Review: Rockwall Summer Musicals Presents “The Music Man”

  Photo credit:  Mary Batchellor

Photo credit:  Mary Batchellor

Shawn Stalter

  • Dallas/Ft. Worth Contributing Critic

Rockwall Summer Musicals’ production of the cherished classic, The Music Man, directed by Barbara Doudt, transported a Dallas, Fort-Worth-area audience away from the complex demands of modern life to an era of simple, sincere pleasures through lively song and dance celebrating turn-of-the-century America. Through this production’s passionate jubilee, talented performers, both young and old, took us on a spirited journey to find redemption through acts of love and kindness.

The Music Man tells a heartwarming story of the interaction between the naive residents of the sleepy town of River City, Iowa, and a fast-talking, traveling con man, Professor Harold Hill. From the moment he arrives, Professor Hill spins a wild tale of the corruption of the town’s youth at the hands of the newly-established pool hall. To combat this unholy influence in the town, he proposes the formation a wholesome youth band, complete with a full suite of instruments and uniforms which, of course, he is well-positioned to procure for them.

As the story progresses, Professor Hill unintentionally inspires and enriches the town through the transformative gift of music. Before he can offload the freshly-arrived instruments and skip town, Harold Hill experiences his own transformation through a budding love for the town librarian and piano teacher, Ms. Marian Paroo and a desire to care for her painfully shy younger brother, Winthrop.

From the opening curtain to the final act, this cast embodied the passion and enthusiasm which makes The Music Man stand out as a time-honored and celebrated American musical theater tradition.

The talented Eric Segovis, in the demanding role of Professor Harold Hill, drew on themes of post-WWII American optimism and nostalgia for simpler times. He stated, “...musical theater is uniquely positioned to make the most of people's proclivity to view the past in as positive a light as possible.” Eric’s personal belief that selflessness can change lives and contribute positively to the community, family, trust and love echoed throughout his brilliant performance.

Eric kicked-off his theater career in the early 2000s at Ouachita Baptist University in Arkadelphia, Arkansas. Although he drew inspiration from Robert Preston’s performance in the 1962 film adaptation of The Music Man, Eric made the role resonate with his own unique voice and style. His passion for this role and subject matter shone through, especially in scenes which demanded rapid-fire, expressive and bold appeals to the citizens of River City, Iowa.

The gifted vocalist, Kally Duncan, beautifully performed the role of Marian the Librarian.  Her remarkable, multi-dimensional voice was a true cornerstone of this performance. Kally’s deep, personal connection with The Music Man developed from fond childhood memories of her grandfather’s quartet performing “Lida Rose” and her mother singing her to sleep to the tune of “Goodnight My Someone”.  To her, The Music Man withstands the test of time due to it’s simple, universal story of transformation.

While Kally started her musical theater career at the age of six, she offers the following sage advice to performers of all ages, “Always look for new material, new songs and monologues, read some plays, go out and audition, do some dance classes, and always keep your skills up. Always work hard and be polite, no matter where you are working.”

In addition to the leading roles, this talented cast capitalized on Suzanne Toler’s visionary choreography, Maureen Cruz’s costume designs and Phyllis Johnson’s well-crafted sets as a vehicle to travel back to this distant, turn-of-the-century iconic American setting. The seamless transition between scenes, incorporated by Stage Manager Annie Gray, also lifted this production by ensuring an uninterrupted flow in the story. Additionally, the live orchestra, under the musical direction of Melissa Williams, made it nearly impossible to avoid tapping along with beloved classics including, “The Wells Fargo Wagon”, “76 Trombones”, “Gary, Indiana”, “Shipoopi” and many more.

Despite a few moments of asynchronicity in dance and music and some missed lines, this passionate and lively performance delighted audience members of all ages. It is clear that the cast and crew did not rely solely on the music man, Harold Hill’s, “Think System” to enliven this unquestionably entertaining production.

Overall, the evening infused a fresh perspective on the joys residing in life’s small moments which many of us forsake in our daily rush to handle the demands of the modern world. This talented cast left us with a reminder of the truth, beauty and passion which reside in our own communities and the redemption we can all experience through sincere, simple acts of kindness and love.

To learn more about Rockwall Summer Musicals family-friendly, Broadway-scale, live orchestra summer shows, or to reserve your seat for a truly memorable performance of The Music Man, visit http://rockwallsummermusicals.org/. The Music Man runs through August 19, 2018, at 1201 T L Townsend Drive, Rockwall, TX 75087.