Goodman Theatre marches its way through summer with theater legend Mary Zimmerman’s revival of Meredith Willson’s classically Midwestern “The Music Man.” The show marks Zimmerman’s 25th year as Goodman’s Manilow resident director. Although she’s known for her stunning visual spectacles, in preparing for this number, Zimmerman is sticking to the production’s traditional bones as she loves it for what it is: a humble tale of transformation.
The musical reveals that harmony has double meaning: music and sense of community. When you’re together, you craft a sound that not any one person could form alone. Zimmerman explains, “All of that speaks to the importance of music and the metaphor it is for living.”
The rehearsal process helped create unity among the various players, including Monica West and Geoff Packard, shown above. “Casts naturally create community … collectively working on a story in all different ways,” Zimmerman says.
Set in 1912, “The Music Man” tells the story of charismatic con man Harold Hill, who sets his swindling sights on River City, Iowa, peddling the promise of a marching band despite a tragic lack of musicality.
In spite of himself, Hill becomes seduced by the town, falls in love, and uses his understanding of human needs to become a connector of the disjointed townspeople. The antihero turns accidental hero and discovers his life’s purpose through the vehicle of music.
Zimmerman draws upon her Midwestern sensibilities and understanding of its literal landscape to set the stage. The modest, nearly empty set is a fundamental character unto itself. Many scenes are centered in a town square with familiar architectural details, but there is a purposeful emphasis on the natural world — the way the sky looks, the feel of the light, an evoking of the horizon line, and a nod to bustling cities that fade quickly into serene fields.
For parents looking to drop a bit of culture into their kids’ summer bucket, those who can sit for a two-act production will connect with the often speak-singing style of music that is upbeat, accessible, melodic, and altogether inspiring.
“The Music Man”
Jun. 29-Aug. 11, Goodman Theatre, 170 N. Dearborn. For tickets (starting at $25), visit goodmantheatre.org
Photo by Liz Lauren