ZIMMERMAN’S THE MUSIC MAN IS A CELEBRATION OF THE HUMAN SPIRIT

Reviewed By: Stacey Crawley/HIGHLY RECOMMENDED

Geoff Packard leads a dynamic and charismatic cast in Meredith Willson’s “The Music Man,” with classic beloved songs such as “Goodnight My Someone,” my personal favorite – “Seventy-Six Trombones,” and the romantic ballad “Till There Was You.” The story follows Harold Hill, a con man who happens upon River City, Iowa with promises of steering the local teens from debauchery, and the new poolhall, by creating their very own marching band. Hill convinces the townsfolk to give up their hard-earned cash for uniforms and instruments. The only problem? Harold’s only way of knowing how to read or even play music is his made-up system of “wishing it so.” And surprise, it doesn’t work. Wise to his scam is local librarian Marian Paroo, played beautifully by the talented Monica West, who teaches Harold that a life lived with moral responsibility is a life well-led.

The Music Man has it all – great story, festive costumes, dancing, and did I mention the music – which is probably why the Goodman Theatre has added a second extension week to the major revival.  Music Director Jermain Hill conducts the 11-member orchestra. Mary Zimmerman’s direction has the cast beaming with Midwestern charm and energy, as they take the material to its comedic extreme.

Geoff Packard and Monica West in The Music Man/Photo Credit: Liz Lauren

The timing of the characters both during and after the big, bold musical numbers manages to read as hilarious without even trying. With the understated and fun sets by Dan Ostling, this helps to solidify Zimmerman’s vision of showcasing the satirical nature of the piece. Combined with Tony-nominated Denis Jones’ choreography, the to-die-for costumes by Ana Kizmanic, lights by T.J. Gerckens, and Ray Nardelli’s sound, this show is a laugh-out-loud hoot, reminiscent of the vaudeville shows from the early 20th century where the lively audience felt part of the show, connecting with the performers on a deeper level through laughter – a stark contrast to our everyday lives filled with technology and detachment.

It can be hard enough to get out of our own heads, let alone the house, to see a live show. But although life is complicated, and things can seem grim at times, I believe it is shows like The Goodman’s The Music Man that give us a reason to celebrate what it means to be human. Theatre, poetry, self-expression in every form, is essential to this life. To quote Robin Williams in Good Will Hunting, “We don’t write poetry because it’s cute. We read and write poetry because we are members of the human race, and the human race is filled with passion.” Indeed, this cast and this show’s passion is infectious. 

The Music Man has been extended through Sunday August 18th at Goodman Theatre, 170 N Dearborn Street, Chicago IL 60601. Visit GoodmanTheatre.org/MusicMan or call 312.443.3800 for tickets; TTY/TDD 312.443.3829. Tickets ($25-142; subject to change)

This review is dedicated to Buddy King.