Opening Nights: The Music Man

A confection you'll crave.

Remember last November when Bill O'Reilly said that Mitt Romney's defeat signaled the end of "traditional America?" Well, take heart: That world does still exist—albeit only onstage in this sterling production of The Music Man.

Director Bill Berry makes this Technicolor trip down memory lane look effortless, and it's because not a stitch is left out of place in recreating a Norman Rockwell/turn-of-the-last-century fantasia, replete with all the belles and barbershop harmonies of yesteryear.

The orchestra (under Joel Fram's direction) is as crisp as a Disneyland parade; Bob Richard's choreography innovates while also nodding to tradition; and Gregory Poplyk's costumes continually surprise and delight. Lights and sets (by Tom Sturge and Martin Christoffel, respectively) drench the stage in rich Crayola colors that evoke both imagination and memory.

None of that would matter without a cast that can sell this canned corn, which ought to be well past its due date. In this tale of traveling salesman Harold Hill (a nimble and winning Noah Racey), who overstays his welcome after winning the heart of the town librarian (nightingale Laura Griffith), not only are the leads spot-on, but the chorus and all the supporting roles pile on the pleasures. Jeff Steitzer, who delivered such a memorable Scrooge two months ago at ACT, brings a whole new shade of crabby bluster to the mayor enthralled by Hill's pied-piper racket. Laura Kenny, as the mayor's wife, animates her cartoon role with the kind of mugging that went out of vogue with silent pictures. She's a riot.

A lot has changed since Meredith Willson's 1957 trifle won the Tony for Best Musical (beating West Side Story). The Music Man has been described as a relic of an era that never truly existed—or worse, cotton candy for the soul. Never mind the naysayers, because confections created as well as this will only leave you craving more.

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