By Michael-Shawn DugarInland360.com
When “The Music Man” opens at the Regional Theater Of the Palouse tonight, audience members will experience a blast from the past with a timeless message.
The famed musical, written by Meredith Wilson in 1957, tells the story of traveling con artist Harold Hill, whose life changes when he visits River City, Iowa, reunites with former partner-in-crime Marcellus Washburn and meets local librarian Marian Paroo in the summer of 1912.
Hill, the music man, travels to Iowa with the intention of peddling band lessons for children; but instead of convincing the townspeople to open up their wallets, he ends up opening his heart and learning what he truly wants in life. It’s not love at first sight when Harold meets Marian, but it’s love nonetheless, and their interactions affect the lives of the entire city.
Though the story takes place more than a century ago, the cast is hopeful the combination of nostalgia paired with the ability to apply the issues of the early 19th century to present-day problems is something the audience will enjoy.
While watching a character like Harold, show director John Rich believes people will relate to the idea of being scammed. While people today deal with the hassles of telemarketers, credit card and Internet scams, “Music Man” showcases a time when one or two smooth-talking, charismatic individuals excelled at laying out propositions people were naive enough to accept.
“We’re constantly being bombarded with trying to figure out what’s real and what isn’t real,” Rich said.
The same flashback effect could be applied to the love affair in the musical. The story joins the fly-by-night, noncommittal Hill with the vulnerable, publicly ridiculed Paroo, who suffers from a broken past and has to deal with false rumors accusing her of promiscuity — a narrative women today can surely understand.
“I actually really relate to Marian, so that’s why I was so excited to be given this opportunity,” said Jordan Eby, the female lead portraying Paroo. “One of her songs — ‘Goodnight My Someone’ — it’s about singing about that someone and putting that name in when that someone actually comes. It’s little sweet moments like that everyone can relate to who maybe hasn’t found their someone yet. She’s such a relatable character.”
Eby, a voice major at the University of Idaho, is tasked with playing the female lead for all but three evening shows alongside Paul Hanes, who will portray Harold Hill. The other three nights, Hanes shares the stage with a woman to whom he’s no stranger to showing affection: his wife Bethany, the understudy to Eby, as Paroo.
They take advantage of their time away from the theater by running lines and rehearsing the blocking, and of course the romantic scenes, too.
“It’s really interesting having to put on a different character and a different mindset and a different level of vulnerability but then in the interaction have that understanding of that real emotion, that real affection because it is my husband on stage,” Bethany Hanes said. “But at the same time, it’s a very different character that’s Harold Hill on stage.”
Rather than any feeling of jealousy when her husband is acting out those same scenes with Eby, Hanes said she’s interested in seeing her fellow co-leads sell the story of romance to the audience. She has been working closely with Eby, offering advice as to how to make some of the scenes come easier.
“The stage is a very professional place, and it is all about telling a beautiful story to an audience,” Hanes said. “You definitely have to work together about trusting each other and keeping positive relationships and make sure jealousy doesn’t come into it. But I definitely respect Jordan, and I’m excited to see how she sells the character of Marian.”
Through the memorable musical tunes, lively dance numbers and character transformation of Harold Hill, the cast is hopeful those in attendance get lost in the story, realize the importance of not judging a book by its cover and getting to know people for who they truly are. Most of all, the cast wants people to leave with a smile after watching what Rich deemed the “happiest Broadway musical ever written.”
If you go
What: Regional Theater of the Palouse presents “The Music Man”
When: 7:30 p.m. tonight through Aug. 16 and Aug. 20-24; 1:30 p.m. matinee Saturday and Aug. 23 and 24
Where: Regional Theater Of the Palouse, 122 N. Grand Ave., Pullman
Tickets: Box office: (509) 334-0750 or visit RTOP for advanced tickets, adults $20, children $12. All seats are reserved, but if tickets are available at the door, adults $25, children $15.
Run time: Approximately 150 minutes
Michael-Shawn can be reached at Mdugar@dnews.com or by phone at 208-883-4628. You can follow him on twitter at @Mikedelaphante