Thursday, November 27, 2008

Community News - Music Man

Nasty rumors, reportedly begun in "Gary Indiana" were cascading through Arden like Mississippi flood waters lapping the shores of an Iowa town. Was there any truth to this? Was there “Trouble in River City?”

The packed house at last night's production of "The Music Man" bade "Goodnight My Someone" to that "Pick-a-little, Talk-a-little" meddlesome gossip.

New Candlelight Theatre continues building on its professional sheen with this cast of 36 who collectively smile more effervescently than any in recent memory. Our server, Dayna O'Brien, one of the busybody "Pick-a-Little" ladies, brought that smile to our table. Dayna also brought along her 3 daughters - all in the cast; all of whom had recently returned from a year road tour with "Gypsy."

The New Candlelight Theatre presents

The Music Man

Through Dec. 22

Tickets are $50 (Wed. - Fri.), $55.00 (Sat. and Sun.). $32.00 child (Thurs., Fri and Sun.). Group rates also available.

Cost includes buffet dinner and performance. For more information, call (302) 475-2313 or visit

With each show, owners Bob and Jody Miller enlist a number of actors with promising Broadway talent. For a 200-seat venue with a major monthly nut situated in the bohemian and certainly not metropolitan fields of Arden, this is remarkable. It can't be the money. Perhaps it's the respect and love and passion that the owners and staff project on the cast.

With the first sentence, it was evident that Kemper Florin (Marion, the most celebrated librarian since Andrew Carnegie) has Broadway chops. Her diction was as focused as the Hubble telescope. The Masters in Voice from the prestigious Eastman Institute in Boston was evident in the operatic deliveries of her character's iconic songs.

Composer Meredith Willson employs the recitative style of singing in the opening number "Rock Island." The text is declaimed in the rhythm of natural speech with slight melodic variation and little orchestral accompaniment. This is difficult enough with one person to achieve. In this all important opening number eight men sing recitative while they are choreographed to bounce and jerk (in sync) while sitting in a clickety-clackety moving train.

"Rock Island" involves teamwork and this group succeeded. On our night, the simulated sound effects of the train overpowered the men's banter and some of it was lost.

Equity actor Bob Miller portrays the charming con man Harold Hill. With the possible exception of Yul Brynner in "The King and I," no other character in musical film history is so symbiotically linked to his role than Robert Preston in "The Music Man." It is a law of nature that your mind will not allow a "delete" of Robert Preston. Miller has a strong clear voice and the energy. When Marion divulged that she knew all about him from the "git-go," but loved him anyway, more humanity on Hill's part would have added depth to the character.

Dann Dunn (Tommy Djilas) is a superb and effortless dancer. I was concerned he would be hitting the low hanging stage lights with the height he was ascending on his splits. Chorus dancer and Garnet Valley student Isabella Fehlandt was pure joy and beauty in her dancing. A duet between the two of them would have really energized the audience.

With upwards of 30 people to train, choreographer Jody Miller and director Jeff Reim enlist – and maximize - every square inch of stage. I've had the opportunity to see many NCT shows, and Miller does not fall into the trap of employing similar routines with succeeding shows. She is original and quite clever. "Shipoopi," the second act opener, was a show stopper.

Barbershop quartet is part of the enduring charm of "Music Man." Paul Weagraff, George Quinn, Patrick Ruegsegger and Allen Stupplebeen harmonize well, especially in "Lida Rose."

With the first show of 2009, NCT pays homage to founders Julian Borris and John and Lena O'Toole with "Forum." I was in the seats (or more aptly on the floor with laughter) in '69 with that show. Bring an oxygen tank to help you breathe during the hysterics.

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