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And The Music Man Band Plays On 
In the revamped offering of the award-winning play, there's joyous proof that some things never grow old

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––Walter Leavy
   In the updated version of the production that was written more than 60 years ago, the entire cast is a crowd-pleaser, including multiple characters who leave lasting impressions. Geoff Packard, a Jeff Award- and Helen Hayes Award-winner, leads the performers in the traveling salesman role that Preston popularized in the movie as the beguiling, fast-talking scam artist. His convincing portrayal likely ensures that Packard’s name will be among the next set of nominees for Jeff Awards. But during award season, the spotlight probably will shine on others from the production, too, including Monica West, who is scintillating as librarian Marian Paroo, an intuitive woman who believes she has the responsibility to improve River City’s cultural level. Along with that idea, she wants to protect the townspeople from the man who she knows is a fraud, but she decides to keep her mouth shut because she has begun to feel something in her heart for him. West’s role is one of the show’s many highlights, particularly when she showcases her soft and lilting soprano on enduring favorites such as “Goodnight, My Someone,” “My White Knight” and “Till There Was You.”
   Not to be overlooked among the performers is a familiar face to those who frequent Goodman productions. For 11 years, Ron E. Rains was an integral part of the annual production of A Christmas Carol, co-starring opposite Larry Yando’s Ebenezer Scrooge as the beloved Bob Cratchit, the miserly Scrooge’s overworked and underpaid accounting clerk. However, Rains takes on a new persona in The Music Man as Mayor Shinn, a high-strung but often bumbling leader who implores those who he encounters to “watch your phraseology” when talking to him. Rounding out the cast are Sophie Ackerman, Jonathan Butler-Duplessis, Lillian Castillo, Matt Crowle, Danielle Davis, Mary Ernster, Kelly Felthous, Carter Graf, Nicole Michelle Haskins, Jeremy Peter Johnson, Christopher Kale Jones, Heidi Kettenring, James Konicek, Milla Liss, Tommy Rivera-Vega, Jonathan Schwart, Bri Sudia, George Andrew Wolff and an ensemble that completes the multitalented group.  
   Aside from the individual performances of the characters, the choreography (Denis Jones) is superb; the scenic design (Dan Ostling) is impressive; the costumes (Ana Kuzmanic) are convincingly reflective of 1912 fashion; and the music is infectious. The Music Man wouldn’t be The Music Man without the music, and throughout the two-hour-plus show, an 11-member orchestra that’s led by director Jermaine Hill brings to life a bevy of songs, including “It’s You,” Shipoopi,” Gary, Indiana, and perhaps the play’s most recognized tune, “Seventy-Six Trombones.”
   After so many years since Willson and Lacey conceived the original script for The Music Man, the play remains incredibly relevant, displaying how love––as it frequently does––can enter the picture and change things dramatically. Before Professor Hill––a man whose life is shaped by one swindle after another––could make his intended money-grab in River City, he had to reassess who he is, what he really wants and how he might shape his own future. 
   Even though it’s been said many times in the past, The Music Man proves it again––never underestimate the power of love.
Brett Beiner Photography
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In the musical favorite The Music Man, Geoff Packard is front an center as con man Professor Harold Hill, who makes a big promise to people in Iowa. 
  PROFESSOR Harold Hill is a con man’s con man––smooth, charming, convincing and accustomed to getting what he wants by putting forth as little effort as possible. But even though his smooth-talking game hits a bit of a snag in the Goodman Theatre’s production of The Music Man through August 18, his exploits still reveal just how slick a good con man can be when he suckers the unsuspecting people of River City, Iowa.
    The five-time Tony Award-winning production is in the hands of director Mary Zimmerman. The Tony Award-winner’s brilliance comes to the forefront almost immediately, beginning with the first scene where an entertaining, rhythmic and animated conversation among seven people on a train sets the pace for the revival of the fan-favorite that first appeared on Broadway in 1957 before it was turned into a popular 1962 film that starred Robert Preston, Shirley Jones, Buddy Hackett and Ron Howard, two years after he began his role as Opie on “The Andy Griffith Show.”
    Based on the story by Meredith Willson and Franklin Lacey, the swindler Hill is an unscrupulous salesman who can sell anything to anyone at anytime as long as it benefits him. In River City, his commodity is music, despite the fact that he “wouldn’t know a bass drum from a pipe organ.” Nevertheless, his appealing promise to start a local marching band brings a new kind of energy and excitement to River City––all the wide-eyed inhabitants have to do is let him order the uniforms, instruments and instruction booklets. Once the money is in his hands, the plan is to make a fast getaway out of town.
The women of River City are excited but skeptical about the new man in town, while (below, left to right) a scene features Mary Ernster, Sophie Ackerman, Monica West and Carter Graf.  
Photographs by Liz Lauren