OSHKOSH, Wis. (WFRV) – This is a nice happening: The American musical theater classic “The Music Man” is running on Broadway at the Lunt-Fontaine Theatre, named for a legendary husband-and-wife acting couple from Wisconsin. “The Music Man” also is running in Oshkosh in a venture so popular that the show is double cast. One cast features a married couple in the leading roles.
Friday night, Kristopher Ulrich and Bridget Duffy-Ulrich earned a standing ovation for their performances as con man Harold Hill and lovelorn librarian Marian Paroo. They are impressive – he for is slick ways in words and song and cleverness with working the audience and she for a lustrous voice and sweet aura. They will perform again today in the 7 p.m. show.
Director Tracie Schlaak assured me the other Harold-Marian combination is equally as good. Dillon Moore and Molly Schlaak will perform today in the 2 p.m. show.
“The Music Man” is a classic because it is clever, funny, romantic, wise, loaded with the spirit of the Midwest, filled with colorful characters, laced with catchy songs and a slice of small-town history. Meredith Willson put it all together in writing the story, music and lyrics.
In the first song, “Rock Island,” Meredith Willson plays with rapid rhythms of a train in motion – sung. In the next two songs, “Iowa Stubborn” and “Trouble,” more peppery action is splashed, with large ensembles stirring excitement. Ahead, lovely songs are woven in – “Goodnight My Someone,” “My White Knight” and “Till There Was You.” Also weaving in are such barbershop quartet songs as “Lida Rose,” and the quartet is featured in two ways – comedy and tight-harmony singing.
The production is presented in Alberta Kimball Auditorium in collaboration with the Oshkosh Recreation Department.
The music is recorded except for the singing. In Friday’s performance, amplification was sometimes a challenge because so many voices are involved. Dance numbers were a bit spotty but filled with earnest action, brightly designed.
The company’s enthusiasm for the show is infectious. “The Music Man” has that effect. May it be done forever with the kind of fondness that Jolly Jester Community Theater generates.
Side note: Alfred Lunt and Lynn Fontaine were popular on Broadway and on tour in the mid-20th century. When not performing, they lived in Wisconsin in a home near Genesee Depot they called Ten Chimneys. The historic site is worth visiting.
Side note: Meredith Willson grew up in Mason City, Iowa, where a museum celebrates his legacy. The city also celebrates architect Frank Lloyd Wright, another legendary Wisconsin native, with multiple points of interest. The sites are worth visiting.
Running time: Two hours, 37 minutes
Remaining performances: 2 and 7 p.m. Aug. 13, with tickets available at box office
Creative: Book, music and lyrics: Meredith Willson, based on a story by Meredith Willson and Franklin Lacy; director – Tracie Schlaak; assistant director – Sam Schlaak; music director – Molly Schlaak; executive assistant to the director – Lorie Hadel; stage manager – Brianna Young; set design – Renee Koch; choreographers – McKenna Hadel, Senja Sippert, Delaney Koch; production manager – Tom Hanson; lights – Haley Young; sound – Thom Hadel; costumer – Renee Koch
Harold Hill – Dillon Moore (*-Thursday evening/Saturday afternoon), Kristopher Ulrich (#-Friday evening, Saturday evening)
Marian Paroo – Molly Schlaak*, Bridget Duffy-Ulrich#
Charlie Cowell – Landen Hawley*, Aaron Kunz#
Conductor – Wilson Clark
Mayor Shinn – Ken Liske*, Ben Morris#
Ewart Dunlop – Bryan Rohloff
Oliver Hix – Sam Schlaak
Jacey Squires – Nolan Spanbauer
Olin Britt – Ben Hansen
Marcellus Washburn – Brendan Rohloff
Tommy Djilas – Addison McCabe*, Riker Farrell#
Amaryllis – Evelynn Voss*, Sydney Farrell#
Winthrop Paroo – Arthur Pingel*, Julian Morris#
Eulalie Mackecknie Shinn – Natalie Pingel*, Ann Pleiss-Morris#
Zaneeta Shinn – Grace Gehrke*, Julia Skinner#
Gracie Shinn – Haley Schuh
Alma Hix – Mackenzie Makurat*, Delaney Koch#
Maud Dunlop – McKenna Hadel*, Senja Sippert#
Ethel Toffelmier – Elise Liske, Holly Simpson#
Mrs. Squires – Jenna Mollenhauer*, Lily Spanbauer#
Constable Locke – Emma Jansky
Farmer – Ben Morris*, Ken Liske#
Farmer’s Wife – Laurie Mollenhauer*, Kate Farrell#
Driver – Linda Brownlea*, Karla Stark
Kid’s Band and Townspeople – Evelyn Farrell, Ruth Farrell, Myla Garza, Kamden Lyrek, Julian Morris, Margaret Morris, Alice Pingel, Arthur Pingel, Peyton Prellwitz, Liliana Pribbernow, Olivia Pribbernow, Haley Schuh, Alex Taylor, Logan Taylor
Ladies Chorus and Townspeople – Linda Brownlea, Jaci Cooper, Bridget Duffy-Ulrich, Kate Farrell, McKenna Hadel, Heather Hansen, Emma Jansky, Delany Koch, Elise Liske, Mackenzie Makurat, Jenna Mollenhauer, Laurie Mollenhauer, Natalie Pingel, Ann Pleiss-Morris, Chris Simpson, Holly Simpson, Senja Sippert, Molly Schlaak, Jen Skinner, Karla Stark, Barb Zellmer
Teen Chorus and Townspeople – Wilson Clark, Riker Farrell, Sydney Farrell, Grace Gehrke, Emmy Jansky, Elena Hoffman, Delany Koch, Elise Liske, Mackenzie Makurat, Jenna Mollenhauer, Addison McCabe, Will Snyder, Senja Sippert, Julia Skinner, Lily Spanbauer, Evelynn Voss
Other Townspeople – Landen Hawley, Aaron Kunz, Ben Morris, Kristopher Ulrich, Ken Liske, Dillon Moore
Patriotic Tableau Girls – Sydney Farrell, Grace Gehrke, Delaney Koch*, McKenna Hadel#, Holly Simpson*, Elise Liske#, Senja Sippert*, Mackenzie Makurat#, Julia Skinner, Lily Spanbauer*, Jenna Mollenhauer#, Evelynn Voss
Musical numbers (recorded soundtrack)
Overture – Orchestra
“Rock Island” – Salesmen, Charlie Cowell, Newspaper Readers
“Iowa Stubborn” – Townspeople, Farmer, Farmer’s Wife
“(Ya Got) Trouble” – Harold Hill, Townspeople
“Piano Lesson” and “If You Don’t Mind Saying So” – Mrs. Paroo, Marian Paroo
“Goodnight, My Someone” – Marian, Amaryllis
“Columbia, Gem of the Ocean” – Eulalie, Townspeople
“(Ya Got) Trouble” (Reprise) – Harold
“Seventy-Six Trombones” – Harold, Townspeople
“Ice Cream”/“Sincere” – Harold, Barbershop quartet (Olin, Oliver, Ewart, Jacey)
“The Sadder-But-Wiser Girl” – Harold, Marcellus
“Pickalittle, Talk-a-Little” and “Goodnight Ladies” – Alma, Ethel, Eulalie, The Ladies, Harold, Quartet
“Marian the Librarian” – Harold
“Marian Dance” – Harold, Marian, Teen Chorus
“My White Knight” – Marian
“The Wells Fargo Wagon” – Townspeople, Quartet, Winthrop
Entr’acte – Orchestra
“It’s You” – Quartet
“Shipoopi” – Marcellus, Townspeople
“Pickalittle, Talk-a-Little” (Reprise) –Alma, Ethel, Eulalie, Maud, Mrs. Squires, The Ladies
“Lida Rose” and “Will I Ever Tell You?” – Harold, Quartet, Marian
“Gary, Indiana” – Winthrop, Mrs. Paroo, Marian
“Lida Rose” (Reprise) – Quartet
“Till There Was You” – Harold, Marian
“Seventy-Six Trombones”/“Goodnight, My Someone” (Reprise) – Harold, Marian
“Till There Was You” (Reprise) – Harold
“Curtain Call” – Company
THE VENUE: Alberta Kimball Auditorium is a 1,441-seat facility next to Oshkosh West High School, 375 N. Eagle St. Opened in 1963, the civic auditorium was designed by Perkins & Will (Lawrence Perkins and Phillip Will), a Chicago architectural firm with an international reputation; the firm exists today with 2,200 employees. The auditorium’s glass (exterior) and brick (interior wall) lobby is shaped in a huge “L.” For the theater’s structure, think of an indoor amphitheater with a fan for a ceiling. A sweeping field of vision focuses on the proscenium (flat-front) stage that is raised three feet above the sloped floor. The approximately 60 by 40-foot stage features a red curtain and beige brickwork on either side; as walls extend out, the look becomes cream plain, vertical cement block to cream cement block with an angled wave pattern to black curtain (for acoustical needs). The ceiling includes three stepped sections. Toward the back of the hall, the “fan” is white with inset lights in the flat surface. The middle “fan” has alternating spaces in the ceiling tile pattern, with some opening for theatrical lighting. Near the stage, a rectangular structure with a brown edge is suspended; it also has alternating spaces in its ceiling tile pattern for theatrical needs. In the seating area, the dominant colors are cream, gray and tan. The cream is in the floor tile, which includes gray/tan flecks. The gray is in metallic seat backs. Tan is in the fabric seat bottoms and backs, wooden arm rests and carpeting along aisles. The space says “spacious.”
THE PERSON: Alberta S. Kimball (1906-1996) was an entrepreneur as president of the Miles Kimball Company (noted for Christmas cards and household items) from 1949 until its sale in 1980 and as mover-and-shaker for other business ventures. A philanthropist, Alberta Kimball’s foundations have supported many civic enterprises.