The Music Man

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By Ken Begley

“You watch your phraseology!”
Jerry Grider as Mayor Shinn, to the wild kid.

Great honk!
“The Music Man” has rolled into The Opera House in Springfield, and this town will never be the same.
This is my all-time favorite musical.  It was a Broadway play in 1957, won five Tony Awards, one Grammy Award, and was then made into a movie in 1962 with Shirley Jones and Robert Preston.  Scott and Jan Fattizzi work their usual magic with the Central Kentucky Community Theatre actors and are putting on one heck of a show.
 Meredith Wilson’s “The Music Man,” set in the Iowa of 1912, tells the wholesome and explicitly moral story about a charismatic conman named Professor Harold Hill.  Hill (played by G.B. Dixon) is no professor.  In fact, he has a running scam convincing parents he can teach their musically disinclined children to play musical instruments. He then takes orders for instruments and uniforms on the premise that he will form a band.  But when everything ordered arrives and is paid for, Professor Hill skips town without forming the band, moving on before he is exposed. 
“Oh, this is a refined operation, son, and he’s got it timed down to the last wave of the brakeman’s hand on the last train outta town.”
Ye, Gads!
What can redeem such a heartless man?
It’s none other than the love of the town librarian, Marion Paroo (Robin Humphress) and her little brother Winthrop (Harrison Young).  But first, Hill has to win her heart, which won’t be easy.  Marion is smart enough to know something fishy is going on.  However, she’s not the only one that knows Professor Hill is “slipperier than a Mississippi sturgeon.”
It sounds like to me “we’ve got trouble right here in River City” folks.
River City’s Mayor Shinn (Jerry Grider) is hot on Professor Hill’s tracks, and after his “credentials.” Unfortunately, he keeps sending out the River City School Board (Bob Grider, Jack Manion, Steve Hale, and Brad Redmon) and they keep getting sidetracked.  I’m sure Mayor Shinn would do this himself if he wasn’t so busy keeping an eye out for that wild kid Tommy Djilas (Silas Humphress) who is chasing his oldest daughter, Zaneeta Shinn (Carey Fowler). 
Mayor Shinn wouldn’t have to deal with all this if his wife, Eulalie Mackecknie Shinn (Inez Grider), wasn’t so involved with lifting up the culture of their fair city.  Fortunately, he does have his younger daughter, Gracie Shinn (Grace Avery), who is willing to rat out her older sibling at every opportunity.   Add to that Constable Locke (Tony Paulin) who gives wild kid Tommy a run for his money.
This just keeps getting more complicated!
There’s also a friend of Hill’s that keeps coming out to help him named Marcellus Washburn (Jerry Effner).  Marcellus is balanced out with an anvil salesman named Charlie Cowell (Dr. Atam Abie), who has an axe to grind with Professor Hill.  Charlie is going to come after Hill with the truth of his ill-gotten plans.  But will he succeed?  Will the townspeople listen to him?
You have to see the play to find out.
The play is rounded out with Ashley Chasteen, Emma Humphress, Lucinda Effner, Michele Riley, Stacey Avery, Steve Humphress, Lauren Paulin, and Peyton Young singing 20 often funny, sometimes heartbreaking, but always memorable songs that go with this musical.
In addition, there’s the Eastham brothers (Jordan, Mase, and Alex) coming all the way from Greensburg, Ky., to be in this play.  Alex is the youngest cast member on the stage at the tender age of 5, and is having the time of his life.
 So don’t be late and miss this date.  Let’s all get on the train to River City and see how all this winds up.
Here’s one piece of advice before you go.
Just watch your phraseology around Mayor Shinn!  This is a family musical you know.
Writer’s note:  The last three dates for this play are at 7 p.m. on Friday and Saturday (July 29 and 30) and 2 p.m. on Sunday (July 31).