Reprinted from yesterday's late editions
This has been "The Music Man" in Washington summer. The third of the season was Wednesday night's production at Wolf Trap, which could actually be considered as two shows. With thunder, lightning and a deluge accompanying Act Two, the show on stage took second place to the spectacle beyond the wooded arches.
But on roared "76 Trombones." Star Tony Randall kept his polish, and so did the exceptionally strong supporting company.
There are several heroes to this long-lived musical. Meredith Willson wrote a grandly varied score and, with Franklin Lacey as collaborator, created a book chuck full of characters, incidents and razzle-dazzle.
Most important, for Wolf Trap, is the return of "The Music Man's" original director, Morton Da Costa, whose staging ingenuity contributed so much from the Philadelphia tryouts onward. Tom Panko here recreates Onna White's original choreography, and he's done a grand, lively job. It's just a guess but I suspect that Da Costa may have quickened the original pace to kept up with the times.
At all events, audiences, as they will, sniffed out the values promised by this production which started a few months ago at St. Louis Muny Opera. It was virtually a full house and lawn, some 6,500 people, and they seem to have figured out in advance that "The Music Man" is a Wolf Trap natural.
Part of the draw, of course, is Randall. Those who question what "The Odd Couples's" prissy Felix would do with the melodic con man discovered that Randall has talents apart from stuffiness. His phony music professor is sly, slick and lively, his baritone on pitch in Willson's accommodating melodies.
Wednesday night's Marianne the Librarian (whose creator, Barbara Cook, was a Tuesday night's audience for "Oh, Kay!") was the capable, at ease Darleith Miller. She had moved up from the chorus to replace the indisposed Linda Michele. Miller did more than well, but last night a veteran of the part, Daylea Byrne, arrived to finish the run through Sunday.
Professionalism, including the ability to move up from chorus to lead, is reflected throughout the well-drilled company. There is a fine young dancer in John Manzi. Veteran Nancy Cushman is the mayor's wife, and Marcie Stringer is beautifully spirited as Marianne's Irish mother. Benny Baker, Jack Washburn and Barney Martin, veterans all, are strong support Nick Jolley conducts the Filene Center Orchestra, which sounds just fine from the several seats I had.
For the record: Our "Music Man" summer began and continues at Harlequin Dinner Theater, where radio's Johnny Holliday has the title part. The University of Maryland's students had a production with Bobby Van as guest star.