Review by Erin Driehaus, Mercy McAuley High School Cappies Critic Team
Gather your trumpets, flutes, and finest uniforms! Taylor High School's "The Music Man" marched its way onto the stage and provided a thoroughly entertaining performance.
"The Music Man," set in 1912, tells the iconic story of Harold Hill and his adventure into River City, Iowa, where he hopes to swindle citizens out of their money by forming a boys' band. Attempting to quell suspicion about his motives and credibility, Hill decides to charm the local music teacher, Marian, ultimately resulting in the two developing real feelings for each other. Confusion, drama, and a lot of musical numbers ensue as the intrepid couple dodges the challenges brought on by Hill's band and realize their true feelings for one another.
Taylor High School's "The Music Man" was filled to the brim with energetic dancing, impressive diction, and clearly-evident chemistry. Taylor's superb cast and adept crews delivered a performance that was enjoyable in every aspect and showcased their numerous talents.
Starring as Harold Hill, Ben Wessel was fantastic in his performance, dominating the stage with his impressive skills in both acting and singing. Wessel perfectly encapsulated his character, expressing Hill's complex emotions through song. Wessel's melodious voice soared as he effortlessly sung the iconic songs of this classic show, never wavering and without a single note out of key. Wessel had wonderful stage and vocal chemistry with Emily Brettschneider, who portrayed Marian. The combination of Wessel's rich timbre and Brettschneider's lovely soprano voice in "Till There Was You" was perfect; their two voices blended together in a pleasant harmony.
Other standout performances from the cast include Lucy Stratton as Mrs. Paroo and Nick Swope as Mayor Shin. Stratton was hilarious, providing many of the funniest interactions throughout the show, all while still maintaining her impressive Irish accent. Swope took on the important role of the show's main antagonist, managing to embody his character in a way that was distinct and engaging through his Iowan inflection and physicality. The cast, as a whole, kept up their high energy during the entire performance, even after many intricate dance numbers. The Quartet, consisting of Henry Aug, Tommy Hensler, Nick Burley, and Michael Rapien were especially entertaining, maintaining the energy of the show through their sweet harmonies.
Taylor's talented sets and props crews were vital to the establishment of the small-town Iowan setting. Eve Ullmann, Aiden Flores< cq>, Piper Chatman, and Nick Buirley provided the show with multiple moving set pieces that helped communicate the location of characters throughout the show, from the bleachers in the gymnasium to the romantic footbridge. Piper Chatman and Makayla McVey also helped establish setting by providing characters with items tying them to the scene, such as the books in the library or Mrs. Paroo's needlework.
Thanks to the many talents of their cast and crew, Taylor's "The Music Man" was a high energy and entertaining retelling of the timeless tale of the traveling band salesman that succinctly captured the joy and spirit of the classic story.
Review by Annika Halonen, Seven Hills School Cappies Critic Team
With blaring trombones and thundering bassoons, Taylor High School's production of "The Music Man" left a beloved conman/band director marching into the hearts of many. Bringing this classic tale to the stage, Taylor High School combined elements of the past and present to preserve the classic charm of the beloved Meredith Willson musical.
"The Music Man," written by Meredith Willson, is the story of a small town in Iowa that turns upside-down with the arrival of con-artist, Harold Hill. "Professor" Hill comes to River City intending to start a boys' band and ends up attempting to seduce the music teacher and town librarian, Marian Paroo. Through the story of fraud, love, and a Wells Fargo Wagon full of band instruments, the Iowans and their new visitor are reminded of the importance of family and true love.
Taking on the leading role of Harold Hill was Ben Wessel, who approached the role with a quick wit and strong vocals. The citizens of River City were deceived in every scene by his mild-manner and sunny disposition, leaving time for the con-man to sing through a quick tune before moving on to his next act of deception. Paralleling his talent in both acting and vocals, Emily Brettschneider tackled the role of Marian Paroo with style, grace, and a beautiful singing voice. With songs like "Goodnight, My Someone" and "My White Night", she brought balance and poise to the otherwise fast-paced show.
In terms of the large ensemble of "The Music Man," the citizens of River City brought consistent energy and harmonized vocals, keeping the town lively from the small scenes to the large songs. Big dance numbers such as "Seventy-Six Trombones" and "Shipoopi" demonstrated the strong soul of the people with help from the perfect formations and clean dance moves.
Another important aspect that brought individuality to this town was the intricate hair and makeup designs created by Makayla McVey, Tommy Hensler, and Bella Winegeart. The difference in hair designs between the young and older characters helped to show the age variations among citizens of the town. The simple make-up also helped to give important depth to the women of the town.
Bringing the entire show together, the stage management team, led by Eve Ullmann, did an excellent job keeping up with set changes and keeping the cast on track. The set changes were all smooth and quick, keeping the presence of stage crew to a minimum and leaving room for the beautiful set to be noticed. Complimenting the set well was the lighting design (created by Winston McKinney) which, while simple, fit the Iowa town well and complemented the movement onstage in numbers such as "Rock Island" and "Marian the Librarian."
No detail, small or large, was left unattended in this production, from character details to props or lighting. The spirit of this timeless classic was well-preserved by the energy and intricacy of every element of Taylor High School's production of "The Music Man."
Mattie Flynn, Mercy McAuley High School Cappies Critic Team
Taylor High School rivaled the energy and excitement of even seventy-six trombones in their production of Meredith Willson's "The Music Man."
Set in 1912 Iowa, "The Music Man" follows the story of Harold Hill, a conman traveling town to town selling instruments with the promise of forming a town band. This small town in Iowa is no different. Marian Paroo, the town's resident piano teacher and librarian, catches Harold's eye, and the two slowly form a romantic bond. Everything goes according to plan for Harold until a rival salesman shows up to town and exposes his lies. With the help of the town children and a certain librarian who secretly knew he was a fake from the beginning, the children succeed in forming a band and impressing their parents with a song that somewhat resembles "Minuet in G."
The students at Taylor High School performed a fine production of "The Music Man." They tackled the cast of quirky characters with ease, creating unique and differentiable onstage personalities. The sets and props were perfectly suited to the show, both period and location-wise.
Heading the cast was Ben Wessel, who played an exceptional Harold Hill. Wessel's deep, rich voice flowed through each song, and his easy vibrato shone through, especially in the song "Marian the Librarian." He was a natural on stage, creating wonderful chemistry with each of his castmates, namely Emily Brettschneider, who played the role of Marian. Brettschneider was a perfect fit for her role. Her crystal-clear soprano vocals and gentle vibrato beautifully glided through the music, and there was seemingly no end to her high range. Brettschneider carried herself with grace every time she walked onstage.
This cast demonstrated impressive skill from accents to dancing to beautiful harmonies. Lucy Stratton, who played Mrs. Paroo, Marian's Irish mother, is a prime example of those skills. Stratton kept an impressive Irish accent that never faltered, even when singing. Trevor Josshua and Anna Bracken, playing Tommy Djilas and Zaneeta Shinn respectively, had wonderful chemistry. Their dancing was impressive, and they executed the choreography well. The four Quartet members, Tommy Hensler, Henry Aug, Nick Buirley, and Michael Rapien, accomplished difficult harmonies in many songs throughout the production. The ensemble showed great commitment to the choreography and demonstrated vocal skill with fine harmonies in each song.
The technical aspects of this show splendidly captured the feel of 1912 Iowa in their sets and props, especially. Their simple set painted the perfect picture of the small town in which the show took place. The attention to detail on the houses and the footbridge helped make the locations come alive. Attention to detail was a common theme in the crews of this show. The props were well-made and interesting to look at. They fit the needs of the show well.
It seemed that Taylor High School was "Iowa Stubborn" to put on a good show, and they succeeded in their production of "The Music Man."
Excepts from Top Reviews
“Additionally, Lucy Stratton as the kind Mrs. Paroo made for a delightful addition to the show, offering motherly wisdom and hilarious exuberance, such as when lauding Hill's< cq> apparently foolproof "think system." Stratton's ability to preserve her convincing Irish accent, even while singing, was likewise impressive.”
-Nadya Ellerhorst, Walnut Hills High School
“The set of the show was noteworthy as well, as it produced a true sensation of being transported to rural Iowa in the early 1900's. The props stayed consistent with the set and time period as well, carefully created and detail-oriented. The hair and makeup fit the time period with spot-on accuracy, pairing well with the captivating costuming. The visual aesthetics of the show certainly matched the quality of the performance.”
-Lizzy Schutte, Mercy McAuley High School
“With Ben Wessel as Harold Hill and Emily Brettschneider playing Marian Paroo, the romance between the leads was beautifully developed. Both of their vocals were remarkable; they hit the notes effortlessly. Lucy Stratton tackled the challenge of using an Irish accent wonderfully as Mrs. Paroo, and her performance was simply hilarious and heartfelt. Marcellus Washburn, played by Ryan McCollum, added an interesting dynamic that gave Harold Hill a connection to the River City. His skeptical remarks and friendly banter were perfectly executed.”
-Caitlin Kirton, Campbell County High School
“The Music Man" presents a major technical challenge. The story takes place in a variety of locations around River City. Taylor High School conquered this by using several store signs and base set pieces to establish location. The stage management team, made up of Eve Ullmann and Makayla McVey, had their hands full with tracking the many transitions. However, they rose above the challenge using excellent organizational skills to plan for easy transitions.”
-Eva Schramm, School for Creative & Performing Arts
“As Harold Hill, Ben Wessel brilliantly embodied the role of a fast-talking, conniving salesman. His powerful vocals and assertive stage presence made Hill's deceptions believable, especially when seducing Marian< cq> with an elaborate dance number in her library. In the latter part of the show, Wessel brought a previously unseen softness to Hill to demonstrate how he has changed.”
-Elizabeth Volk, Saint Ursula Academy
“Energy spread through the theater as the Taylor High School's theatrical cast and crew opened their premiere performance of Meredith Willson's "The Music Man." The choreography beautifully displayed the varying talent across the company. With beautiful vocals gracing showstopping classics and entertaining favorites, such as "Seventy-Six Trombones," "Marian The Librarian," and "Shipoopi," the stage became wonderfully alive.”
-Bethany Groeschen, Randall K. Cooper High School
“Emily Brettschneider, in the role of Marian, exercises caution and restraint with her love interest, yet, as the story evolves, she is showcased through her body language and voice that she is capable of deep devotion. Lucy Stratton whom she played off well, was a star in her own right. With an impressive Irish dialect, Stratton displays a cheerful and spunky nature in the motherly role of Mrs. Paroo.”
-Charlotte Shores, Randall K. Cooper High School
About The Cappies of Greater Cincinnati
The Critics and Awards Program strives to recognize Greater Cincinnati’s talented community of young writers, performers, and technical crews. High school theatre and journalism students who participate in the Cappies program are trained as critics, attend shows at other schools, and write and publish reviews. At the end of the school year, the student critics vote to give awards to their fellow students for outstanding productions, group and individual performances, and achievements in technical categories. Awards are presented at the annual Cappies Gala. Find more reviews at CinciCap.com/reviews.