The arrival of TexARTS' production of The Music Man
was anticipated by the citizens of our
River City in much the way the Wells Fargo wagon is by the ones in the musical, i.e., watched for with fervent expectation for somethin' special to be delivered. And so it was on June 24. While the one-night-only affair was a concert version, with the orchestra onstage and cast mostly in evening wear, it brought Meredith Willson's winning vision of small-town Iowa in 1912 to life with charm and verve and a fullness of character that's eluded many a production fully tricked out in period costumes and sets. Even more impressively, the show boasted the kind of performance polish more common to a large-scale professional production. Take that for a sign that TexARTS leaders Robin Lewis and Todd Dellinger know their stuff when it comes to musical theatre and what makes it work. They also know who to bring aboard to make for one enchanting evening. Rebecca Luker, of Broadway's 2000 revival of The Music Man
, looked like a star and sang like a dream, filling Willson's luscious ballads for lonely librarian Marian with profound yearning. Jim Walton, also from that revival, glided through the role of Harold Hill, as breezily confident as a confidence man gets. And although he had to wrangle 80 local adults and kids, director Lee Roy Reams another Broadway master kept the show bustling along with a vivacity delightfully in keeping with the musical's spirit. The crowd, which packed the downstairs and filled a good portion of the balcony, was wildly appreciative of the show, never more so than when the kids who had spent the previous three weeks in TexARTS' Musical Theatre Summer Intensive strutted their stuff.
It's been almost four years since the Paramount stage was blessed with a musical from Broadway's golden age, and while that may not be a terribly long time, it's long enough to feel the loss of Austin Musical Theatre and the splendid spectacles of its six-year run. TexARTS' production of The Music Man looked so at home on that stage, it brought to mind a sentiment from another grand old show of yore: Ah, classic musicals, it's good to have you back where you belong.