By Daniel Reskin
By Hans Morgenstern
By George Martinez
By Pablo Chacon Alvarez
By Ciara LaVelle
By New Times Staff
By Rich Robinson
By Hannah Sentenac
What do you get if you combine eight musicians, forty-two singers, and one fast-talking con artist?
Answer: "Seventy-Six Trombones."
Those good in math might be scratching their heads, wondering what the heck we're talking about, but this was exactly the formula Meredith Willson used to create his legendary Broadway smash The Music Man, now onstage at the Jerry Herman Ring Theatre through April 29. And almost half a century after its creation, this musical masterpiece is still packing 'em in, so much so that many dates are sold-out.
Of course it doesn't hurt that the talented cast and crew present a near-flawless show with performances that shame many area so-called professionals. The company is commanded by the gifted Joshua Henry in the role of smooth-talking swindler Harold Hill, who travels to turn-of-the-century River City, Iowa, to muster up some much-needed money. He convinces residents they need a boys' band, which he claims he will lead, and persuades them to fork over money for instruments and uniforms. His scheme works perfectly until he inadvertently falls for Andrea Pettigrove's Marian, a clever and astute librarian and the only person in town savvy enough to see through his façade. With a wealth of comical, goofy, and zany supporting characters, the show is peppered with some balls-out funny scenes.
Add to that a larger-than-life production no easy feat, given the Ring Theatre's small size and The Music Man energetically brings to life a slice of vintage Americana, complete with wholesome idealists dressed in bowler hats and plumed bonnets. Oh yeah, and there are a bunch of clever songs such as Act One's "Pick-a-Little, Talk-a-Little," in which six gossiping women shuffle around the stage, repeating the line like a bunch of cackling hens.
Although the play is comical and lighthearted, the take-home message if you pile up enough tomorrows, you will have collected nothing but a bunch of empty yesterdays requires more thought.
Provided you can get that damn "Seventy-Six Trombones" out of your head for long enough to actually think, that is.