Seventy-Six Chestnuts In The Big Parade…

You see, there once was this elephant, Horton, and he heard a Who. No, wait. That’s Seussical, which was supposed to have been the last show in the 2005-2006 Cabrillo Music Theatre season. So let’s try this again.

So, have you heard the one about the travelling salesman that didn’t know the territory. He sold bands, boy bands. No, not Menudo or the Backstreet Boys. Rather, he sold band instruments, uniforms, and instruction books in River City, Iowa in 1912. He was a lying, cheating, salesman, with a girl in every town. But he got his foot caught in the door, but in the end, everyone got what they wanted.

That’s right, today we saw that old chestnut, The Music Man, with book, music, and lyrics by Meredith Willson of Mason City, Iowa. This was his first show, and many people consider it a model show for musical theatre with its construction. It has been done on numerous stages many times. On Broadway, it starred Robert Preston and Barbara Cook, and was made into a movie very close to the stage show starring Robert Preston and Shirley Jones. Everyone knows songs from the show, including “P is for Pool” and “Seventy-Six Trombones”.

So, how did Cabrillo do with this chestnut. Very well indeed. The production starred John Bisom* as Professor Harold Hill, and Jill Van Velzer* as Marion Paroo. Bison had a wonderful voice for Hill, but for those used to seeing Preston, he was a bit long and lanky. I don’t think this detracted from his performance, which was excellent. He’s had lots of tall and lanky roles, such as Will in The Will Rogers Follies, Cornelius Hackl in Hello Dolly, Lank in Crazy for You, Cliff in Caberet, etc. He would make a wonderful lead for Barnum: he has the energy and the voice. I should also note, for shutterbug93, that he was a co-lead with Misty Cotton in Anyone Can Whistle. I was even more impressed with Jill Van Velzer, who played Marion Paroo. Van Velzer has played Marion before in San Diego, but also played Guenevere in Camelot (at CMT), Abigail Adams in 1776 (winning an Ovation Award), Anna in The King and I, among other lead roles. She had a wonderful voice, but even more was the joy and ease she brought to the role. It was effortless acting and singing, and she had fun with the part. Both were excellent.

Rounding out the cast was Paul Keith* (Mayor Shinn), Rosemary Bird (Eulalie Shinn), Ron Rosen (Marcellus), Laurie Deremer (Mrs. Paroo), Trever James Berger (Winthrop), Heidi Bjorndahl (Amaryll), Joseph Marshall (Tommy Djilas), Karlee Ferreira (Zaneeta Shinn), Ronald Rezac (Charlie Cowell), Michael Downing (Ewart Dunlop), Joe Santiago (Olin Britt), Gary Saxer (Jacey Squires), Jay Weber (Oliver Hix), Tami Keaton (Mrs. Squires), Courtney Potter (Ethel Toffelmier), Randy Ryder (Maud Dunlop), Tania Storrs (Alma Hix), Tari Allgeier, Robert Bastron, Becca Cornelius, Tavis Danz, Erin Fagundes, Steven Ferezy, David Friel, Alexei Gagne-Keats, Cristie Grissmer, Christine Iobst, Mandy Korpinen, Courtenay Krieger, Matthew Alan Rawles, Catherine Ricafort, Jacob Roland, Rebecca Steinberg, Richard Storrs, James Ward, Sasha Verginia Weiss, Kevin Brown, Veronica Dunne, Hogan Fulton, Garianna Geiselman, Courtney Germann, Ethan Goldberg, Tessa Grady, Dean Hendricks, Madeline Nancy Holcombe, Quinby Kasch, Samantha Posner, Brendan Ellis Rosenthal, and Eric Austin Young. Whew. That’s a large cast. Standouts among all this group were Trevor Berger and Joseph Marshall, both of whom were accomplished dancers (and Tervor did a wonderful job on his solo). I was less impressed with Ron Rosen as Marcellus: his singing in his one number left a lot lacking (and following in the footsteps of Buddy Hackett…). As for the rest, they were good, but you could tell some of them were working on it with the obvious forced smiles. Many were veterans of previous CMT productions. The dancing was both challenging and excellent, and was designed by John Charron. Credit should also go to the orchestra which was extremely strong, under the musical direction of Darryl Archibald. The production was directed by Lewis Wilkenfeld.

The 2006-2007 of Cabrillo Music Theatre should be good, featuring A Chorus Line, Smokey Joe’s Cafe, and Disney’s Beauty and the Beast. Of these, I’ve only seen the first, many years ago, during the first national tour at the Shubert in Century City. As for us, next up on the theatre calendar is Black Comedy and The Real Inspector Hound at the Rep East Playhouse in Santa Clarita tomorrow afternoon. After that, we take a break for vacation (although we might see something–I’ve debated about Kiss of the Spider Woman at New Conservatory Theatre, but it might be too intense for an 11½yo, given its subject matter… does anyone have other suggestions for shows 8/13-8/25 in the San Francisco Bay area or Sacramento). As soon as we return, it is Curtains at the Ahmanson on August 26th; followed by Fences (starting Laurence Fishburne and Angela Basset) at the Pasadena Playhouse on Sept. 23rd. I also am thinking about tickets to Dirty Rotten Scoundrels in Orange County in early September, but that might not pan out either (it depends if Goldstar puts them up).

*: Member of Actors Equity Association