On the Spot: Burke Moses

May 18, 2012

Most musicals have three writers: one for the score, one for the lyrics, one for the script. Occasionally one person will write music and lyrics, or lyrics and script, but seldom does anyone try to do all three. Meredith Willson’s 1957 classic “The Music Man” is one of those rare musicals where every word is penned by the same man. We spoke to Burke Moses — who stars as traveling salesman/con man Harold Hill in Arena Stage’s new production of the play — about Willson’s musical trickery and finding new tricks in old scores. fiona zublin (Express)

Playing Harold Hill is a huge undertaking. What made you put your hat in the ring?
I’ve been in this business for 30 years. When I was growing up there were two musical theater albums in my parents’ record collection, “West Side Story” and “The Music Man.” When a dream role comes, you grab it.

Why do “The Music Man” again at all?
This show is done all the time, but how often is it done well? We have time to really dig at it, and this script is so deep that it keeps offering new discoveries.

The score is tricky — like how “Goodnight, My Someone” and “76 Trombones” are really the same tune.
Meredith Willson writes a score that’s so accessible you don’t realize it’s clever. The story itself is original, but the way it’s told musically, the way he uses counterpoint, is so brilliant and dramatic.

And the a capella opening number’s rhythms…
Meredith Willson: world’s first rap artist.

Arena Stage, 1101 6th St. SW; through July 22, $64-$109; 202-488-3300. (Waterfront/SEU)
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