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Entertainment & Lifestyle

Weathervane’s ‘Music Man’ shines

6/13/2013 - West Side Leader
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By David Ritchey

Dave Hetrick is Harold Hill in Weathervane Playhouse’s production of “The Music Man.”
Photo courtesy of Weathervane Playhouse
MERRIMAN VALLEY — “The Music Man” has aged well since it opened on Broadway more than 50 years ago. The production playing at Weathervane Playhouse flows with familiar songs, stylish dances and dated jokes and dialogue.

The script has been changed from what we might have seen in the original production or any of the local productions of the show. Some songs have been moved from the first act to the second act, and the script seems to have been trimmed a bit. 

This Harold Hill (Dave Hetrick) is more emotionally accessible than any Harold Hill I’ve seen. Usually the actor playing the role signals to the audience early in the performance that he’s a thief, liar and has a girl in every railroad stop. In 1912, the setting of this story, those traits could get a man soaked in tar and feathers.

Hetrick makes Hill winning and charming. Hetrick plays Hill as if his relationship with Marian (Michelle Rae Chaho) has hope. But, in Iowa City, Iowa, this Hill may have too much of a past to have a future.

Chaho creates a Marian who is cool to cold in her relationships. This character needs to show more warmth to her mother and her brother (it’s there in the script) to make a relationship with Hill seem possible.

Marian establishes a friendship with Hill because he has helped bring her little brother Winthrop (Wilson Ha) out of the depression he’s suffered since the death of his father in 1910. Ha is excellent in his big number, “Gary, Indiana.” Ha has a significant role in this play and he is as good as his adult castmates.

Director and choreographer Sarah Elaine Bailey took several risks with this show, and they paid off for the production. She has about 20 children in the cast, and they were excellent. I look forward to seeing them in other shows. Second, she helped her Harold Hill be warmer than the slick, oily Hill usually seen in “The Music Man.”

Ian Haberman (Mayor Shinn) as the mayor of Iowa City is loud, brash and quick to become a pussycat when confronted by his wife or the realization that he’s wrong about Hill. Haberman has worked in several productions at Weathervane and always contributes to the production. 

Mayor Shinn’s wife, Eulalie Mackechnie Shinn (Michele McNeal) takes her role as a civic leader with power and good spirit. As the chair of the Dance Committee, she organizes the dance troupe that lets the audience know how much fun it can be when you’re the first lady of River City, Iowa, in July of 1912. McNeal and the ladies of the dance prance around the stage dressed in costumes that deserve their own round of applause. She is at her best when she directs the ladies in Descartes’ movements — “One Grecian urn,” “Two Grecian urns” and so on. 

Musical director Sharon Alberson (piano) keeps the music and dance moving at a brisk pace. She leads the four other musicians from the orchestra pit, somewhere under the stage. Alberson and her colleagues have a much bigger sound than one would expect from five instrumentalists.

Costume designer Jasen Smith designed and created more than 200 costumes, including hats, for this production. Smith, of course, worked with volunteers to get the costumes ready for this show. The costumes are visual treats. Smith and his colleagues keep the stage alive with smashing colors and costumes.

Scenic designer and technical director Alan Scott Ferrall and his team of volunteers created a variety of sets for this show. The set changes are fast, crisp and keep the action moving. Ferrall’s sets are perfect for 1912 and this musical.

Written by Meredith Wilson, “The Music Man” will continue through June 30. For ticket information, call 330-836-2626.

David Ritchey has a Ph.D. in communications and is a professor of communications at The University of Akron. He is a member of the American Theatre Critics Association.

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