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'The Music Man' marches into Clearwater's Ruth Eckerd Hall

CLEARWATER — He's from out of town, has lots of musicality and charm, and will cheer you up in a River City minute.

We're talkin' 'bout Robby May, a 31-year-old actor from Sarasota who leads a cast of 56 in the Tony Award-winning musical The Music Man. The show by City Players Inc., a local nonprofit community theater organization, runs tonight through Sunday at Ruth Eckerd Hall.

Director Michael Newton-Brown says May has what it takes to play the lead role, a traveling con man capable of hoodwinking a whole town.

He's referring, of course, to May's magnetism.

"I have worked with him before and knew he had the charm and charisma to pull it off," said Newton-Brown, who has spent 40 years as an actor, performer and director.

The Music Man, a staple of American musical theater, is based on a story by Meredith Willson and Franklin Lacey. It premiered on Broadway in 1957 and was made into a 1962 film starring Robert Preston and Shirley Jones.

The setting is 1912 River City, Iowa, where "Professor" Harold Hill jumps off a train with the words, "Gentlemen, you intrigue me. I think I shall have to give Iowa a try."

With that he is off to convince the naive townspeople they need a marching band. To get one, they need to pay for instruments and uniforms.

It's a ruse that Hill has been known to use before.

May called Hill's iconic part "the role of a lifetime."

"He's such a lovable bad guy, he's fun to play," said May. "It's a challenge and a thrill."

Karen Lalosh, 30, of Ellenton stars as Hill's love interest, Marian Paroo, a librarian and piano teacher with a little brother who lisps (played by Jack Dunham, 12, of St. Petersburg). She's Hill's biggest skeptic but eventually, he wins her over when she sees how much confidence he has given little Winthrop.

Audiences will surely enjoy the magical seduction scene during the song and dance, Marian the Librarian. Other perennial favorites include Seventy-six Trombones, Shipoopi, Gary, Indiana and Till There was You.

Domenic Bisesti, the 25-year-old choreographer from Safety Harbor, has filled up the large stage with lots of fancy footwork in three big production numbers.

Bill Cusick, musical director, leads a 13-piece orchestra that includes two trombonists.

The cast includes multigenerational family members, two local teachers, a man in a wheelchair, and a retired Navy veteran. Ages of performers range from 7 to those in their 70s. American Sign Language interpreters are provided at all three performances.

City Players Inc. produces one musical each year on the stage of Ruth Eckerd Hall. Performances date to 1969.

That could change, said Dennis Reid, president of City Players, pastor at Trinity Presbyterian Church in Clearwater and Constable Locke in the show.

"We are currently looking into the possibility of having a small season in addition to the big show," he said.

Stay tuned.

Submit ideas for Diversions features to Terri Bryce Reeves at Events must take place in north Pinellas.


The Music Man

When: Today and Saturday at 8 p.m.; Sunday at 2 p.m.

Where: Ruth Eckerd Hall, 1111 McMullen-Booth Road, Clearwater

Tickets: $26 in advance, $28 at the door. Student rates of $15 available 30 minutes before showtime with student ID.

Info: Call the Ruth Eckerd Hall ticket office at (727) 791-7400 or purchase tickets online at

'The Music Man' marches into Clearwater's Ruth Eckerd Hall 07/14/11 [Last modified: Thursday, July 14, 2011 5:00pm]
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