Team spirit — that’s what Professor Harold Hill is really selling to the people of River City, Iowa. Not a Sousa march or a “think system” or moral uplift for the town’s pool-hall-imperiled youth. And The Music Man, now at the Aronoff’s Jarson-Kaplan Theater thanks to Cincinnati Music Theatre (CMT), has more esprit de corps in its piccolo-playing pinkie fingers than you might find in the entire bodies of a real brass band.
We’ll start with the uniform: red, white and blue from top to bottom, with scenic backdrops (designed by Dan Phares) cleverly sketched in black.
Dennis Murphy’s polished direction matches the production’s smart look, which is both economical and evocative of Meredith Willson’s affectionate cartoon rendering of early-20th-century Americana. The familiar tunes here might be Willson’s, but the visuals are a bracing blare of Sousa’s “Stars and Stripes Forever.” A troop of adorable kids and the harmonies of a well-seasoned barbershop quartet soften the effect, while team captains Rick Kramer, as the swindler Hill, and Melanie Woodruff, as the skeptical Marian, lead with strong vocals and bold movement.
The Music Man, presented by Cincinnati Music Theatre, continues through Nov. 20. Go here to read Julie York Coppens' full review.