“The Music Man” performed by the Avon Grove Community Theater group at Lincoln University’s Ware Theater had no trouble putting smiles on the faces of its seven audiences July 19 through 29.
This upbeat musical by Meredith Willson, directed by Geddes and Mala Marcano, had all the elements needed to score kudos with those who came to watch: good music, a great story and a happy ending.
ACT expanded the performances of this year’s summer musical to seven, and it was rewarded by playing to sellouts almost every time.
In brief, a con artist calling himself Professor Harold Hill arrives in a small town in Iowa intending to start a boys’ band but skip town with the proceeds before he completes the work. He falls in love with the local librarian and cannot in good conscience leave.
Hill was played by veteran actor Patrick Murphy, who spread his enthusiasm for music and his concern for trouble in town quite convincingly.
Although he was at first rebuffed by librarian Marian Paroo, played by Abbey Kwietniak, she succumbed to his charms after she realized how her shy little brother, Winthrop, came out of his shell in the wake of participation in the band.
Kwietniak was the glue that cemented the storyline, but it was Winthrop who stole the show in that Paroo family.
Young Grant Bailey, who played Winthrop, elicited hoots, hollers and loud applause when he sang and danced “Gary, Indiana.”
Probably the most amazing and impressive part of the musical was the barbershop quartet that apparently was put together by the directors. At first these four men, Greg Parker, Antonio Consentino, Frank Boyko and Bobby Hamilton were travelers on a train. Then they were townspeople involved in conflict and disagreements.
When Hill got them singing they forgot their differences and belted out “Lida Rose” and “How Can There Be Any Good in Goodbye” in perfect harmony. Plenty of audience members were humming that old “Lida Rose” favorite as they left the theater.
Hill, in the course of conning the town, charmed a group of elderly ladies into forming a dance group. They were funny and awkward, showing their obvious adoration for the newcomer in town who had flattered them.
There was also a passel of talented kids -- potential band members -- who got the musical moving with a great head of steam with their ensemble production of “Iowa Stubborn” (You’ve Got to Give Iowa a Try).
Perhaps Murphy’s greatest moment in the show was when he convinced the people of River City that they had “Trouble” with a capital T (and that rhymes with pool).
The kids followed him around the stage, skipping, marching and jumping, feigning the playing of instruments they expected to receive when they joined the band.
“The Music Man” contained special elements of charm, especially the idealized image of a 1912 small town -- some of whose aspects still remain (or people hope they do) in the local southern Chester County towns of Kennett Square, Avondale, West Grove and Oxford.
The venue for the performance was the little theater on the Lincoln University campus. ACT used this site for the second year in a row, and it was effective, offering no bad seat or acoustics to anyone.
In addition to a summer musical, ACT, now in its 10th year, also performs two mystery plays and an annual variety show. Additionally, it offers a summer dramatics camp for children.