Last weekend, Valley history was made. Phoenix Theatre and The Phoenix Symphony teamed for the very first time to present a semi-staged concert performance of a Broadway musical at Symphony Hall. Joining forcing to create a magical, unforgettable evening of musical comedy theater, were the Symphony's Music Director, Michael Christie and Phoenix Theatre's Producing Artistic Director, Michael Barnard.These two giants of musical theater made this weekend seem like a prolonged celebration of the Fourth of July, complete with musical and theatrical fireworks.
Meredith Willson's The Music Man! Prof. Harold Hill! Yes, he came, he sang, he conquered! Well, in fact, that's not completely true. Phoenix Theatre's Michael Barnard, he came, he staged, he conquered!
The Music Man is a joyous memory play of author Meredith Willson's idyllic youth, growing up in a long ago Iowa. Willson's America is the one we have all learned about in school, isolationist, industrious, industrialist, rich. Is it all true? Memories play tricks on all of us. What matters is that this was Willson's American Dream, the one he believed in. The Music Man is Americana at heart and it possesses quite a wonderful, spirited, big heart.
Michael Barnard is a fabulous fibber! Pre-concert, Barnard was asked "What can Valley audiences expect to see with The Music Man?" He told The Examiner, "What they are going to get is a semi-staged concert version of The Music Man...we will be using three skeletal facades that will be placed in front of the Symphony. Each of the facades will represent a different locale in the musical's River City...Everyone is going to be dressed in period costumes for the show."
Barnard added, "All of Willson's book will be played out but the score will be edited...Basically, the dances and certain reprises have been eliminated from the score...We have assembled a wonderful cast and it is going to be simply stunning to hear Willson's great score played by the Symphony... "
The concert's Harold Hill, Rusty Ferracane told The Examiner the whole truth and nothing but the truth on what to expect. We asked him, "What will the semi-staged concert be like?" He responded "Well, to be honest, the words semi-staged are not really in Michael Barnard's lexicon!...It is pretty much a full blown production without large scale dance numbers...It's fully staged with costumes and set pieces and twenty-one people in the cast."
Barnard's The Music Man was not hampered by literary and musical edits. What he and his wildly talented ensemble gave Valley audiences, lucky enough to be in attendance at Symphony Hall this weekend past, was a magnificent, dreamy musical celebration of the American Dream. This was an unforgettable evening of first-rate Broadway entertainment.
Here is a list of the phenomenal talent Phoenix Theatre assembled to recreate Willson's masterwork The Music Man with The Phoenix Symphony: the principals: Walter Belcher (Marcellus Washburn), Johanna Carlisle (Mrs. Paroo), Chris Eriksen (Charlie Cowell), Rusty Ferracane (Harold Hill), Lauren Gasic (Zanetta Shin), Kaitlynn Kleinmann (Marian Paroo), Sterling Liska (Tommy Djilas), Christopher Moffit (Winthrop Paroo), David Rogers (Mayor Shinn), Tregoney Shepherd (Eulalie Shinn), Zoe Zamora (Amaryllis).
Members of the chorus: Lucas Coatney, Emily Mulligan-Ferry, Dzifa Kwaku, Christoper Moffit, Kathi Osborn, Mark Stoddard, Cydney Trent, Adam Vargas, Jodie Weiss and Toby Yatso.
Rusty Ferracane proved to be a most musical Music Man. He was charming and an irrepressible con-artist. Willson is famous for having made ordinary, everyday speech appear effortlessly musical. For the most part, Ferracane remained true to Willson's songspeak but, occasionally, he broke out in full voice giving the audience a thrill with his truly beautiful barritone.
Kaitlynn Kleinmann, as Hill's Marion the Librarian, was Ferracane's perfect match. Kleinmann was given the evening's four best, most lyrical and romantic musical numbers and her gorgeous high soprano proved endlessly bewitching, stopping the show to thunderous applause with each new solo.
Here's a serious warning: Tregoney Shepperd should be required to include on her resume the caveat: "Ms. Shepperd is just a brilliantly inventive comedienne and she is guaranteed to steal her every scene. You have been warned!" Truer words have ne'er been written! Shepperd was the Mayor's wife, Eulalie McKechnie-Shinn. She was exhaustingly funny and completely captivating.
The Phoenix Symphony and Phoenix Theatre reportedly have a pact calling for three concerts together. With such an awesome start to their collaboration, one can only hope that three will soon turn into thirty. Coming off the resounding success of the 2010-11 season opener, Noises Off, The Music Man was yet another perfect party favor to help celebrate Phoenix Theatre's ninety fantastic years.
Here is the list for the fabulous remaining shows for the 90th Anniversary 2010-11 Phoenix Theatre:
Three Redneck Tenors: Broadway Bound: September 29 through October 17
Hairspray: November 10 through December 12
No Way to Treat a Lady: January 12 through January 25
Avenue Q: February 23 through March 20
Nine: April 13 through May 8
Concert photos by Brendan Anderson, courtesy of The Phoenix Symphony, unless otherwise noted. Graphic artwork courtesy of Phoenix Theatre.
Subscriptions and individual ticket sales for all of Phoenix Theatre's extraordinary 90th season are available in person at the Box Office, by phone at (602) 254-2151 or ON LINE.
Phoenix Theatre 100 East McDowell Road Phoenix 85004
Phoenix Symphony Hall 225 East Adams Street Phoenix 85004