Playhouse Merced closes their 2011-2012 season with the musical comedy "The Music Man" opening this weekend.
"I truly love this show," actor Peter Allwine said. "It's an all-American show, one of the classic musicals that still holds up today. As a child, I grew up watching this movie almost ad-nauseam on a daily basis, and I love this role.
"I have done the show twice before, playing Mayor Shinn both times, but I've always wanted to play Harold, so this is kind of a dream come true, and I am having a blast doing it."
"The Music Man" is set in 1912 and features a con man named Harold Hill who comes by train to the small town of River City, Iowa, to sell band instruments and music lessons. There's only one problem.
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"Harold isn't a music teacher," director Chenté Cervantes said, "but when he runs into a librarian who is also the town's piano teacher, he gets his foot caught in the door and has to prove that he can actually pull this scheme off without revealing his true identity.
"In the process he teaches the small town lessons about themselves while learning a few lessons of his own," Cervantes said.
With music and lyrics by Meredith Willson, "The Music Man" features well-known tunes like "Trouble," "Shipoopi," " 'Til There Was You" and "The Wells Fargo Wagon."
Playhouse Merced's production is directed by Cervantes, musically directed by Joel Scott Shade, and features Fresno resident Allwine as Harold Hill and Merced resident Melissa Beckwith as Marian Paroo.
The production features a cast of more than 35 actors, singers and dancers, with detailed costumes by Cindy Strauss and a set designed by Corey Strauss.
Although Cervantes has never seen the original movie with Robert Preston and Shirley Jones, he found that this enabled him to keep the show close to its Broadway roots.
"I have seen plenty of clips of the movie, but I didn't want to have the movie influence what I wanted to put on stage or feel pressured to have to put the movie on stage because I would feel that is what people would want to see," Cervantes explained. "That being said, I did want to keep the classical musical-theater style of direction and choreography, so the show has minimal cuts and all of the songs are sung."
Although "The Music Man" is an old story, Cervantes has been pleasantly surprised by the number of young people who not only know it, but love it.
"I have been amazed to find out that a lot of younger adults and even some teenagers love the movie and want to be a part of or see this production because of its popularity," he said.
"I think that people who remember this musical-movie from its original time will love and appreciate the classic feel. It's a clean show with lots of fun, a wonderful story and amazing music. My favorite part of this production are the beautiful sets and costumes by Corey and Cindy Strauss.
"Everyone has worked so hard to create a harmonious show that will hopefully bring the audience into the small town of River City, Iowa," Cervantes said.
“THE MUSIC MAN”
WHEN: Opens Friday, May 25, plays three weekends through June 10. Showings are Friday and Saturday evenings at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday matinees at 2 p.m.
TICKETS: Adults $20, seniors $18, students $10, children $8. Purchase by calling (209) 725-8587, or visiting the box office at 452 W. Main St., Tuesday through Saturday from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. This show is rated “A” for All Ages.