The Music Man

Date 11th November 2017
Society Battle Amateur Theatrical Society
Venue Memorial Hall, Battle
Type of Production Musical
Director Chris Packham
Musical Director Robert Connelly
Choreographer Leanne Clark

Report

Author: Anne Lawson

Making their impressive debut with Battle Light Opera’s production of The Music Man were Director Chris Packham, MD Robert Connelly and Choreographer Leanne Clark.

 It’s 1912 and a train leaves Rock Island Illinois with Charlie Cowell, other salesmen and passengers having an intense argument.  Also on board is ‘Professor’ Harold Hill. His scam is convincing parents with a ‘think method’ system teaching youngsters to play instruments, forming a uniformed band, but never does! He decides to give River City a try. Bumping into old friend Marcellus Washburn, who’s gone legit, he’s told of Marian Paroo who is librarian and music teacher.  She lives with her Irish mother and Winthrop, a quiet child with a lisp. He’s also informed a pool table has been installed and Hill tells the townsfolk ‘Ya Got Trouble’, it will only bring corruption and he’ll prevent it, only owner of said table is Mayor Shinn, he’s not happy and instructs the School board to get Hall’s credentials immediately.While as a diversion Harold teaches them to sing Barber Shop. Harold also sets up the Mayor’s eldest daughter with Tommy, persuading him to become his assistant. Townsfolk are very excited with the prospect of a band and ladies dance committee.  Entering the library Marian ignores Harold and he declares his unrequited love – attempting to slap him she hits Tommy instead! Mrs Paroo wonders why her daughter isn’t interested. Harold signs up youngsters to the band and Winthrop is delighted with his cornet. Marian seeing a different Harold holds back an incriminating document.

Whilst Marian waits for Harold, Charlie provides evidence that Hill has had girls in every county in Illinois! Marcellus interrupts their meeting at the footbridge telling Harold the uniforms have arrived and to make a run for it. Fallen under his spell Marian gives him the incriminating page (he said his graduation from Gary Conservatory was 1905 – it wasn’t founded until 06)!

At the ‘sociable’, Charlie denounces Harold. Winthrop is heartbroken, but Marian tells Harold she believes something good had happened. Marcellus still urging Harold to leave, he chooses to stay. The band led by Tommy, march in despite their little rehearsed efforts. Harold is forgiven, and love conquers all.

Set design and construction by Colin Adams, Lee Lyons and Brian Grainger created a ‘one for all' picture depicting Shinn’s parlour with swinging doors and the red bricked library. Blackouts were used to create other locations by setting a piano, rocking chair, benches, desk, a footbridge complete with the sound of babbling water.

With Chris Packham’s lighting and sound expertise and assistance from Theatre and Event Services plus input from Adam Packham and Aaron Murphy the technical side was particularly interesting and colourful.

A well laid-out A4 colour fronted programme depicted Professor Hill with a young musician blowing notes from his brass, included ads, thoughts, biogs, snippets of history – happy pictures of the cast from Simon Newbury and Yvette Cook and together with Charlotte Collins’s design created a good read.

The lively sizeable orchestra was never too loud as to upstage performers, with perfect balance from the ensemble and barbershop quartet.  Leanne Clark was responsible for updated, creative synchronised movement, well executed by all, given the restrictions of stage space. 

A bright start, followed by Harold’s entrance, with Bob Murray performing a terrific, punchy rendition of ‘Ya Got Trouble’. A good introduction to the twinkling red-headed Irish character of Mrs Paroo from Charlotte Collins and daughter Marian, beautifully acted and sung with clarity, by Imogen Willetts, notable numbers being ‘Goodnight My Someone’, ‘My White Knight’ and ‘Til There Was You’.   Matinee Winthrop performed by Leo Jones gave a convincing performance of the boy given confidence to play a musical instrument – his song and dance routine ‘Gary, Indiana’ was a credit.  Mayor George Shinn played by Richard Arthur Baker came across as a strong character – not short of words and was well supported by Nicci Bance, his enthusiastic wife Eulalie. The School Board Barber Shop Quartet nicely harmonised, with pairing of Holly Saunters as Zanetta Shinn and Ollie Mann as Tommy Djilas. Henri Hayler as troublemaker Charlie Cowell perfectly cast with Will Spears a reformed character Marcellus performing a lively ‘Shipoopi’ number supported by Townsfolk. Well done to Ellis Baughurst on her piano playing part of Amaryllis.  River City folk in their various characters were polished and appropriately dressed, as were principals by the wonderful wardrobe coordinator Libby Montagu-Grainger and assistants, with particular mention to in-house milliner Paula Weston-Smith.

Much hard graft went into the preparation of such a production both seen and unseen resulted in a splendid production.  Lastly, good work and patience from pupils of Theatre Sense who looked terrific marching into the auditorium in their smart band uniforms for the finale.