Gorgeous but emotionally flat THE MUSIC MAN at University of Michigan (review)

I am always so glad to have a ticket to a University of Michigan Musical Theatre Program show, because they are simply the best in town, every single time. That does not mean that the best is always perfect — and The Music Man, running this weekend at the Power Center is exactly that type of not-perfect.

There is a fantastic musical theater program cast of pre-professionals. I rarely highlight student names unless they are spectacular, and in this production, I don’t have one of those names to mention. Everybody is spot on good. Some have more charm than others. Direction and choreography by Linda Goodrich is terrific, as are all the vocals under the direction of Jason De Bord. The set is lovely, and the costumes are gorgeous. Lighting is spot on.

So why did I leave the Power Center feeling, well, sort of like I saw replacements in a Broadway tour? Was it an off-night? Did Harold Hill just not connect with me in the audience (he didn’t). Was it the lack of chemistry between Marian and Hill (there wasn’t). Or was it more-so that the entire affair felt so over-rehearsed that emotion was crowded out?

Or was it because the image of Gavin Creel playing Harold Hill, and that remarkable production (probably UM’s finest ever) still feels so fresh in my mind? That particular production by this same program was in 1998, so its been 17 years — and yet it still is the benchmark by which all of the musicals I’ve seen at UM will always be compared. This one did not compare.

Don’t get me wrong — this is a spectacular musical theater production, and you will leave knowing that you got your money’s worth — you saw some great up-and-coming Broadway and professional musical theater stars, and you sure got to see a really pretty show. But don’t expect to walk away feeling much.

The requisite tears came at the end of the show when the Boys Band arrives on stage, and the parents forgive all when they hear their kids play (badly). Its that classic musical theater moment that every single production of this show better do right, or don’t bother doing the show at all. And this production gets that very very right. I just wish there had been more of that throughout.

THE MUSIC MAN continues at the University of Michigan, Power Center through Sunday April 19th. All performances are sold out.




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