All About Richland

There’s Trouble In Mansfield: The Music Man Come To The Ren

13 Jul , 2022  

Special to 1812Blockhouse

Meredith Willson’s The Music Man has become such a staple of popular culture that a visit to River City, Iowa is like spending time with an old friend.

Boasting such memorable songs as 76 Trombones, Till There Was You, The Wells Fargo Wagon and Trouble!, the show about a traveling salesman who tries to bamboozle naïve Iowans into forming a boy’s band, has been performed continuously since its premiere on Broadway in 1957. Why has it remained so popular? Critics and audiences agree that the expertly structured story, the unforgettable melodies, and hilarious and heartfelt characters combine to make an almost perfect musical comedy. The story and score are so strong, that they allow each generation to offer its own take on the material, to hear these songs and dialogue with a modern voice.

This was the challenge for the Music Man’s creative team at the Renaissance Theatre as they plan for their upcoming production, which opens Saturday, July 30 at 8PM and continues Sunday, July 31 at 2:30PM, Saturday August 6 at 8PM and Sunday, August 7 at 2:30PM.

“Staging a production of The Music Man is a challenge,” notes director Michael Thomas. “You want to offer a fresh spin on the staging, while still respecting the original concept that is so well known to audiences.” Thomas and his creative team, including musical director Kelly Knowlton, choreographer Caroline Grace Williams, costume designer Linda Turske, set designer Jason Kaufman, lighting and sound designer Aaron Nicolas and assistant director Nik Demers, were determined to present a production that was both fresh yet familiar.

While regarded by some as a “pastiche”, “corny” or “old fashioned”, The Music Man has nonetheless charmed audiences for decades with its combination of hilarious characters, high-kicking dances and one of the most beloved musical scores ever written for the Broadway stage.  When conman Harold Hill steps off the train in Iowa, he’s determined to bilk the locals out of their hard-earned money by forming a boy’s band. The problem is, Hill doesn’t know the first thing about music, insisting that his revolutionary “think system” is all the kids will need to compete with John Phillip Sousa. Memorable characters include the pompous Mayor Shinn, his grand dame wife, Eulalie, the gossipy “Pick-a-Little” ladies, an arguing School Board that is transformed into a joyful barbershop quartet, and the formidable Marian, the town librarian, who threatens to expose Hill before he can skip town.

Audience favorites returning to the Ren include George Swarn and Leah Gesouras as Harold and Marian, Colton Penwell and Robert Hardin Leeth as Mr. and Mrs. Shinn, Milo McDonald and Stephanie Hayslip as Winthrop and Mrs. Paroo, Niko Carter and Samantha Woodill as Marcellus Washburn and Ethel Tofflemier, Patrick Clinage, Jacob Poiner, Gavin Hull and Eric Anderson as the barbershop quartet, Caroline Grace Williams, Lori Turner, Danielle Vivcharenko, and Rebekah Boesh as the Pick-a-Little ladies, Bob Gardner as Charlie Cowell, Kristin Kaufman and Justice Gardner as Zanetta and Tommy, and Saige Painley and Jackie Metz as Gracie Shinn and Amaryllis.

The talented ensemble includes: Taylor Beasley, Darius Darmody, Nykera Gardner, Madison Kearney, Lucy Lang, Jamie Mayfield, Kathryn Moir, Bryce Nevison, Jessica Ney, Pam Phillips, Grayden Pierce, Zakari Ramos, Ross Pruettmiller, Payne Schwartz, and McKenna Stoffer.

The Renaissance Theatre is located at 138 Park Avenue West in Mansfield, Ohio. Tickets are available in person, by calling the Renaissance box office at 419-522-2726, or by visiting rentickets.org.

Source, Photo: Renaissance Performing Arts Association

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