Reagle Music Theatre occupies a vital place in the cultural ecosystem of the Greater Boston Area: It’s the only place you’re likely to see a classic musical with a full orchestra and a cast of more than 50. I love the way that Reagle evokes the summer stock tradition and presents golden age musicals the way they were meant to be seen.
Although the current revival of The Music Man—a perfect musical, if you ask me—brims with enthusiasm, it crumbles under the weight of an inadequate leading performance and, in general, struggles to maintain the glaze of professionalism. After all, what is The Music Man without its music man?
As traveling con man Harold Hill, Mark Linehan struggles with the showmanship required for us to believe that he has convinced an entire town that their sons are all heading down the path of dereliction unless they enroll the youths in a boy’s band. Linehan may be a fine leading man, but his talents do not align with the demands of the role.
Oh, but the town librarian! The impossibly lovely Jennifer Ellis glistens as Marian, the no-nonsense librarian who Harold sets his sights on. It’s a role Ellis was born to play, and her “Till There Was You” is stirring.
Director and choreographer Susan M. Chebookjian has recreated most of Onna White’s iconic, historical choreography, and it is executed admirably. In fact, the able ensemble of dancers is the highlight of this production (Bernie Baldassaro, who plays Tommy Djilas, is the standout).
More than anything, Chebookjian’s production aims to be a faithful recreation rather than a rethought revival and characterization seems to be something that hasn’t been given much thought (Ellis is an exception, as is Daniel Forest Sullivan’s Marcellus and Lori L’Italien’s Eulalie Mackecknie Shinn).
But there’s no denying that Chebookjian knows the territory, and it’s an invaluable thing to pass iconic choreography down to a new generation of dancers. And an entire community coming together to put on a big ol’ musical? Yes, please.
THE MUSIC MAN. THROUGH 8.12 AT REAGLE MUSIC THEATRE, 617 LEXINGTON ST., WALTHAM. REAGLEMUSICTHEATRE.ORG
Theater critic for TheaterMania & WBUR’s TheArtery | Theater Editor for DigBoston | film and music critic for EDGE Media | Boston Theater Critics Association.