Ask Broadway musical buffs to list their 10 favorite shows, and it's likely nine out of 10 (if not all 10) will include Meredith Willson's iconic show, The Music Man.
And why not? It has everything: appealing characters telling a sweet story and some of Broadway's very best songs — 'Til There Was You, Seventy-Six Trombones, Ya Got Trouble — to name a few.
Since its Tony Award-winning debut in 1957, the show has been revived on Broadway twice, traveled the world (there's even a Chinese version), been turned into a Hollywood movie and a TV movie, and become a favorite in big performing arts center lineups and community theater seasons alike. On Thursday, Stage West Community Playhouse will open its version of the show and continue it weekends through March 18.
Leading the Stage West cast is Brian Moran (Max in Lend Me a Tenor) as "Professor" Harold Hill, a charming con man and traveling salesman, who arrives in 1912 River City, Iowa, with big plans and no scruples.
Though the locals declare themselves Iowa Stubborn, they soon fall for the Professor's scheme to sell band instruments and uniforms for the town's young men, after he warns parents of the evils of the town's new pool hall (Ya Got Trouble).
The Professor's plan is simple: once the instruments and uniforms arrive, grab the money and run — just as he has everywhere else.
This time, though, he encounters the beautiful local librarian and piano teacher, Marian Paroo (Ashley McCall, Fanny in Funny Girl), who sees right through him and isn't fooled.
The pompous Mayor Shinn (Jim Hansen, attorney in Deathtrap) owns the pool hall and doesn't want Hill to interfere with his investment, so he orders the school board to investigate Hill's credentials. Hill distracts the school board (Pat Lanphier, Bob Hodges, Jerry McPhail, Oscar Fraley) by encouraging them to sing in harmony and forget about him, which they are all too willing to do.
Meanwhile, Marian's shy, lisping little brother Winthrop (Mckinnley Nelson, film actor) comes out of his shell after being smitten by Hill and the idea of playing in a boys' band. This prompts Marian to see the Professor in a new light.
The plot thickens as the town celebrates July 4, the mayor's wife Eulalie Mackecknie Shinn (Patty Villegas, Kate in Broadway Bound) organizes a women's dancing group, the ladies of the town self-righteously denounce the librarian's choice of books (Pickalittle, Talkalittle), town bad boy Tommy Djilas (Kris Hamlin) courts the mayor's daughter Zaneeta (Stephanie Cooper) and Hill's longtime buddy, Marcellus Washburn (Patrick Gonzalez, Alistair in Move Over, Mrs. Markham), warns Hill of the peril he faces if caught.
There are plots and subplots to work out, but playwright/composer/lyricist Willson manages to do it amid choreographer Jeanine Martin's dances and musical director Wayne Raymond's songs.
The large cast also features Leanne Germann as Mrs. Paroo, Marian's well-meaning mom; Rylie Nelson as Amaryllis, Marian's star piano pupil; Caitlin Martin as Mayor Shinn's youngest daughter Gracie; Dani Lips as the snippy Ethel Toffelmier; and a host of townspeople and kids.
Director Mitchell Gonzalez directed the comedy Move Over, Mrs. Markham, but this is his first time to direct a major musical at Stage West.
This article has been revised to reflect the following correction: Oscar Fraley is one of the members of the "school board" quartet in The Music Man production by Stage West Community Playhouse. Due to incorrect information provided by the theater, a different person was named in the previous version of this story.