THE MUSIC MAN
Billericay Operatic Society at Brentwood Theatre
Meredith Willson's old-fashioned family musical comedy is given an enjoyably old-fashioned family production by Billericay Operatic.
Directed and produced by Wayne Carpenter, who modestly takes his place as the assorted Iowans oompah up and down the Brentwood stage. He's very watchable as the charismatic shyster “Professor” Harold Hill – confidently talking the talk, eyeing up the folk of River City from front stage, enjoying a great vaudeville duet with Matthew Carpenter as his old mate Marcellus, flirting suavely with his Librarian Marian – an excellent performance from Anna Green, even if it's hard to see her as an old maid …
A lively Tommy from Harry Reeves, Tia Warboys is the Mayor's daughter who's his love interest. Mayor - “watch your phraseology” - Shinn is strongly played by Mark Clements, with Jane Granby as his pretentious wife Eulalie. And there's a very promising performance from young James Nash as the 10-year-old problem child Winthrop, matching the Professor in panache and stage presence.
“Well done, lads !” whispers one of the ensemble as they troop off after the hugely challenging railroad number that opens the show. Well done, indeed, damn near faultlessly delivered, and nicely staged with luggage, newspapers, hats and loud check suits.
The ensemble work maintains this high standard; gossiping ladies, kids, townsfolk, and a very polished Barbershop quartet, delivering numbers like Lida Rose with just enough tongue in cheek. Shipoopi is an impressive production number, and the finale – the triumph of the “think system” - is suitably spectacular.
It is a long show, and a little dated in places. The scene changes, in varying degrees of darkness, are swiftly done, but none-the-less cause the action to drag, especially in the dénouement.
But it's a great evening out, a reminder of how good the old shows can still be. The music is in the capable hands of Gerald Hindes; his little band, hiding stage left, includes trombonist Mark Vokes – one man doing the work of seventy-six ...