The last show of Orange Park Community Theatre’s season is The Music Man. This classic musical with book, music, and lyrics by Meredith Willson, was not only based on Willson’s boyhood in Mason City, Iowa, but the role of Marian was based on a real person, Marian Seeley of Provo, UT, a medical records librarian whom Willson met in WWII. There were over 40 drafts and 20 cut songs before the show finally made it to Broadway in 1957, where it has been so successful, it garnered five Tony awards (over West Side Story) in its first year, spawned TV and Film adaptations, and has had three Broadway revivals, with rumors of a third slated for 2020 starring Hugh Jackman and Sutton Foster.
Slick Harold Hill (Rick Cubbedge) poses as a boys’ band organizer and leader, selling instruments and uniforms to naive Midwestern townsfolk and promising to train the members of the new band. Of course, being a con man, he is no musician and plans to skip town as soon as he has bilked the locals for as much money as he can. Straight-laced librarian and piano teacher Marian (Juli Jones) sees through him, but when Harold helps her younger brother, Winthrop (I saw Reese Schirmer, in a role split with Benjamin Mann), overcome his lisp and social awkwardness, Marian begins to fall for him despite knowing his con. Her mother (Melissa Mann) and piano student, Amaryllis (Lindsay Gillis), egg her on towards a relationship, taunting her with Harold being her last alternative to becoming old maid. Harold ultimately falls for Marian and risks being caught to win her. All of these roles are most charmingly portrayed. I have to say that, if Reese does not have a lisp in real life, he is so good, I would not know it!
Soon after arriving in town, Harold is greeted by an old friend who had moved to River City, Marcellus Washburn (Josh Katzman). The song “The Sadder-but-Wiser Girl” between Harold and Marcellus was funny, and it really shows what pals the two are as characters. Harold finds his “in” the day after he arrives when, as (and I mean this as a compliment) a completely over-the top both Mayor Shinn (Geoff DuChemin) and his wife Eulalie MacKecknie Shinn (Victoria Tompkins) are leading the Independence Day festivities in the high school gym when a firecracker is set off by troublemaker Tommy Djilas (Benjamin Scott). Harold announces that he will prevent “sin and corruption” from the new pool table by forming a boys’ band. Mayor Shinn owns the billiard parlor and tells the school board to get Harold’s credentials, but Harold distracts them by getting them to sing as a Barbershop Quartet (Steven J. Jockish, Tom DiFolco, Timothy L. DeBorde, Garrett Bleau). Harold also sets up Zaneeta (Bella DuChemin), the mayor’s eldest daughter, with Tommy, and persuades Tommy to work as his assistant. Charlie Cowell (Jack Bisson), played effectively and rather creepily at one point, is the only person besides Marian who actually has proof of Harold’s deception.
If you’ve never seen this show, it has a mouthful of tongue-twisters. One of my favorite numbers (and difficult to sing) is “Pickalittle”. In addition to Victoria Tompkins, it includes Mandy Sad, Kelly Weaver, Sally DeBorde, and Jillian Payne. The opening nightmare to sing is “Rock Island”, which includes not only Jack Bisson, Garrett Bleau and Benjamin Scott, but also Nicolette Clay, Gretta Gillis, Trent Kay, Carmen Moody, and Katherine Myers. Other ensemble are Juliana Cubbedge, Tom Deborde, Ian Duncan, Callie Mullins, and Ruby Sad. Everyone did very well with both of these numbers. There are many very well-known songs in this show that will leave your toes tapping, like “Seventy-six Trombones”, “The Wells Fargo Wagon”, and “Gary, Indiana”.
There is a simple, but effective, set designed by Timothy L. DeBorde, who directed the show, and Joanne Quaile Brenner, the stage manager. Given the limited size of the stage, large cast, and the numerous scene changes, the changes were very well coordinated and didn’t add a lot of time to the show. The Music Man ran about 2½ hours, including intermission.
The OPCT youth and teen workshops will be performing The Lion King, Jr. and Grease, Jr., respectively, over the summer. In September 2019 Orange Park Community Theatre opens their 50th anniversary season with Beauty and the Beast. Located at 2900 Moody Ave. in Orange Park, for reservations or information, you can go to www.opct.info, call 904-276-2599 or go to www.showtixnow.com.