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Theatre Review: The Music Man delivers a great night out

In mentioning I was going to see The Music Man, a number of people replied they’d never heard of it. It’s probably not a surprise since its debut in 1957 it’s probably been eclipsed by many other musicals. 

Yet, when you tell people that the song ‘Seventy-Six Trombones’ is from the show, people instantly say ‘oh I know that’. In fact many of the show’s tunes have appeared in popular culture and TV shows including Family Guy and The Simpsons. Still, people don’t usually think of where they came from. 

Now that The Music Man is playing in Auckland for a very short season, it’s a great opportunity to see these songs in their original package and be swept away in the charm and fun of this quite endearing piece of theatre. 

So what’s it all about?

Harold Hill (Nic Kyle) is a con artist who has for years, swindled townsfolk across mid-western America. He arrives in River City Iowa and has a plan to bilk the town by lying that he is a bandleader and will save the youth of the city from vice by creating a boys band. Once the people have paid upfront for uniforms and instruments, he plans to skip town and leave them broke. What he doesn’t count on is falling in love with Marian Paroo (Jess Rogers) the town librarian. 

What is intriguing about this late 50s musical is how the soundtrack delivers remarkably progressive and diverse music. ‘Rock Island’ is as close to rap as it’s possible to get in mid century America, and the big band numbers such as ‘Shipoopi’ and ‘Seventy-Six Trombones’ are so well constructed they feel timeless. 

Sure there are some quaint ballads such as ‘It’s You’ and barbershop tunes like ‘Lida Rose’ that we rarely hear these days, yet they fill the show with a pleasant nostalgic whimsy. 

It is of course the artists who bring these songs to life, and the orchestra peppered with members of the Royal New Zealand Navy Band conjured up a stunning mixture of perfect melodies and when combined with a talented cast of mixed ages the result was magical. 

The two leads held the show together very well. Rogers mix of steely determination and coquettishness matched Kyle’s suave brashness perfectly.  These two characters need to be both strong and vulnerable which Rogers and Kyle definitely delivered. 

The Music Man is a delightful production that delivers a simple, satisfying story full of unforgettable characters and flawless performances. If you want to see it you’d better be quick!

Watch my interview with the cast here.

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12-15 October 2023 Auckland

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