The slipperiest con man in 15 states, the great Professor Harold
Hill, has set up shop in Glendale Centre Theatre’s charming
production of “The Music Man.”
Director Bill Lewis, pulling double duty as the fast-talking Hill,
and producer Tim Dietlein pay loving homage to Meredith Willson’s
musical theater chestnut. They’ve thankfully erased the memory of the
made-for-TV debacle starring Matthew Broderick some months back.
Lewis moves his cast of 38 through the show’s 16 scenes with nary
a pause. In the title role, his evolution from scam artist to a man
encountering his first love is palpable and touching. Supporting cast
members are equally strong.
As Marian Paroo, the town’s librarian, Charlotte Carpenter, Lewis’
offstage wife, reaffirms that she is one of Southern California’s
premier leading ladies. Her acting is multi-layered, her singing
exquisite and her dancing cuts a mean rug.
Reviving the role of River City’s perennially confused Mayor
Shinn, Mario DiGregorio marks his 100th Centre Theatre production.
DiGregorio mines comic gold by focusing on “getting to the bottom of
things” rather than simply relying on blustering verbal faux pas.
Sandy Johnson as Shinn’s self-important wife; Ann Rittenhouse as
Marian’s mother; Jim Barkley’s sidekick to Hill, Marcellus Washburn;
and Jennifer Strattan in the oft-overlooked role of Ethel Toffelmier,
Marcellus’ girlfriend, are deserving of special notice.
Danny Michaels, Daniel Thomas, Alex Camp and Kurt Cereske as River
City’s bickering school-board-turned-barbershop- quartet jell
perfectly, no doubt in part to having appeared together in Centre
Theatre’s previous production of “Forever Plaid.”
Choreographer Mark Knowles, having masterfully helmed Centre
Theatre’s “Camelot,” works wonders with a vibrant corps of dancers
led by the beautifully paired Robert Pieranunzi as town troublemaker,
Tommy Djilas, and Michelle Pierce as the mayor’s quirky daughter,
But it’s tiny Scott Jacobson, a dead ringer for Ronnie Howard, who
nearly steals the show as Marian’s shyly lisping brother, Winthrop.
His clear, crisp rendition of “Gary, Indiana” is a crowd pleaser.
Debbie Gluck’s costuming, especially the Pick-A-Little ladies’
abundance of feathers; Tim Dietlein’s sets and lighting design;
Daniel Thomas’ musical direction; and Nathan Verbois’ sound operation
round out the list of kudos.