"Music Man" is a really Big Show "76 Trombones" led the big parade into the Ranger Playhouse, and by the time they had played their last, Rangerites were thoroughly absorbed in the magic of Meredith Wilson's smash hit, "The Music Man." The show had its Broadway run in the late 1950s, and was made into a motion picture two years ago. Many of us have been hoping to see the show done here for a number of years, and its presentation this year was well appreciated.

One of the major reasons for the "Music Man's" Broadway and Hollywood success was Robert Preston in the title role. Preston became a natural idol as Harold Hill, the swindling salesman who promises to teach music to the children of River City Iowa even though he doesn't understand a note of music himself. Ranger was not fortunate enough to secure the services of Robert Preston, but we certainly had a most impressive Harold Hill played to the hilt by David Lapidus. Adding to his long list of starring roles are Billie Bigalow in "Carousel", the captain of the "H.M.S. Pinafore," and Frank Butler in "Annie Get Your Gun." Dave drew thunderous applause for his latest and perhaps greatest performance. In the role of Marian Paroo, the haughty librarian whom Hill was to insure his success in River City through her was Nancy Grossman. Nancy's performance was highly enjoyable as was her performance in "Carousel" last year. In supporting roles were Harold Hill as the bumbling Mayor Shinn, Leslie Israelow, as Marcellus, Harold's former sidekick, who found these things a little too hot, Marian Swerdlow as Marian's mother, Paul Kaplan as Winthrop as Marian's troubled younger brother, and Jill Braunstein as Amaryllis, the young lady who had her sights on Winthrop.

Meridith Wilson's story is filled with charm and wit from beginning to end. Salesman Hill has made it tough for all of his fellow salesmen in the Midwest by his phony fronts, and one, Charlie Cowell, who sells anvils, vowed to thwart him if it is the last thing he ever does. Hill arrives in River City Iowa as a thriving music salesman; he persuades the gullible townspeople to buy his instruments and band uniforms for the badly needed River City's Boys Band which he himself will lead. His only trouble is to keep the only musically-minded person in River City "off balanced." This person turns out to be the highly attractive librarian. Trouble is --- she's not only beautiful, but smart too. She does a little research and finds that Gary Indiana Conservatory of Music, from which Hill claims he graduated from in 1905 wasn't built till 1906, and now she's all set to use this against him, but then suddenly the band instruments and uniforms arrive - and her lisping brother, Winthrop, suddenly becomes happier than she's ever known before. From there on it's uphill for Professor Hill; he falls in love with Marian and the townspeople become more inspired by his demagoguery. Suddenly, Charlie Cowell arrives and exposes him. Hill's confronted by the people when, as if by magic, the boy's band appears and by using Hill's think system, they play the music that Hill told them to think about. Naturally, Hill is cleared and he gets his madame librarian.

Although there were some faults to be found with Ranger's "Music Man," there remained general agreement as to its entertainment qualities. Musically, "76 Trombones," "Trouble," "Till There Was You," and the selections of the Barbershop Five, done by Vinny Lloyd, Dave Kantorowitz, Ira Haselkorn, Mel Goodman, and Bpb Khan were very well received. Scenically, Howie Greenburg's sets helped preserve the realism of the story. Despite the complaints as to "The Music Man", the show nevertheless stands out to be Ranger's Big Show of 1964.

Ira Liebowitz