Iowa has been good for Paragon Music Theatre.
Four years ago, the company went there for its debut production, Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II’s State Fair. It was a stunningly good production for Paragon, especially considering it was its first show.
This spring, the company is back in the Hawkeye State for Meredith Wilson’s The Music Man.
Since March 2004, Paragon
has staged numerous excellent shows, so now we have expectations.
In many respects, Music Man lives up to those, particularly in providing strong leads and a solid orchestra. In every respect, you have to admire the effort.
There are moments, particularly the first act showstoppers Ya Got Trouble and Seventy-Six Trombones, where the stage floods with around 50 performers.
Photo, above: Jessie Rose Pennington plays Marian the librarian in Paragon Music Theatre's production of The Music Man. LexGo photo by David Perry.
In her work with Paragon, Diana Evans has developed a knack for tailoring her choreography to the dancing abilities of the actors. With the sheer number of people she has on stage, there are rough edges and not everything flows as well as must have been hoped. But there is a joyous spirit in the cast that blunts those shortcomings. And you can’t help but have fun hearing a big cast embrace these numbers.
Act II plays to Paragon’s strengths of musicianship and acting, which have made shows such as December’s She Loves Me sing.
As Harold Hill, Evan Sullivan has a little Elvis in him seducing the townspeople into believing that he can turn all the kids into a band in just a few weeks. Jessie Rose Pennington is the doubtful Marian, the music teacher and librarian who knows Harold is a con artist, but sees the value in the hope Harold brings to the grumpy town. That’s the story they carry best, though Marian falling for Harold seems perfunctory.
There are two nice surprises:
~ The barbershop quartet provided fun pre-show entertainment and steals the show.
~ Fourth grader Scott DiMeo turns in a wonderfully confident and solid performance as Winthrop.
Music director Ryan Shirar wrote music for several non-musical scenes, and it flows in naturally. That and Alberta Labrillozo’s direction keep the nearly three-hour show moving.
It was a show that reaffirmed no one was conning us four years ago when they said Lexington could have a musical theater troupe.