It's interesting that no one pays attention to the sexual subtext of THE MUSIC MAN. Although it is not as forthright as, say, SPRING AWAKENING, it does contain implications that Marian, whose behavior appears almost prudish, has formerly sold herself into the position of librarian ("Pick-a-Little, Talk-a-Little"), and that thanks to this, Hill sees her as relatively available and an appropriate choice for a short fling, as opposed to Marcellus' girlfriend's Sunday-School-teacher sister ("The Sadder But Wiser Girl"). Time has rendered the references, far more obvious in 1957, more innocent to family audiences, but they are still there. The references to "Chaucer… Rabalais… Balzac!" made by the Women's Ensemble in pointing out offensive literature in the River City library are also sexual, but once again, time has diluted public offense at the content of those authors' works. In 1912, when the story is set, all of this would have been much more scandalous in River City than audiences now are able to imagine.
The production is not without its flaws. The cast-wide chorus of "The Wells Fargo Wagon" loses a few of its individual singers' lyrics to the orchestra. Not all of the sets are as perfectly envisioned as the Paroo parlor and patio. It took this reviewer until the original verse of "Seventy-Six Trombones" to be completely sold on Stosh Snyder's Harold Hill – but once sold, she was in for the whole ride, and now can't think why she hadn't warmed up to him earlier. But the choreography by Allison Graham is top-notch (even if a few of the dancers aren't altogether so) and the orchestra is fine – and one of the larger ones seen in the area recently. This reviewer, having been an orchestra pit violinist, does believe there's something missing when shows originally scored with strings don't have string players in their orchestras. This is her favorite orchestra in some months because of that – and this is a show that lives for strings and woodwinds.
If you're looking for a classic musical where you already know the music, or for somewhat more family-friendly fare than the local productions of AVENUE Q and SPRING AWAKENING, this production is a sure bet. If you're one of the many people for whom THE MUSIC MAN never grows old, no matter how many times you've seen it – and this reviewer counts herself among them – you should enjoy yourself tremendously; just don't sing along with the entire score if you're sitting near anyone else. At Theatre Harrisburg through November 18. Call 717-232-5501 or visit www.theatreharrisburg.com.
Photo credit: Jadrian Klinger/Harrisburg Magazine