As a theatergoer in South Florida, you already know that The Maltz Jupiter Theatre is unparalleled in production quality and talent. There is a certain relaxation that comes when heading out to see one of their shows as trust can be placed completely in their capable hands, letting audiences worry about nothing but enjoying their time at the theatre and getting lost in the story being told. Add some of the best creative teams in the business and, much like a recipe that rarely fails, you are bound to see fresh ideas reinvent traditional musical theatre to maintain its relevance. In this retelling of MerEdith Wilson's The Music Man, with early 20th century Midwest slang and an almost too quick gift-wrapped resolution, director Mark Martino and choreographer Shea Sullivanwere able to successfully breathe new life into a script and score that, especially for younger audiences, could so easily remain stale.
For this production, local audiences have an added incentive in the draw of recurring favorite leading man, Matt Loehr, who also played Cornelius Hackl in last year's Hello Dolly! and won the Best Leading Actor Carbonell for his Bobby Child in Crazy For You. This season, he has created a new Harold Hill: one that relies on pirouettes and paddle steps to swindle his way through small town Iowa. Sullivan has him working overtime in this choreography-packed production, but the effort is rarely noticed. Even Loehr's crystal clear deciphering of quick patter songs and wordy passages seem like a cruise along the A1A. While Loehr's triple-threat talent is impossible to resist, his likability factor reaches far beyond the footlights and has audiences consistently wrapped around his little finger; a skill that cannot be taught.
Supported by a first-rate cast, Loehr sweetly falls in love with a wonderfully voiced Mandy Bruno as Marian Paroo. These two make their character arcs remarkably specific and believable as they evolve in the second act. As Hill's sidekick Marcellus and associate choreographer, Dennis O'Bannion makes his mark with crisp, energetic dance sequences, including an impressive quad thrown into one of his solo phrases. "76 Trombones" and "Shipoopi," led by O'Bannion and Shayla Beniot's quirky Ethel Toffelmier, stand out as showstopping production numbers highlighting a young ensemble of dancers. Sullivan's choreography moves at breakneck speed combining flowing partnering and ballet sequences with quick tap rhythms and athletic leaps and turns. Notable too are the four Pick-A-Little ladies, all very entertaining separately but hilarious when kept as one entity playing off of the dry Anna McNeely as Mrs. Shinn, and the Barbershop Quartet whose harmonies were kept air-tight by music director Anne Shuttlesworth.
Visually, this Music Man is stunning. Paul Tate DePoo III's set design shows a vibrant Main Street but his main attraction is the library, with parts that are flown in, slid on and opened up from the unit set to create towering, fully-stocked shelves. With Donald Edmund Thomas's lighting that smoothly transitions from day to night and Jose M. Rivera's colorful and detailed period costumes, this lively production was as far away from dusty and tired as one could get. My only request is that Loehr reports back to BroadwayWorld with a total pirouette count by the end of the run.
The Music Man runs at The Maltz Jupiter Theatre through December 16th at 1001 East Indiantown Rd in Jupiter, FL.
Matt Loehr as Harold Hill and Company. Photo Credit: Alicia Donelan