Check out this librarian – a review of “The Music Man”

By Michael Buzzelli

There’s trouble in River City (Trouble with a Capital T), but Harold Hill (Charles Esten) who points his finger at the alleged trouble is the actual cause in Meredith Wilson’s “The Music Man.”

Hill is a calm and charming con man with a clever con. He talks the townies into buying musical instruments, band uniforms, and expensive instruction books and hustles to the next whistle-stop before the kids learn to play the music. For the scheme to work, Hill must win over the local librarian and piano teacher,  Marian (Nikki Renée Daniels), but she’s on to him.

Marian lives with her mother, Mrs. Paroo (Cissy Rebich) and her little brother, Winthrop (an adorable Emmett Kent) and shuttles between her home and the library (big, beautiful set pieces by Scenic Designer James Fouchard).  Despite the fact that she suspects that Hill is up to something, she falls for his patter.

Mayor Shinn (E. Clayton Cornelious) also suspects that Hill is up to no good, but Hill continues to elude the malapropping mayor.  The mayor has other problems. He’s planning River City’s Independence Day celebration, appeasing his wife, Eulalie Mackeckie Shinn (Christine Laitta), and he’s trying to keep his daughter Zanetta (Kammie Crum) away from a young troublemaker,  Tommy (Nick Alvino).

But the plot isn’t important…it’s absolutely nonsensical when you think about it too much. It’s the music that makes “The Music Man,” and the music is wonderfully infectious.

Harold Hill (Charles Esten) dances with Marian (Nikki Renée Daniels) in “The Music Man.” Photo Credit: Kgtunney PhotographyDaniels is incredible as Marian. She oozes with star power. Every move. Every note. She’s a delight to watch. Plus, she looks like she’s having a blast on the Benedum stage.

Esten does a good job. He has a terrific singing voice and gets some of the best numbers in the show. Esten is excellent. His only flaw is that he isn’t Robert Preston. While its not fair to compare, Preston made the role his own and no one has topped him since, but Esten comes pretty darn close.

While there are a lot of kooky characters and zany side plots, “The Music Man” is about the love story between Hill and the librarian. The two have a wonderful chemistry together.

There are, however, several players who deserve a round of applause.

Alvino’s time on stage is short, but he shines in every one of those quick scenes. He is filled with exuberance.  With crisp, sharp movements, he is the best dancer in the production, even though there are some amazing dancers up there.

Laitta is a delight. She also makes the most of her moments on the stage.

While the song, “Shipoopi” makes no sense whatsoever, and sounds like a “Beavis and Butthead” parody song (heh heh, he said, ‘Shipoopi’),  Ryan Cavanaugh knocks it out of the park. It also featured one of the most stunning dance numbers thanks to brilliant choreography by Mara Newberry Greer.

Director Sara Edwards does a fine job with an American classic. It’s hard not to hum along when “The Music Man” is in town.


“The Music Man” runs from July 9 to July 14 at the Benedum Center, 237 Seventh Street, Pittsburgh, PA 15222. For more information, click here. 

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