The six-time Tony Award-winning musical comedy "The Music Man" open's this weekend at The Renaissance Theatre in Mansfield. This musical, now in its 65th year, is what we would now market as a romantic comedy perfectly suited for the whole family. The all-local cast, led by George Swarn Jr. as Harold Hill, the fast-talking traveling salesman, and Leah Gesouras as the town librarian and piano teacher Marian Paroo, will have you laughing and signing along to classics including "Trouble" and you'll feel like marching around the theatre when they get to "76 Trombones". As the story goes when the con man Hill arrives in the tiny Iowa town of River City he convinces the locals to start a band by purchasing the uniforms and instruments from him. However, his true intention is to leave town with the town's money.
During the media night preview Gesouras performed a beautiful rendition of "My White Knight", a song she says has been in her repertoire since she was 17 or 18 years old. I asked Gesouras who, when it comes to well known female performers to tackle the role of Marian Paroo, is her inspiration for this opportunity to star as the female lead for the first time? Shirley Jones? Kristen Chenowith? Gesouras named the late Rebecca Luker who starred on Broadway in "The Music Man" in 2000 and 2001. "She had a way of holding herself with such grace but definitely had a witty edge to her" said Gesouras.
Swarn, also in his first leading role on the Renaissance main stage, chose Robert Preston's 1962 performance as Harold Hill as his inspiration. "There's something about not just the tone of his voice, but that true genuine happiness behind some of he things he says". Though the people of River City and the audience are aware of Hill's reputation as a swindler, it's his true happy nice way about him because "that is how he swindles" says Swarn.
Renaissance Theatre Music Director Kelly Knowlton described Swarn as a "spark plug" who "brings boundless energy and positivity to any show he is a part of". Knowlton said of her female lead Leah Gesouras that "Leah is such a kind, sweet, hardworking gal and she has been here for a long time. This is the first time for her in a lead role and it's been a long time coming". Knowlton went on to say Gesouras is bringing such "warmth to the role. She's got a gorgeous, gorgeous voice and I think people are going to enjoy what she does with Marian",
Director Michael Thomas said among the challenges of bringing "The Music Man" to the Renaissance stage is "you want to make the piece your own but you want to honor what has been a huge hit, one of the greatest musicals of all time for six decades". Thomas went on to say "you can't go in and take it apart but you certainly can put your own spin on it". Thomas was quick to give props to the stage that designed the sets Jason Kauffman, Gavin Hull and Abe Swanger. Thomas described the set as "magnificent and stylistic because that's what we wanted. We knew that we couldn't build real houses and push them out on stage".
When enjoying The Renaissance Theatre's production of "The Music Man" pay special attention to all the talented members of the cast. You'll see some familiar faces, young and old, who really do deserve your applause.
Don't miss "The Music Man" July 30th and 31st, as ell as August 1st and 2nd at The Renaissance Theatre on Park Avenue West in Mansfield. Visit www.rentickets.org for details.