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Theater | STAGE REVIEW

Casting Touches Brighten 'Music Man'

Touring production, featuring stage and TV veterans, mostly pleases.

October 08, 1998|DON SHIRLEY | TIMES STAFF WRITER

The Kansas City-based Theater League is the traveling salesman of the Southland musical theater scene. Its shows journey to such far-flung outposts as Phoenix and Toledo, Ohio, as well as Kansas City, Mo., and its current local headquarters, the Thousand Oaks Civic Arts Plaza. In recent years, Theater League also ventured into Pasadena and Glendale venues, but those markets didn't pan out.

Given the company's penchant for touring, perhaps it's appropriate that it selected "The Music Man," which is about a traveling salesman, to open its latest Southland expansion. Following the show's current run in Thousand Oaks, it will touch down in Cerritos and Escondido as well as the Arizona stops on the Theater League circuit.

Of course, to quote Meredith Willson's script, you gotta know the territory. The casting of this show reflects an awareness that new audiences might want some familiar names--it includes former TV stars Barry Williams ("Brady Bunch") and Alan Young ("Mr. Ed"). It also indicates a somewhat deeper appreciation of the territory by using a slew of well-respected Southland musical theater veterans in supporting roles.

Williams, in the title role, is affable and slick and sings well. He lacks the extreme magnetism that would be necessary to hoodwink all but a few of River City's 2,212 residents, however. Teri Bibb successfully conveys the steely skepticism behind Marian the Librarian's graceful facade. Her winsome soprano is well-amplified, but it still seems a shade too light in such a large hall.

*

Young's mayor is amusingly pompous and befuddled, and his pretentious but easily flattered wife is caught perfectly by Mary Jo Catlett (perhaps most recently known as Madame de la Grand Bouche in "Beauty and the Beast").

Someone had the bright idea of enlisting "Forever Plaid" veterans as the school board members who are sidetracked from investigating Harold Hill's credentials when he enlists them in making barbershop harmonies. The quartet includes two of L.A.'s original Plaids, Stan Chandler and Larry Raben, plus another ex-Plaid, George Miserlis, and non-Plaid Randy Brenner, who nevertheless blends in well. Jeffrey Polk is a tad too wide-eyed and wired as Marcellus, Hill's one crony in crime and the leader of the "Shipoopi" number.

K.C. Gussler's Tommy Djilas leads a vigorous dance team, choreographed by Dan Mojica. James Fouchard's sets and Peter Heth's costumes are standard but do the job for director Glenn Casale, who seems to stage every other musical that opens in the Southland these days.

BE THERE

"The Music Man," Kavli Theatre, Thousand Oaks Civic Arts Plaza, 2100 E. Thousand Oaks Blvd., today-Saturday, 8 p.m.; Saturday-Sunday, 2 p.m.; Sunday, 7 p.m. $29.50-$39.50, (805) 583-8700 or (213) 480-3232. At California Center, Escondido, Oct. 27-28, (760) 738-4138. At Cerritos Center for the Performing Arts, Oct. 30-Nov. 1, (800) 300-4345. Running time: 2 hours, 30 minutes.

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