Review: The Music Man at the Candlelight Dinner Playhouse

It’s 1912 and there’s trouble in River City, Iowa. (Or Ioway!)

No one in the town is happy – from the mayor who believes there’s people from the “right” and the “wrong” side of town and never the twain should meet, to a gossipy clique of women led by the mayor’s wife,  to businessmen (and city council members) who haven’t spoken to each other in years, to the kids who have nothing constructive to do.

Spinster librarian Marion Paroo’s father has died and her much younger brother, Winthrop, is having a difficult time dealing with that loss. Marion herself is unhappy with her lot, finding it difficult to introduce “culture” to the town in the form of Balzac and other authors, and looking at a life of continued spinsterhood since no man she meets measures up to her standards.

Into this milieu bounds Professor Harold Hill – handsome, charming, intelligent…and a con man. He intends to convince the parents of the town that their sons need to form a band, sell them instruments and uniforms, and promise that he, personally, will teach the kids how to play. The fact that he can’t play a note doesn’t matter at all, as he’ll leave town on the last train as soon as he’s taken them for as much money as he can get.

But Professor Hill gets more than he bargained for in River City.

Professor Harold Hill sings Marion the Librarian

Professor Harold Hill sings Marion the Librarian. (Photo: RDG Photography)

The Play

The Candlelight Dinner Playhouse opens its tenth season with a high-energy production of The Music Man, an homage to their very first season which also opened with this delightful and perennial favorite.

Conman Harold Hill is a  glib, smooth-talking, brash and charming character – but he also has to be likeable and in certain scenes has to show a bit of vulnerability so that we know his feelings for Marian the Librarian are sincere. Bob Hoppe as Harold Hill delivers on all counts.

He and Alisha Winter-Hayes as Marian have excellent chemistry together, and it’s no surprise that they each are embodying what they consider to be a “dream role.”

Marian the librarian begins the play as stiff and unapproachable, uninterested in the “masher” who follows her home from the library, but gradually softens and allows herself to blossom – not as a desperate spinster seeing a chance at love but as a woman with standards who grows to love a man for the character he shows – even though he doesn’t know it!

The supporting roles are a lot of fun.  TJ Mullin’s comic timing and delivery as he berates Harold Hill, Tommy the boy from the wrong side of town, and every other character who annoys him is wonderful. Meanwhile, Annie Dwyer as his wife Eulalie has been convinced by Hill that she is an excellent dancer, and, like Eliza Doolittle, she intends to dance all night, and all day and in every scene as well. It’s a wonderful comic performance.

The actors in the other supporting roles are uniformly good.

Standing out in the singing department are the four councilmen/quarrelsome business owners – from baritone to tenor – who mesh together well as the Quartet, whom Hill can so easily cajole into forgetting about demanding his “credentials” so they can sing a song in four-part harmony.

The youngsters sing well, play their musical instruments poorly (by design!), and their enthusiasm is fun to watch as well, as the Music Man builds to its heart-warming and satisfying conclusion, which will leave the audience cheering.

Cornmeal dusted salmon,. In the inset, barbecue chicken breast, potato salad and corn

Cornmeal dusted salmon, rice and corn. Inset: barbecue chicken breast, potato salad and corn

The Food

As usual, the Candlelight’s entrees are themed around the time-period of the production, in this case Iowa in 1912. The “included entrees” included pork tenderloin, barbecue chicken, cornmeal dusted trout, and corn casserole. “Upgraded entrees” included the Candlelight signature grilled prime rib – “steak de Burgo” (a regional specialty of, you guessed it, Iowa!), an Iowa chop, a steak burger, or pan-seared salmon.

Desserts were old-fashioned iced oatmeal cookie bread pudding, mini rhubarb pie, strawberry cheesecake, an Oreo brownie, or Colorado Candy Company Brittle Corn.

The Oreo brownie – which looked so delicious that I ate it before taking a picture of it! – was quite appropriate as the Oreo “biscuit” was introduced to the world in 1912.

As for the themed libations, they’re descriptions are always fun, such as “Marcellus’ Puppy Chow,” “Mrs. Paroo’s Peach Tea,” “Mayor Shinn’s Black Walnut Old Fashioned,” “Eulalie Shinn’s Blackberry Lemonade,” and “The Quartet’s Ward” – described thusly: “This drink will have you singing! 10th Mountain Rye Whisky, Pama, orange juice, and simple syrup come together in harmony to strike a perfect chord!”

Keepsake

For most productions, the Candlelight offers some sort of keepsake. For example for the final production of their 2016-2017 season, The Slipper and the Rose: A Cinderella Story, they offered light-up magic wands. For The Music Man, it’s a commemorative glass with the Music Man logo and the date, for only $5.

The specially-designed menu for The Music Man

New: the menu for The Music Man

The program as keepsake has taken a blow, as the themed-menu that used to occupy the middle pages is placed there no longer. Instead, there’s a separate menu for the appetizers and entrees, and a small stand-up card for the desserts.

The cast, happy to pose for photos after the show

Members of the cast, happy to pose for photos after the show

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