REVIEW: “The Music Man” — Rose Center Theater

Updated: Jul 13

Harold Hill : “I can't go, Winthrop.”

Winthrop: “Why not?”

Harold Hill : “Well, for the first time in my life, I got my foot caught in the door.”


“Ye, Gods!” Rose Center Theater’s 15th Year Anniversary Event — “The Music Man” — is here through July 18th! Somebody say Trouble? Yeah, we got trouble. Right here in Westminster. Where certain words creep into your conversation. Words like 'swell.' And 'so's your old man. Where you’ll be headin' soon for the dance at the Arm'ry! Dancin’ with Libertine men and Scarlet women! And listenin’ to Rag-time, shameless music!


Heavily influenced by his own childhood in Mason City, Iowa, Meredith Willson’s “The Music Man” first premiered on Broadway in 1957, receiving five Tony Awards, culminating in 1375 performances. Then, in 1962, "The Music Man" was adapted to the big screen, starring Shirley Jones as Marion Paroo and Robert Preston as the incorrigible con-man Prof. Harold Hill.


In addition to “The Music Man,” Meredith Willson also wrote two other musicals, “The Unsinkable Molly Brown” and “Here's Love,” as well as three autobiographies, assorted film scores, symphonies, chamber music, and a handful of popular tunes such as "It's Beginning to Look a Lot like Christmas." His many awards include the Presidential Medal of Freedom, presented posthumously by President Ronald Reagan in 1987.


Ultimately, tackling a musical that is as well-known and well-loved as “The Music Man” is no mean task. That being said, Rose Center Theater has done an excellent job executing a professional grade performance, which will leave you with a smile on your face, a song in your head (most likely “Seventy-six Trombones”) and a few new colorful words, “Jeely Cly!”


“The Music Man” tells the story of Prof. Hill’s attempt to swindle a small town into purchasing band instruments, instruction manuals and uniforms for a boys’ band with him as the leader. The catch: Prof. Hill “doesn’t know one note from the other!” Undaunted, Prof. Hill (with just the right amount of snake oil) proceeds to turn the small town of River City, Iowa upside down, stirring up trouble by calling attention to the installation of a pool table in the town’s billiard parlor (“Ya Got Trouble”). His antics and evasive techniques test the extent of the town’s self-proclaimed Iowa stubbornness and their “chip-on-the-shoulder-attitude” as he slowly charms his way into their community.

Ultimately, Prof. Hill is responsible for the formation of a Barber Shop Quartet (a distraction for the irascible school board, charged with the task of gathering his credentials) and the Ladies Auxiliary Dance Committee, as well as the chaos in the library (“Marian The Librarian”), the impromptu sock-hop in the school gymnasium “Shipoopi” and ultimately, the fateful events at the Sociable. One of the few townspeople who doubts Hill’s story from the beginning is the gruff and bumbling Mayor Shinn, played perfectly by feisty veteran actor Cliff Senior.


This production is chock-a-blok with staging popularized in the 1962 film and subsequent amateur productions; one notably, the use of newspapers and musical seats to stage the opening train car scene (“Rock Island”), complete with the syncopated foot tapping and simulated bumpy tracks.

Tim Nelson deserves congratulations for the success of his rather unique interpretation of a laid back Prof. Hill. Melissa Cook is a traditional and dignified Marian Paroo, town librarian and piano teacher. The chemistry between Mr. Nelson and Ms. Cook (preeiminent for her beautiful vocals) was tangible and watching their characters develop was enjoyable. Several of her best moments were in "Goodnight My Someone," "My White Knight" and "Till There Was You." And Olivia Aniceto as Zaneeta Shin and Brock Lichthardt as Tommy Djilas were thoroughly distracting in the best possible way.

Prof. Hill’s schemes in River City rely on an oftentimes forgettable character; a former con-man, the harbinger of the “Shipoopi:” Marcellus Washburn. As sidekick Marcellus, Vincent Aniceto manages to increase the hilarity factor substantially whenever he is onstage. Beyond that, he has a wonderful kinetic energy, which passes noticeably to whoever he is interacting with. Other standouts include Jenny Wentworth as the hysterical Mrs. Eulalie Mackecknie Shin (“Columbia, Gem of the Ocean”), memorable for her masterful delivery of the iconic “Baaaaalzac!” Ms. Wentworth and her cronies, the "Pick-a-Little" ladies, are a real treat to watch.


Zariah Merrill sings "The Wells Fargo Wagon" with sweetness and charm, and it is clear that she may be young but knows what she is doing as an actress on stage. And Tavin Blanke as Winthrop Paroo deserves credit for a truly stellar delivery, both in song (nailing his big number: “Gary, Indiana”) and role. With her Irish brogue, Melinda Messenger-Stout is also most entertaining as Mrs. Paroo in "If You Don't Mind My Saying So."

In fact, this performance is a worthwhile reminder of how many great songs are in the soundtrack, including “Till There Was You” (which the Beatles famously covered). The male, barbershop-style quartet breaks the bank with songs such as "Good Night Ladies" and "Lida Rose," all with very tight harmonies. Members of this quartet should, in my opinion, consider a second career in Barbershop between shows. The group consists of Vincent Aniceto, Chris Caputo, Trevin Stephenson and Garrett Brown.


“The Music Man” stars Tim Nelson as Professor Harold Hill; Melissa Cook as Marian Paroo; Chris Caputo as Jacey Squires; Garrett Brown as Ewart Dunlap; Jessie Reitz as Maud Dunlap; Autumn Kirkpatrick as Ethel Toffelmier; Kristin Henry as Mrs. Squires;Trevin Stephensen as Oliver Hix; Vincent Aniceto as Marcellus Washburn;Jenny Wentworth as Eulalie Mackecknie Shinn; Cliff Senior as Mayor George Shinn; Olivia Aniceto as Zaneeta Shinn; Melinda Messenger-Stout as Mrs Paroo; Zariah Merrill as Amaryllis; Tavin Blanke as Winthrop Paroo; Zariah Merrill as Amaryllis; Brock Lichthardt as Tommy Djilas; Katherine Chapman as Alma Hicks. River City teens are played by Charity Bielicki, Seth Christ, Sarah Hentges and Hannah Robert.


Tim Nelson is Director/Musical Director; Stu Selig and Cat Sacksteder are Sound Designers; Diane Makas and Jenn Matthews are Choreographers; Keenan Murphy is Lighting Designer; Trish Merrill is Property Master; Chris Caputo is Technical Director, Lighting and Projection Design. Sherre Titus is Box Office Manager, and Ryan Salazar is Marketing Manager.


“The Music Man” will be appearing in person at Rose Center Theater through July 18, 2021. Don't miss it! Tickets are $15-30. For tickets and further information, contact https://www.rosecentertheater.com/events


Chris Daniels

Arts & Entertainment Reviewer

The Show Report