By Kat Pascual
The sound of lies can make such sweet music, or maybe that’s just the sound of the trombones in River City. Written by Meredith Willson and Franklin Lacey, “The Music Man” made its debut on Broadway in 1957 and was soon adapted for film in 1962. The story centers on con man Harold Hill as he travels to the dull Iowan town of River City to sell the instruments and uniforms needed to form a children’s marching band. Although his scheme usually ends in breaking his promise to direct the band by skipping town, River City offers Harold a challenge: Marian, a beautiful, whip-smart librarian and music teacher who can see right through his charade.
Capturing the essence of a beloved musical like “The Music Man” is no easy task, but the cast and crew of Bishop Ireton met the challenge with magnetism and engagement. Each actor filled out the world of River City and built excitement through dance, sweeping harmonies and radiating enthusiasm.
Leading the march was Aidan Furey as Professor Harold Hill. Furey brought a charm to Hill that could convince someone to buy air. Not only did Furey lead the show with an entrancing charisma, but the actor also showcased crisp pronunciation of the show’s racing patter songs with a voice reminiscent of a fast-talking auctioneer. Furey illustrated Hill’s most prominent growth in the dynamic with love interest Marian Paroo (Elina Viana).
Whether engaged in interactions of loathing or infatuation, Furey and Viana had palpable electricity between them that carried the heart of the show. Viana’s effortless operatic vocals displayed the actress’s capability to hit high notes with an ethereal grace beyond the high school level. Masterfully balancing Marian’s standoffish tendencies and her budding love for Hill, Viana’s capability to tell a story through song radiated on stage in numbers such as “Goodnight My Someone.”
In addition to the two lovers, the other citizens of River City filled out the production with both jests and radiant vocals. Isabelle Phillips’ performance as the mayor’s wife, Eulalie Mackecknie Shinn, led to laughter no matter what the scene. Phillips found flawless comedic timing and jokes in her larger-than-life character through actions as simple as hugging her daughter. The Quartet (Aidan McNerney, Nick El Choueiry, Nick Olson and Grant McNamee), a barbershop-style group made up of the city’s school board members, consistently delivered crisp show-stealing harmonies that underscored many scenes.
Completing the town were the show’s beautiful technical aspects. With excruciating attention to detail, the multi- use yet minimal set pieces designed by Brendan Carreon, Eve Wisneski, Joseph Murray and Charlotte Rayder transported audiences into the town. Three or four triangular set pieces remained on-stage for the show with each side representing a location central to the story. Small elements added to the immersion of each set such as some books peering out more than others in Marian’s library or dates in which the high school teams won championships in the city’s school gymnasium.
Costumes designed by Michelle Dorman (Claire Gibbons, Madison Bridges and Eleanor Schumtz) were faced with a certain degree of difficulty. However, they conquered their challenge with color-coordinated outfits for dance partners, old-school Girl Scout uniforms and ensemble costumes that felt unique yet cohesive.
Through stunning vocals and energizing dance numbers, Bishop Ireton’s dazzling production of “The Music Man” left audiences jauntily following in time to the sweet music of River City’s marching band.
The writer is a student at Fairfax High School.