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Tuesday, Nov. 22, 2011

Joyous, Nostalgic 'Music Man' at Skylight Opera

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The Skylight Opera Theatre's elaborately staged, exhilarating production of The Music Man is a joyous, nostalgic reminder of the kind of show that used to define the Broadway musical stage. But time can take its toll even with the most fondly remembered shows, and if the 76 trombones, the Wells Fargo wagon and the Rock Island numbers seem too homespun, belonging to a gentler era and lacking the sparkle of first exposure, and if the show does not reach the universal proportions of Hammerstein or Lerner and Loewe, the Skylight production blithely ignores the passage of time and has sufficient snap to overcome the banality of nostalgia. It spills across the stage with fresh enthusiasm, split-second timing and a cast that seems joyfully relentless in its determination to entertain. They succeed admirably.

Much credit goes to stage director Bill Theisen, who radiates as much pre-curtain enthusiasm as his cast, and to Pam Kriger's pulsating choreography. Especially effective was the “Marian the Librarian” number with Norman Moses pursuing Niffer Clarke on tall library ladders. Moses' performance relied less on vocalization than on a comfortable, seasoned maturity. Clarke's Marian was well handled if occasionally vocally uncomfortable. Mark Bucher and Debra Babich were hilarious as the mayor and his wife.

The younger cast members were uniformly excellent. Audiences were especially delighted with 11-year-old Justin Ellings' soft-shoe number with Moses.

The Music Man
runs through Dec. 18 at the Broadway Theatre Center. For ticket reservations, call 414-291-7800.