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afuhrman

Alicia Fuhrman is new to Maine and Maine is new to her. Follow her city exploration through "Snapshots," where every post will feature a picture series of otherwise overlooked or unnoticed Portland-area observations. Each series will will be thematically linked—found notes, aging objects, decrepit bikes, ocean vs. city gulls, and more. Stay tuned.

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Posted: July 16, 2014

Hackmatack’s “Music Man” is scaled down but spirited

The charming musical runs through July 26 at the Berwick playhouse.

Written by: afuhrman
Performing in “The Music Man” are, from left, Marcellus played by Robert Collinge; Ethel played by Samantha Bagdon; Harold Hill played by Dan Clay; and Marian played by Sarah Andrews.

Performing in “The Music Man” are, from left, Marcellus played by Robert Collinge; Ethel played by Samantha Bagdon; Harold Hill played by Dan Clay; and Marian played by Sarah Andrews.

There aren’t 76 trombones leading the big parade in Hackmatack Playhouse’s “The Music Man.” But the musical is entertaining nonetheless. The 36-member cast delivers a performance packed with energy, enthusiasm and a big band’s worth of heart and soul.

The production is a somewhat stripped-down rendition of Meredith Willson’s beloved classic. A talented four-piece band serves as the orchestra. The costumes are often clever, but far from elaborate. And the set – manually swapped out by the cast – is just enough to stir the imagination.

The fun gets rolling in the opening scene. With only a dozen or so chairs, the cast of salesmen and newspaper readers ride into River City, Iowa, on a train that’s imagined through movement and sound. As they sway, bop and deliver their lines in syncopated rhythm, the train seems to magically appear before the audience’s eyes.

Dan Clay leads the cast as Professor Harold Hill. His con-man character is a master at redirection and has the ability to hoodwink almost everyone he meets into buying whatever he’s selling.

Hackmatack has chosen well in casting Clay. Like Hill, he has a mischievous charm that’s irresistible. And his fast-talking vocal acrobatics on songs like “Marian the Librarian” are a delight.

There are several songs in “The Music Man” that are rhythmic speech, rather than melodic songs. They require precision, and Hackmatack’s cast does a commendable job delivering these complex pieces.

In “Pickalittle (Talk-a-Little),” the townswomen – headed up by the fabulous Tanya West as the mayor’s wife – must gossip in cadence, while the barbershop quartet of school board members harmonizes on “Goodnight, Ladies.” It’s an impressive undertaking.

Dan Clay as Harold Hill and Tanya West as Eulalie Shinn perform in “Music Man.”

Dan Clay as Harold Hill and Tanya West as Eulalie Shinn perform in “Music Man.”

Chris Gempp, Nick Iannotti, Jerry Craven and Michael Stailey are beautifully showcased throughout the musical as the quartet members. Craven in particular stands out, delivering rich, full vocals.

Marian, played by Sarah Andrews, delivers many of the melodic, well-known songs from “The Music Man.” Andrews is lovely as the feisty town librarian and love interest of Harold Hill. Her songbird-like vocals soar on “Goodnight My Someone” and “My White Knight.”

Several fun characters stand out in this rendition. Scott Smith is quite entertaining as Mayor Shinn. His character’s mismatched phraseology never ceases to amuse the audience.

Robert Collinge is also diverting as Marcellus, Hill’s friend and former business partner. He is showcased on “Shipoopi,” a well-executed dance number with the townspeople.

Rebecca Hios and Jackson Walsh provide added heart to the story as Marian’s Irish mother and lisping 10-year-old brother.

Carter Siebach, who starts first grade in the fall, is worth mentioning purely for the adorable factor he brings to the production. “The Music Man” is his Hackmatack debut, and the half-pint actor clearly gives it his all.

This rendition of “The Music Man” isn’t perfectly polished. Like Harold Hill and the townspeople of River City, it does have its flaws. There’s an occasional misstep, and it is certainly not the most elaborate production of this musical ever staged.

But, in the end, none of that seems to matter. Hackmatack’s cast members have Hill’s ability to win over the audience. And they do.

“THE MUSIC MAN” BY HACKMATACK PLAYHOUSE

WHERE: 538 School St. (Route 9), Berwick
DATE REVIEWED: July 11; runs through July 26
TICKETS: $25 adult; $23 seniors ($20 on Thursdays); $15 students age 15-20, and $10 students under age 15.
INFO: 698-1807; hackmatack.org

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