The current booming Music Circus production of "The Music Man" contains all the old-timey, good-timey spunk that made American musicals so celebrated. Meredith Willson's (book, music, and lyrics) deceptively simple 1957 classic features a fast-talking con man who changes a town with his "think method" of learning music, while he ends up thoroughly changed through the power of love.
The transformations hold the story's heartfelt core while Patrick Cassidy's and Brandi Burkhardt's starring turns lead a huge, energetic ensemble through the beloved story.
Cassidy as charismatic "Professor" Harold Hill and Burkhardt as the suspicious piano teacher and town librarian, Marian Paroo, form a compelling, attractive couple. Cassidy, a Broadway veteran, easily inhabits the charm and guile of Hill, who starts out as a heartless con man calmly assessing the little Iowa town and all he can grift from it. Burkhardt gives Marian a necessary sensual coolness that Hill ultimately warms up.
Finally there's a not-secret weapon in this production, the legendary actress Shirley Jones as Mrs. Paroo, Marian's mother. Jones, who is Cassidy's mother, played the Marian part in the acclaimed 1962 film opposite the great Robert Preston as Professor Hill. Here, the graceful Jones adds a golden presence to the production.
Willson based the musical on his hometown of Mason City, Iowa, which he calls here River City. From the syncopated spoken opening of "Rock Island" with the bumping, swaying traveling salesmen declaiming, "You gotta know the territory!" to the sumptuous ballad "Till There Was You," Willson packed the show with memorable set pieces.
Cassidy sets the mood with his slick opening salvo, "Ya Got Trouble," and director Glenn Casale cleverly manages his huge cast through the well-known "Seventy Six Trombones," "Pick-a-little, Talk-a-little" and "Shipoopi."
Hill's con is selling band instruments and uniforms to the families while promising he will teach the kids how to play music. He's opposed by Mayor Shinn (Kevin Cooney) and Ron Wisniski's bitter anvil salesman, who both want to expose Hill's fraud.
Jason Graae as Hill's old confidante, Marcellus, and Paula Leggett Chase as the mayor's wife, Eulalie MacKecknie Shinn, add strong support.
Cassidy's authority combined with Burkhardt's glorious voice and Jones' natural charm give the production a wholesome, uplifting glow.
THE MUSIC MAN
What: The Meredith Willson musical has the mother-son team of Shirley Jones as Mrs. Paroo and Patrick Cassidy as Harold Hill. Brandi Burkhardt is Marian. Glenn Casale directs.
Where: Wells Fargo Pavilion, 1419 H St., Sacramento
When: 8 p.m. today, Friday and Saturday; 2 p.m. today and Saturday; and 7:30 p.m. Sunday (last show)
Information: Call (916) 557-1999, online at www.tickets.com, or in person at the Wells Fargo Pavilion Box Office