by Terrance Mc Arthur
Meredith Willson’s tribute to small-town America and small-time con-artists is one of my favorite musicals. I’ve been in four different productions, and I’ve loved participating in each one. Here’s the Blossom Trail Players production in Sanger, coming like a Wells Fargo Wagon loaded with good things.
The BTP’s second show (after last year’s Fiddler on the Roof) follows Harold Hill (Matt Milton) as he bamboozles an Iowa town with visions of a boys’ band that learns to play by thinking the music. He runs afoul of a librarian (Miranda Tellez) who learns to love him when he brings out the spirit of her shy and withdrawn brother (Tommy Milton/Librado Ricardo), while the mayor (Dennis Runge) and a rival salesman (Manuel Miguel) try to bring down Harold.
Matt Milton is enthusiastic as Harold Hill, with a light tenor speaking voice. The transition from a cynical grifter to a caring human occurs seamlessly, and his parts of “Till There Was You” are heartfelt.
Tellez as Marian the Librarian is more in the Kristin Chenoweth mold than along Shirley Jones lines, a brisk, snappy character. She is purposeful and determined, and her transition to romantic dewiness complements Harold’s metamorphosis.
Mayor Shinn is usually brash and bombastic. Runge brings a Bob Newhart befuddlement to the role. Miguel is slick, slimy, and slippery, as the character should be. Greg Guerra as Marcellus, Harold’s old partner-in-crime who had gone straight until Hill blew into town, is lively, bouncy, and bubbly, turning “Shipoopi” into a full-tilt boogie as he dances with Jacqueline Aguilar.
Tommy Milton and Librado Ricardo alternate performances as Winthrop, the lisping child who gains confidence as a member of the band. Ricardo is a true scene-stealer, probably the best Winthrop I have ever seen. He transforms from downcast and tearful to excited and cheerful, dancing like a Astaire/Kelly hybrid, with a touch of Michael Jackson added for good measure.
The School Board barbershop quartet (Chase Fernandez, Daniel Warnecke, Garrison Bennett, Chuck Salanitro) is a mixture of youth and experience, blending into a solid team. Fernandez is a standout as he provides a firm bass, anchoring the other vocal parts…and Oh! What hair he has!
Teresa Hoopes provides a fine Irish brogue as Mrs. Paroo, widowed mother of Marian and Winthrop. She knows how to time a line for best comic effect. Cameron Robbins and Emilia Cameron are wistful and winsome as the boy from the wrong side of the tracks and the girl he shouldn’t be near if he wants to avoid trouble. Erica Mardirosian is a battleship of a battleaxe as the mayor’s wife, followed by a convoy of Pick-a-Little Ladies.
Sound problems were distracting, but the cast slogged on despite the setbacks.
The Blossom Trail Players’ The Music Man runs through June 25 in the Multi-Purpose Room of Sanger High School, on Bethel Ave. between 9th Street and Annadale Ave. Tickets are $12 ($10 for students and seniors).
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