“Music Man” Tootles Into Town

Some people want Hillary. Others want Trump.

Everyone wants “The Music Man.”

This fall — with our nation so divided — Staples Players co-directors David Roth and Kerry Long are staging what Roth calls “the classic American musical.”

The show — which debuted on Broadway in 1957 — “hearkens back to a simpler time. At its heart, this is really about community.”

River City is a town filled with discord, riven by dysfunctional relationships. The school board, for example, bickers about everything — even whose watch is right.

Through music, the town becomes whole. “Professor” Harold Hill turns the school board into a barbershop quartet. When they’re together, they produce beautiful harmonies.

The RIver City quartet: ax Herman (Staples, ’19), Christopher Hoile (Staples, ’18), Tobey Patton (Staples, ’20) and Oliver Smith (Staples, ’17).

The RIver City quartet: Max Herman, Christopher Hoile, Tobey Patton and Oliver Smith. (Photo/Kerry Long)

Music changes everyone in town — including Harold himself.

“Like many people in theater, Kerry and I believe this is the perfect musical,” Roth says. “It’s a fantastic blend of story, comedy, music, dance, drama and romance. It doesn’t get any better than that.”

This is not Players’ first production of “The Music Man.” In 2001 — less than 2 months after 9/11 — Roth staged it as one of his early Staples shows.

Then, as now, fear and dread filled the country. Fifteen years ago, “The Music Man” lifted Westport’s spirits. Roth calls the musical “a love letter to Americana,” and hopes it does the same now.

Staples PlayersWhen the show opens next Friday (November 11) — and runs through the following weekend — audiences will see what may be Roth and Long’s largest and most stunning set ever. Former Player Reid Thompson — who earned an MFA in set design from the Yale School of Drama — has created a stage that conveys an enormous sense of community.

“The town is present in every scene,” Roth says. “It’s a sprawling Iowa landscape.”

There are other differences between this production, and the post-9/11 one. New choreographers Christopher Myers and Rachel MacIsaac have put their own stamp on the dance routines.

In keeping with the sweeping show, the cast is huge. Jacob Leaf — who thrilled audiences as Tevye in “Fiddler on the Roof” — is Harold Hill. Zoe Mezoff  enjoys her 1st big lead, as Marian the Librarian. They’re joined by 62 other Stapleites, and 8 more from elementary and middle school.

Jacob Leaf as Harold Hill, and Zoe Mezoff as Marian the Librarian. (Photo/Kerry Long)

Jacob Leaf as Harold Hill, and Zoe Mezoff as Marian the Librarian. (Photo/Kerry Long)

“The Music Man” is a celebration of community. It’s set in River City. But all of us here will feel the communal spirit too.

Just look around the lobby. There — in a place of honor — hangs Westport artist Stevan Dohanos’ original Saturday Evening Post cover.

Published in 1946, it shows 5 band members all looking away, in mid-toot. The models were all Staples students.

Dohanos’ work had nothing to do with “The Music Man.” But Roth and Long have used it as the poster for the show.

...and the 2016 version.

That’s the kind of thing that brings a town together, and fills it with pride.

Harold Hill: Eat your heart out!

(“The Music Man” performances are Friday and Saturday, November 11, 12, 18 and 19 at 7:30 p.m., with 3 p.m. matinees on Sunday, November 13 and Saturday, November 19. Click here for tickets. They’re also available at a “pop- up box office” at the Westport YMCA on Saturday, November 5 (9-11 a.m.), or 30 minutes prior to the performance in the Staples High School lobby, as available.)

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