‘Seventy-Six Trombones’ march through Theatre Macon’s ‘Music Man’

Jim Crisp, Jr. has done it again at Theatre Macon on Cherry Street. His cast and crew bring Meredith Wilson’s classic, “The Music Man”, to life with energy and enthusiasm.
I had never seen a production of “The Music Man” before the Sunday matinee on April 7, but I can say that Theatre Macon has won me over to the show. The ensemble cast sounded great singing together, and the humorous and well-executed choreography made it hard to look away. Overall, the production left audiences with that feel-good factor for which “The Music Man” is so well known.
The show opens on a train full of traveling salesmen, who are ranting about a certain swindler going by “Professor Harold Hill.” Hill’s ability to con whole towns into buying instruments and uniforms from him is so effective that he ruins the territory for other salesmen. Certainly, though, his “marching band” trick won’t work in Iowa.
Hill overhears the conversation and takes it as a challenge, setting out immediately to pull his “music man” trick in little Iowa town. He turns the town on its head, staying one step ahead of the mayor’s cabinet (whom Hill turns into a barbershop quartet) and a sharp librarian determined to find the truth. The show is comical, lighthearted and fun, with a winning and optimistic resolution.
Crisp’s casting decisions were, overall, great. Kevin Epperson was a fantastic choice as Harold Hill. He owned the stage with his dynamic, energetic movements, and he delivered his lines with all of the warmth and charisma of a convincing conman. Epperson’s singing voice was not the strongest in the ensemble, but it was still enjoyable to hear, and what he lacked vocally he more than made up for with his commanding performance.
The rest of the cast was hard put to match Epperson, but most turned in strong performances as well. Gail Johnson was wonderful as Marian the librarian’s Irish mother, and all four members of the barbershop quartet shone in their acting and their singing. Rachel Chabot’s performance as Marian Paroo, the town librarian and recipient of Hill’s romantic attentions, was satisfying, though somewhat weak. Mercer’s own Clayton Mote did a great job as the rascally Marcellus, playing well off of Epperson’s Hill.
Crisp recruited a horde of children, most under the age of 10, to fill the ranks of the River City band, and all of them were delightful and adorable. Grey Faulkner tugged at the audience’s heartstrings as little Winthrop Paroo. The cast should be most commended for making a full, dynamic background against which the main characters could act. Every individual was in character even if he or she was not in the spotlight, and the result was an immersive experience that made the town of River City feel considerably more real.
The production was unfortunately plagued by technical difficulties. Two scene transitions were long to the point of being awkward, and there were some obvious issues with the microphones. There was one scene in which an actress clearly forgot the lines to her song and spent the last fifteen seconds of the music mute. Another of the actresses assured me after the show that I had come “on the worst night.”
I have to say, though: if that was the worst night of the run, then the show is going to do very well. Difficulties aside, Theatre Macon’s “The Music Man” is a delightful crowd-pleaser, and will continue to fill that role until its run ends on April 20.