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The Music Man: A Masterpiece of Sight, Sound, and Emotion

Reviewed by Susanna Wu-Pong


Whenever I go to a musical I am reminded of why plays are called productions. If done well, they are masterpieces in arrangement of sight and sound, mood, and emotion. The Music Man, now playing at November Theatre at Virginia Rep Center, is done oh so satisfyingly well.

VaRep_music_man_1At the center of the successful arrangement are the musical actors who must have the truly incredible ability to act, sing, and dance equally well. Director John Moon assembles and conducts a dream team as his instruments to orchestrate an evening brimming with delight.

The Music Man is full of talented standouts. Larry Cook was pure rhapsody as Harold Hill, a con artist who is selling dreams more than the promised youth band. Hill is a combo of cad and romantic who charms his way into the hearts of the townspeople, surreptitiously guiding them to believe in themselves and each other. Cook strikes balance in the character’s polarity with precision and skill in a performance befitting Broadway itself. Amanda Johnson plays the lovely Marian Paroo, Hill’s librarian love interest who starts the play as his biggest skeptic but evolves to become his biggest fan as she delivers a sweet and enchanting vocal performance. The shrill busy-body Mayor’s wife is played by Debra Wagoner who, once again, makes me proud to live in a city that boasts talent of her caliber. Her playful interpretation of Eulalie Mackecknie Shinn, combined with incredible vocal talent, provided many memorable moments during a very well-spent evening.

VaRep_music_man_5The actors in the smaller roles were no less impressive. Richard Koch’s duet performance of “The Sadder But Wiser Girl” was pleasing and amusing. The young actors, Brandon McKinney (Winthrop) and Tori Eriavez (Amaryllis) exhibited skill and vocal range that were surprising, for actors of any age. The quartet of Keith Patrick McCoy, Jody Ashworth, David Janeski, and Kenneth Putnam served pure musical ambrosia that just made me grin through the entirety of each succulent song.

Supporting the singers in complete harmony were the talented and energetic dance corp (choreography by Leslie Owens-Harrington) and orchestra (musical direction by Anthony Smith). Lynne Hartman provided light design, which was particularly enchanting during the footbridge scene with the velvety, deepening twilight, twinkling stars, and water reflections. The set (Brian Barker) was composed of a beautiful stair network, punctuated by different accessories for each scene. However, the train set, with moving scene and sky was absolutely sublime. Costumes (Sarah Grady) were akin to installation art – an evolving, moving mélange of color, texture and style that evoked the more innocent era of days past. A special hats off to the spectacular millinery.

VaRep_music_man_2All in all, Moon created an ensemble of more talent than can logically be expected to be assembled in one River City, dozens of them concurrently on the stage (or just below) melodically and gracefully looping in, on, or under a perfect symphony of light, color, sound, and fiber. Moon’s tapestry is woven without a snag in this classic, spirited, and energetic musical spectacle that’s perfect for the whole family.

You can see it all unfold now through August 4 at November Theatre at Virginia Rep Center. For showtimes and tickets, visit or call (804) 783-1688.


Over the past twenty-five years in higher education as a teacher, coach, and a faculty and student development professional, Dr. Susanna Wu-Pong Calvert has taught and counseled hundreds of students and faculty members on interpersonal relationships and personal development. She is the founder of Foundation for Family and Community and Healing.

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