A con man comes to a Midwestern town with a scam using a boy’s marching band program, but things don’t go according to plan.
The Artisan Center Theater, a non profit community black box theater in Hurst Texas has brought Meredith Willson’s “The Music Man” to life with all the fanfare and brilliance one would expect from an equity house.
“The Music Man” is a musical with book, music, and lyrics by Meredith Willson, based on the story by Willson and Franklin Lacey. The plot concerns con-man Harold Hill, who poses as a boys band organizer/leader selling instruments, uniforms and instruction books to the naive Iowa townsfolk. He promises to train the members of the new band, but Harold Hill is no musician, and plans to skip town as soon as he’s paid. Prim librarian and piano teacher Marian sees through him, but when Harold helps her younger brother overcome his lisp and social awkwardness, Marian begins to fall in love. Harold risks being caught in his con to hold on to the chance of something real.
Artisan Center Theater is celebrating it’s 12th season of live theater with “The Music Man” leading the parade of summer productions. ACT supports a community theater, children’s theater and performing arts academy in the heart of the mid cities. It is a 100% community sponsored and performer are all local volunteers who donate their time and considerable talents for the love of theater.
Please do not let the community theater label mislead your conceptions of ACT. It is every bit as polished and well produced as many performances I’ve seen at Casa Manana in Ft. Worth, and Theater Two in Dallas. All of their shows on the main stage are double cast. There are two complete casts that alternate days on which they perform. This allows for more community involvement, and a longer run of each show without fear of actor burnout.
I attended on Monday night, and was completely swept away with Jeremy Blaido’s portrayal of Professor Harold Hill and Elizabeth Dewhirst’s portrayal of Marian. The two actors give very believable and charming performances. Their clear, strong and very talented voices brought real life to their characters, but when they sing the duet “Till There Was You,” the blending of their voices melts the heart. Bonnie Gentry’s delivery of Mayor Shinn’s oldest daughter Zaneeta was perfection. Her clear pitch perfect voice, graceful dancing and comical delivery have me anxious to see her in future productions. Hill and his best friend Marcellus Washburn (Eric Gentry) seamed as though they had been working together for years. I never once doubted that they were the best of old friends. Gentry not only gave a fantastic performance with spot on dialect and mannerisms, but is a brilliant dancer.
ACT is a very intimate black box experience. The action is never more than a few feet away from the audience, sometimes not more than a few inches! The sweeping dance choreography left me breathless on several occasions as high kicks seamed to almost clip my hat. The iconic barbershop quartet that Professor Hill tricks the school board into forming deliver show stopping numbers throughout the musical.
Thank you ACT for a charming and magical night at the theater.
“The Music Man” runs May 22nd – July 4th with performances M – F at 7:30pm and two shows on Saturday at 3:00pm and 7:30pm. Complete show, audition and class schedules can be seen on ACT’s website: http://artisanct.com/