Wednesday, September 19, 2018
Stage

St. Petersburg Opera finishes season with an energetic ‘The Music Man’

ST. PETERSBURG — Musically, the creative team behind the St. Petersburg Opera’s season-ending musical, The Music Man, were clearly going all out. Meredith Willson’s paean to small-town Americana outdid West Side Story in the 1958 Tony Awards with a hit parade of tunes — including Goodnight My Someone, Seventy-Six Trombones and Till There Was You — a huge cast and a booming, brassy orchestra.

The St. Pete Opera team got all of that plus some outstanding individual performances and a spirited, skillful dance ensemble in an exuberant show at the Palladium. More even than love, this show is about the power of hope, in the idea that even faith in a lie is better than no faith at all. This production set additional musical standards: Singers needed to have serious operatic chops — and all did. Artistic director Mark Sforzini showcased the top priority by beginning with the overture as a separate mini-performance, with the band led by Florida Orchestra principal trumpet Rob Smith.

The show needed key players who could emphasize the effect of a swindle, and got that indispensably from Daren Kelly in a non-singing role as the fiery Mayor Shinn, who sees his leadership usurped by a con man. Others also stepped forward. Soprano Molly Mustonen demonstrated a consistent vision as librarian Marian Paroo and the kind of singing you won’t hear on Broadway, sometimes to Broadway’s detriment.

It needed a colorful, exuberant and spot-on chorus and got that, with choreography by Deanna Dys and a lot of good singers in a cast of 43. Among them, supporting players Olivia Sargent and David Bevis chipped in strongly as the mayor’s daughter and her rebellious boyfriend as did Becca McCoy as Eulalie, the hilariously clueless mayor’s wife. And young Jackson Orchard held his own with poise as Winthrop, Marian’s younger brother.

It needed a sterling barbershop quartet to master the exquisite swells in Lida Rose and Sincere, and got one in Matthew Krob, Adam Cannedy, George Slotin and Branch Fields on the bass line, who appeared earlier this season as Mephistopheles in Faust. (Lance Lubin, the associate director of the Pinellas chapter of the Barbershop Harmony Society, coached the opera veterans to sing sans vibrato.)

The Music Man especially needs a galvanizing leading man as Harold Hill, the con man, someone who can lift townspeople and the audience. This it did not get.

Peter Kendall Clark is a fine singer — always the priority in opera, I get that — with a voice more capable than the music even demands. But the drama requires more than he gave. If he was hell-bent on not replicating Robert Preston in the role, fine; come up with some other way to credibly motivate the masses. Instead, he seemed to recite rather than inhabit his lines, fumbling a few on opening night and talking fast but without vivacity in his body or persona. A salesman of motor mounts for locomotives would have more energy.

On a side note, the creative team elected to present this musical as a museum piece, not attempting to render any of it more contemporary.That is their artistic choice to make, but a cultural evolution about women and minorities since the 1950s makes some elements trickier than others.

A presentation by a women’s society group about Native Americans, for example, satirizes those stereotypes and is basically laugh material. The way the female characters themselves are rendered, gossipy and with little to do (as in the number Pickalittle), not so much. It’s hard to see a new production simply reproducing the original without some nod to women as thinking people and not getting flak for it.

Be that as it may, this is a lavish and enjoyable show that didn’t spare the cost or the effort.

Contact Andrew Meacham at [email protected] or (727) 892-2248. Follow @torch437.

Comments
On stage this week: ‘Chicago,’ ‘The Guys,’ Ginger Minj of RuPaul fame

On stage this week: ‘Chicago,’ ‘The Guys,’ Ginger Minj of RuPaul fame

RAZZLE DAZZLE: CHICAGO Broadway returns to Tampa in Chicago, the jazzy Bob Fosse cynical celebration of corruption and longest-running American musical revival of all time. Style is substance as Velma and Roxie compete for the limelight of a jaded p...
Published: 09/12/18
Review: ‘Heisenberg’ at Tampa Rep a hopeful expression for our times

Review: ‘Heisenberg’ at Tampa Rep a hopeful expression for our times

TAMPA — With the current state of things, the unlikely union in Heisenberg provides a refreshingly tender contrast to the divisiveness trolling our lives these days.Playwright Simon Stephens even went so far to say in Oakland’s East Bay Times that "t...
Published: 09/10/18
Updated: 09/12/18
Fall Arts Preview: Your guide to museums, plays, opera and classical music in Tampa Bay

Fall Arts Preview: Your guide to museums, plays, opera and classical music in Tampa Bay

Welcome the sweet approach of fall. Despite our current heat index, we’ll soon experience milder air, shorter days and too many things flavored like pumpkin.But in Tampa Bay, the true indicator of fall is the rebirth of local art. Our professional th...
Published: 09/07/18
Fall Arts Preview: Opera Tampa will premiere new opera by Anton Coppola, 101, and more

Fall Arts Preview: Opera Tampa will premiere new opera by Anton Coppola, 101, and more

Have you decided yet which operas you’re going to compose after age 100? If the prospect seems daunting (it does), consider that there is only one Anton Coppola, and only he expects this kind of productivity. Opera Tampa’s founding maest...
Published: 09/06/18
Fall Arts Preview: In a new season, Florida Orchestra expands reach, new top soloists

Fall Arts Preview: In a new season, Florida Orchestra expands reach, new top soloists

The Florida Orchestra has prepared a 51st season with a wide range of grand masters and newer work, an increased visibility for minorities and women and more collaborations with museums and other artistic institutions. Masterworks highlights include...
Published: 09/05/18
Updated: 09/06/18
Fall Arts Preview: Light and dark, classic and groundbreaking round out Tampa Bay theater

Fall Arts Preview: Light and dark, classic and groundbreaking round out Tampa Bay theater

Theater mirrors our world and enlarges it, responds to current events, and allows us to glimpse the present by retelling the classics. Just touch this lineup of shows. In the palm of your hand you can almost feel tremors of anxiety about racial tensi...
Published: 09/05/18
On stage this week: Tampa Bay Theatre Festival and more 'Hedwig'

On stage this week: Tampa Bay Theatre Festival and more 'Hedwig'

BETTER THAN EVER: TAMPA BAY THEATRE FESTIVAL If you haven’t been to a Tampa Bay Theatre Festival yet, you really don’t know what you’re missing. The festival, now in its fifth year, offers a ton of original entertainment, learning ...
Updated one month ago
Louis C.K. has returned to performing after admitting sexual misconduct

Louis C.K. has returned to performing after admitting sexual misconduct

Washington PostOn Sunday night, Louis C.K. did what he’s done for much of his career, walking on stage for an unannounced set at the Comedy Cellar, the revered institution in New York’s Greenwich Village. In front of a sold-out crowd that reportedly ...
Updated one month ago
Looking for Leo: It’s all politics at a nightclub for seniors

Looking for Leo: It’s all politics at a nightclub for seniors

PALM HARBOR — Regulars call it the "fallout" or the "mishap" or the "situation."It has been eight months, but the breakup of Leo’s Italian Grill and its longtime band, True Passion, resonates like a fair-to-middling car crash. Not fatal but nasty, bo...
Updated one month ago
A big weekend for female comics, including SNL’s Leslie Jones at the Improv

A big weekend for female comics, including SNL’s Leslie Jones at the Improv

BRINGING IT: LESLIE JONESWhat can you say about Leslie Jones that she hasn’t already said much better herself? The Saturday Night Live veteran has made the most of her transition from writer to regular, from starring in the 2016 all-female remake of ...
Updated one month ago