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The Music Man

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by Emma Jane Explores (Emma Caldwell) (subscribe)
I'm a freelance actor, travel writer, photographer, foodie and attention seeker living in the lower North Shore. Check out my blog at for more.
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Meredith Wilson's The Music Man is a longstanding and fond member of the musical theatre canon since its first performance in 1957. Boasting such hits as Seventy-Six Trombones, 'Til There Was You and Goodnight My Someone, this crowd pleaser is successfully revived by Hornsby Musical Society with all the colour, energy and joy of the original.

Logan McArthur as Tommy Djilas and Emily Haldane as Zaneeta Shinn

The Music Man tells the story of conman Harold Hill who travels through small-town America masquerading as a travelling salesman, peddling musical instruments and band uniforms with the promise of starting a band in each town he visits. The catch is, Harold Hill is a fraud and skips town before the band ever plays a note, collecting his commission from instrument and uniform sales and vanishing. He arrives in River City, Iowa, with the intention of doing just that, however along the way he forms an attachment to the town's gutsy young librarian, Marian Paroo. As Harold and Marian's love story progresses, the mayor of the town digs into Hill's past, building to an inevitable confrontation.

David Wotherspoon, Jack Crittenden, Malcolm Green, and Daniel Whitehead as the Barbershop Quartet

Elizabeth Dobb's direction is sound, successfully navigating a large cast of adults and children through the production with ease. Corralling such a big ensemble in the full cast scenes is no mean feat, and these scenes are precise and the cast is used effectively throughout. Lauren Oxenham's choreography compliments the direction beautifully and is performed energetically by the cast. Emily Layson has done a wonderful job with the vocal direction of this production, with a particular highlight being the complex barbershop music sung by the quartet. The only shaky point is the rhythmically challenging opening number, where at a couple of points cast members drop the beat of the quickly spoken song. The performers manage to catch back up, however, and it is not noticeable enough to detract from the energy of the show. Brendan Flanagan's band direction is tight and soars in the romantic scenes.

Elise Tobin as Marian Paroo and Ethan Beattie as Winthrop Paroo

The set design (construction by Rick Porteous) captures the colour and vibrancy of the show, however I'd question whether less colour would perhaps have been more reminiscent of a small town in the USA rife for Harold Hill's taking. There are also many scenes where a song starts and the curtains close behind the singer, which is evidently an effective way to do a scene change behind the curtain whilst the song is going, but I found the curtain overused and a little distracting. It would have been nicer to see the songs performed in situ on the set, but I appreciate that the production team have tried to cut down scene change time in what is already a long show. Lighting by Evan Jones is mostly solid; however there is a moment in the second act where the action takes place in a romantic evening scene and bright green lighting is used, which evokes more Wicked than romance.

Michael Wrightson as Marcellus Washburn and Alec Green as Harold Hill

Alec Green as the smooth-talking Professor Hill puts in a fine performance. He is at his best when he is trying his hardest to woo Marian, and his cheekiness in the song Marian the Librarian is extremely enjoyable. Elise Tobin is outstanding as the sassy Marian Paroo; she sings beautifully and displays some great acting chops in her moments of inner conflict as to whether she should allow herself to fall in love with Harold or not. The quartet, who are the absolute highlight of the show, is made up of Malcolm Green, Jack Crittenden, Daniel Whitehead and David Wotherspoon. These guys nail some of the most complex music in the show, and provide fantastic comedy whilst doing it. Paul Mepham and Rebecca Demary as the Mayor and his wife have some great moments of comedy throughout. Emily Haldane as Zaneeta Shinn and Logan McArthur as local rebel Tommy Djilas are extremely watchable as the young couple forbidden to be together; their character work is sound with amusing mannerisms and their dancing ability is evident in the ensemble numbers.

A couple of very talented kids also stand out in this lovely production. Natalie Ng as Amaryllis showcases a gorgeous voice early on and Ethan Beattie as Winthrop throws himself into his character with all the pluck and energy that is required. Ethan does have a few pitch issues throughout the show, but it's forgivable on account of his very likeable character.

If the more traditional style of musical theatre is your cup of tea, then it's definitely worth the trip out to Hornsby RSL to see the Hornsby Musical Society's take on The Music Man.
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*Emma Jane Explores (Emma Caldwell) was invited as a guest
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Why? A new take on a traditional musical
When: Friday 6th October - 7:30pm, Saturday 7th October- 1:30pm and 7:30pm
Where: Hornsby RSL Club
Cost: $35 Full/$30 Concession
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