For the Rockaway Theatre Company, Next Stop is River City
The Rockaway Theatre Company kicked off the Fourth of July weekend with a production of the popular All- American musical, Meredith Willson's The Music Man. Audiences were magically transported to the quaint American town of River City, Iowa and it was a truly amazing trip. The Music Man is the story of Professor Harold Hill, a lovable con man played to the hilt by the amazing Bruce Rebold, who attempts to flim-flam a townful of stubborn, distrustful, mid-westerners into investing in the creation of a Boys' Marching Band. The citizens of River City are deftly portrayed by a brilliant cast of 62 actors ranging in age from 5 to 75.
With the assistance of his old partner in-crime Marcellus Washburn (Chazmond Peacock), he casts his magic on the distrustful crowd, deftly dealing with his nemesis, Mayor Shinn (David Risley), forming the feuding members of the School Board (Cliff Hesse, Walter Costello, Andrew Harwood and Danny Mazza) into a most excellent barbershop quartet and melting the icy heart of the town librarian played by RTC veteran soprano, Nancy Sturgis. Lilting Irish brogues emanate from both Janet Brady and Jodee Timpone who alternate in the role of Mrs. Paroo, the librarian's meddling mother. Griffin Brackley and Michael Morley share the role of Winthrop, the librarian's reticent little brother while Celine Ebert and Miranda Corning alternate in the role of Amaryllis, her piano student. So many standout performances are given in this production that it would be impossible to mention them all individually. Suffice it to say that in the end, the kids steal the show and the hearts of audience members at each and every performance.
The unsung heroes of this and every RTC production are rarely seen on stage. First is the stage tech and construction crew under the supervision of the amazing Tony Homsey. Tony constructs the flats and designs and constructs the incredible props. The fabulous sets designs are the work of James Cantirino and his excellent crew of artists and painters. Last but not least, credit must be given to the incomparable Peggy Vivino, who single handedly designs, constructs and fits all the costumes for each and every fabulous RTC production and who has outdone herself in this current production, dressing 62 cast members in lovely period costumes. It is the extraordinary sets and costumes that really transport the audience to the year 1912 in River City, Iowa. Kudos must also be extended to choreographer, Gabrielle Mangano, whose polished and sophisticated choreography belies the fact that this the her first attempt at choreographing a full-length musical, and to Director John Gilleece and Musical Director Jeffrey Arzberger.
The show's creator, Meredith Willson refers to The Music Man as his valentine to his hometown of Mason City, Iowa. Unfortunately a few weeks prior to the opening of this production Mason City and several of the towns mentioned in the tune "Iowa Stubborn" were completely devastated by natural disasters including tornado and flooding. Eight three Iowa counties have been declared federal disaster areas and many of the citizens of Willson's beloved Iowa have lost their homes, livelihoods and in some cases, even their lives. The cast and crew of The Music Man will accept donations for the Iowa relief fund at every show and the RTC has promised to add a portion of the proceeds from each performance to audience donations.
If you are curious as to whether Professor Harold Hill is successful at scamming the folks of River City, you should come out to the Post Theater at Fort Tilden and see The Music Man this weekend. Bring the whole family. You will be truly entertained as well as having the opportunity to help others who are less fortunate. The Music Man is scheduled to run for another six performances but seating availability is limited. You must call the RTC hotline at 718-850-2450 and make your reservations ASAP.