brisk and efficient and barely gave Keltner a chance to slow her baton.
Some of Mayor Shinn’s lines, played by Errik M. Hood, were lost or muddled in his intense, rapid-fire delivery — all actors were miked — but the mayor’s wife, Eualie Shinn, played by Julie Hollist Terrill, was an audience favorite as she fell under the spell of Professor Hill and danced like no one was watching.
Kisses were right on cue, memorable songs tickled every patron’s memories, and the moral dilemmas of deception and gullibility were erased away by the tunes of the River City boys band.
Content advisory: "The Music Man" does not contain any objectionable language, violence or sexual content.
Jay Wamsley has been an observer of theater and the arts in Cache Valley for more than two decades.