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THEATER REVIEW: “The Music Man” dazzles at Lamb's Players

River City, Iowa’s got trouble (“with a capital T and that rhymes with P and that stands for pool”) in Meredith Willson’s 1957 musical “The Music Man.”

Lamb’s Players Theatre offers the biggest show in its 40-year history – a smashing production of this beloved paean to small-town life and small-time crooks – through July 24 on their main stage in Coronado.

From the clever opening – “Seventy-Six Trombones” played on piccolo, accordion and pennywhistle – through the rousing finale, this show offers irresistible tunes, smart lyrics and a funny and touching story, wonderfully directed by Deborah Gilmour Smyth.

You remember the plot: Professional huckster Harold Hill (Rick D. Meads) arrives in River City with his latest con – a boys’ band. He offers citizens instruments and uniforms (for a price) with the intention of skipping town with the cash before he actually has to lead the band.

But a prim librarian named Marian Paroo (Sandy Campbell) steals his heart and throws a monkey wrench into the works.

It’s a simple plot, augmented by wonderful touches like a terrific barbershop quartet (Kürt Norby, Geno Carr, John Polhamus and Lance Arthur Smith) and a group of ladies calling themselves the Daughters of Hiawatha and led by the mayor’s wife (Kerry Meads), who do a hilarious dance at the town’s Fourth of July celebration.

Campbell’s Marian doesn’t take any guff from Meads’ Harold Hill, whose con- man charm dissipates in her disapproving glare. But you can’t stay mad long at a guy who conquers the terminal shyness of your little brother Winthrop (Lane Palhegyi) with a cornet, and takes a hoodlum like Tommy (Jesse Abeel) and rehabilitates him with music.

Mike Buckley’s set and Jeanne Reith’s color-coordinated costumes fit the period (1911), Colleen Kollar Smith has added some terrific choreography, and Nathan Peirson’s lighting, Patrick Duffy’s sound and G. Scott Lacy’s new arrangements are all spot-on.

It’s a fine cast all around, including several adorable kids and too many adults to mention.

And the songs! Ah, I miss the old musicals. How can you beat the comic “Iowa Stubborn” and “Pickalittle (Talk-a-Little)” or the rollicking “Shipoopi,” the romantic “Goodnight, My Someone” and “Till There Was You” or all the great barbershop songs.

With 32 actors, an orchestra of four, more than 200 costumes and a budget of about $350,000, this is a huge undertaking for Lamb’s, especially in these tough economic times.

But I predict they’ll land on their feet with this one. “The Music Man” is a winner.

The details

“The Music Man” plays through July 24 at Lamb’s Players Theatre,1142 Orange Ave., Coronado.

Tuesday through Thursday at 7:30 pm; Friday at 8 pm; Saturday at 4 and 8 pm; Sunday at 2 pm.

For tickets call (619) 437-6000 or visit HERE.

To read more reviews by SDGLN Theater Critic Jean Lowerison, click HERE.