Jacksonville’s newest theatre presented its second show of 2014 during the weekend of November 14 -16 with Meredith Wilson’s affectionate slice of Americana, “The Music Man.” The production was a winning mix of nostalgic laughs, enthusiasm and delightful songs.

Michael Coppock, with his marvelous vibrato vocals and charmingly arrogant con man attitude is Professor Harold Hill, a traveling salesman who arrives in River City, Iowa in 1912 and persuades the townsfolk that their town is on the road to ruin because the local billiard parlor is installing a new pool table. To divert the youth of the town from this wickedness, he will start a band; he will sell the instruments, sell the uniforms, and teach the kids to play. His real plan, shared with his traveling friend, Marcellus (played by the hilarious Josh Katzman), who is also a con man, is to take the money and run.

The prim and proper librarian Marian Paroo questions Hill’s credentials but Hill convinces her that his “Think System” will create a band that merely has to “think” a tune to be able to play it. Marian is portrayed by the wonderful vocalist Ellen Marini. If you saw her as Mabel in Orange Park’s “Pirates of Penzance,” you know how good she is.

As Hill works his swindle, he charms Mayor Shinn (Frank Viggiano), his wife Eulalie (the exuberant Laura Adkison) and the four members of the town council and school board (John Alexander, Rick Chapman, Sal LaropoliRick ChapmanJohn Alexander, and Evan Bowen), who become a barbershop quartet in response to Hill’s insistence. They provide some colorful musical interludes.

There is a fly in the ointment; the anvil salesman, Charlie Cowell (Will Cook), who intends to expose his nemesis Hill as a fake and a fraud.

The talented theatre veteran Trish Strain is the Irish widow, Mrs. Paroo, who urges her daughter Marian not to be so quick to dismiss Hill as a possible suitor as she is not getting any younger and male prospects are slim in River City. Both Mrs. Paroo and Marian eventually become enamored with Hill when he helps Winthrop (Adam Pooley), Marian’s younger brother, overcome his shyness (which is related to a lisp) and begin to sing.

In other featured roles, Cecilia Grace Adkison as Amaryllis now has seven musicals to list on her resume, and she is only in third grade! Cecilia and first-grader Megan Matthews shine as the youngest members of the cast.

Sir Carter is the rowdy but smart Tommy Djlas whose girlfriend is Zaneeta (Bailey Myers), the shy daughter of the mayor.

Others in this very busy cast who appear as townspeople and in other smaller roles include [p2p type="post_tag" value="Justin Reynolds"]Justin Reynolds, Sydney Robbins, Kirsten Yates, Katherine Kincaid, Lauren Cowman, Rakia JaClar May, Bill Ringgold, Audrey Everett, Rafe Ewert, Caleb Everett, Louise Everett, Patty Everett[/p2p]Louise EverettCaleb EverettRafe EwertAudrey EverettBill RinggoldRakia JaClar MayLauren Cowman, and Richard Stritter.

The fine orchestra tucked away behind the main stage was conducted by the Conservatory’s Founder and Artistic Director Richard Dickson, with Musical Director Bernie Katzman on piano, Jill Morgan (flute), Monica Greenblott (clarinet), Jennifer Christensen (saxophone), Paul Holz (trombone), Joseph Sanders (bass), Ruth Greene / Sean Morgan (drums), and Gregory Curry, Chris PeacockGregory Curry, and Don Reynolds (trumpets).

“Music Man” was directed by Richard Dickson and beautifully choreographed by Rakia May. Others on the Production Staff included Justin Reynolds (Stage Director, Set Design, and Stage Manger), Laura Adkison (Vocal Coach), Tad Wiggins (Light Design), and Carolyn Stritter (Properties). The period 1912 costumes were the result of the efforts of the Costume Committee, Kirsten Yates, Mardi Myers, Patty Everett, Carolyn Stritter, Rakia May and Laura Adkison.

We have come to the end of the review of this thoroughly entertaining evening of theatre and have not even mentioned the songs. What can we say! They are classics and will be around a hundred years from now. Who can forget “Ya Got Trouble,” “Seventy Six Trombones,” “Till There Was You,” “Marian the Librarian,” “Wells Fargo Wagon,” and “Gary, Indiana,” just to name a few.

Opps, we forgot to tell you the ending! Well, guess you’ll have to check out the excellent 1962 movie from the library.

Next up for this musical theatre is “Guys and Dolls,” in late February or early March. See EUJacksonville for information about auditions. The Northeast Florida Conservatory is located at 11363 San Jose Boulevard in Jacksonville, just north of Mandarin Road and behind the Chase Bank. If you want improve your instrumental or vocal musical talents, check them out. For additional information see their Facebook page or


About Dick Kerekes & Leisla Sansom

The Dual Critics of EU Jacksonville have been reviewing plays together for the past nine years. Dick Kerekes has been a critic since 1980, starting with The First Coast Entertainer and continuing as the paper morphed into EU Jacksonville. Leisla Sansom wrote reviews from time to time in the early 80s, but was otherwise occupied in the business world. As a writing team, they have attended almost thirty Humana Festivals of New America Plays at Actors Theatre in Louisville, Kentucky, and many of the annual conferences sponsored by the American Theatre Critics Association, which are held in cities throughout the country. They have reviewed plays in Cincinnati, Chicago, Miami, Sarasota, Minneapolis, Orlando, New York, Philadelphia, Sarasota, San Francisco, Shepherdstown, and The Eugene O’Neill Center in Waterford, Massachusetts. They currently review about one hundred plays annually in the North Florida area theaters, which include community, college, university, and professional productions.