I will admit it, I haven’t seen a lot of musicals in my life. However, I do enjoy music and dancing just as much as the next person. So the combination seemed like something I would revel in.
Sadly, I was disappointed. The recent production of Meredith Wilson’s The Music Man, staged by the Theatre Arts Department at Grant MacEwan University, was well executed but left me cold.
The play is set at the turn of the 19th century in Iowa, as traveling salesman Harold Hill, played by Corey Schmitt, arrives in a small town to hawk his wares to the townsfolk. He is at heart a swindler and a crook, and attempts to make money from the people while making promises he cannot keep. This is all well and good, except for the fact that the story line is about as cliché as it can get. Before the end of the first few scenes I turned to my friend and accurately forecasted the remainder. While the music and dance numbers throughout were executed with grace and conviction, ultimately, the performance became a series of disconnected show pieces separated by a story. I became more interested in the audience than the action on the stage.
The ensemble cast pieces were the only performances that really captivated me. These moments of music had a palpable enthusiasm that was catchy. The dialogue in the interludes left a bitter taste in my mouth.
While The Music Man may be a classic of American musical theatre, the storyline didn’t quite translate to the 21st century stage in a meaningful way. There is only so much one can do with a story no one cares about.
It may have been well received among its contemporaries, but it is time for this story to be retired. There are many more important, more timely, and more relevant works of theatre that could be staged. Perhaps even contemporary and locally produced? Why turn to The Music Man…it feels so stale. Not even this enthusiastic and talented cast could save this play from itself.
¬– Bryce Zimmerman