Music man
Broadway hit comes North

Michele LeTourneau
Northern News Services

Yellowknife (Apr 14/00) - It's all about music in this spring's Ptarmigan Ptheatrics annual production.

Meredith Willson's The Music Man, which has won eight Tony Awards, including best musical, author, composer and lyricist, a grammy for the 1957 cast album and an Academy Award for the score, comes to NACC next month, about the same time it hits Broadway again.

The Music Man recalls a sweet simplicity and a vanished charm, says director Christopher Foreman.

Some may question the choice of staging The Music Man in the year 2000, but Foreman insists it's one of the best musicals of all times.

"There's almost certainly a consensus. Theatre critics and music historians agree that The Music Man is the quintessentially popular musical play since the '40s," says Foreman.

Music Man was written in the '50s by Willson. The show took 40 drafts and six years to reach its final version and was first performed in '57 on Broadway for a 1,375-show run.

The musical tells the tale of Harold Hill, who arrives in a small Iowa town in 1912, and falls in love with the wilful librarian Marian Paroo.

"He's a con man, a turn-of-the-century travelling salesman," says Foreman.

"He convinces the town that they need his services. He has enormous charm and charisma. Marian is onto him from the start."

Jamie Bastedo, for his first time out, plays the charismatic Hill and trained soprano Marianne Maltby plays Marian the librarian.

Hill manages to convince the town to adopt his revolutionary music program in order to save the youth of River City from certain doom.

"He convinces the whole town to do things they would never do, and in the process he turns the whole town on its ear."

Theatre-goers will hear some timeless tunes - Til There was You, Seventy-six Trombones, Gary, Indiana and Lida Rose.

"It's clever, beautiful music," says Foreman, adding there will be a full orchestra of Yk musicians under the expert direction of musical director Belinda Fraser.

The Yk Music Man version will have 50 ably-trained voices, under the guidance of choral directors Margo Nightingale and Melanie Heppelle. Anna Tesar has taken on the choreography.

"We've got the leaps and the lifts, everything I could want, everything you could expect in a musical," says Foreman.

Add the orchestra, singing and choreography to 50 cast members - ages six to 60 - over 250 costumes and two sets, and the sheer immensity and scope of this production hardly fits in the mind's eye.

Foreman says the majority of this year's cast are newcomers, which lends a whole different personality to the production.

There are a few notable exceptions such as Heather Ross, who plays the mayor's wife, and Sean Daly, who "adds comic relief as only Sean can play comic relief," says Foreman.

This year's major sponsors for the musical are Northwestel Cable, and one of the networks the company carries - A&E.

"It (A&E) is one of our networks in Yellowknife, and one of our most popular," says Northwestel's marketing manager Renee Fournier.

"It's a way for A&E to be a part of the community."

The Music Man plays at NACC May 4-6 and again from May 10-13. Tickets are available at the Birchwood Gallery.