There are ample reasons why Meredith Willson’s The Music Man is a perennial hit. Charming small-town turn-of-a-past-century nostalgia, memorable characters and a score that includes so many gems it seems almost unfair to other composers are just a few of them.
Fortunately, at least some of those ample reasons can be enjoyed during Venice Theatre’s current production. Evocative period costumes by Nicholas Hartman, a set by Dennis C. Maulden that takes us comfortably to River City, Iowa, and its environs and a few strong performances are on the plus side. On the minus--well, if there was ever a show that cried out for a live orchestra, this one about a man peddling music to kids starved for entertainment is surely it. There’s no denying you miss that in this production; it just doesn’t feel as lively or sharp without it.
That said, there are still pleasures to be had, thanks in good part to Laurie Colton as Marian the Librarian, whose vocals are the most soaring and effortless in the cast, and to some good comic support by Tank Martin as Professor Harold Hill’s former cohort in crime, Marcellus, and Kim Kollar as the highfalutin wife of the town’s mayor. As Hill himself, the con man who finds himself caught in more ways than one here, Douglas Landin is believable enough, but it would be great if he could show more enjoyment in his role at times.
He and Colton work well together, though, and with all those great tunes--the always amazing Rock Island opening number set to those train rhythms, the fun of the patter in Ya Got Trouble, the cleverness of Pick-a-Little, Talk-a-Little and the sweetness of such enduring ones as Goodnight My Someone and Lida Rose--and some appropriate choreography by Michelle Teyke, The Music Man still works. It continues through March 11; for tickets call 488-1115 or go to venicestage.com.