When introducing musical theater to your kids, there are so many classics they need to watch from “The Sound of Music” to “West Side Story” and “Mary Poppins.” Well, if you’re looking to see one of these classics on stage, here’s a musical to add to your summer bucket list.
“The Music Man” is now playing at the Goodman Theatre and if you’re looking to take your kids to their first real theater experience, consider taking a trip downtown. This upbeat revival offers the perfect mix of musical theater: elaborate costumes, child actors, big dance numbers and a touch of romance.
Goodman Theatre stays true to the original story focusing on Harold Hill (Geoff Packard), a con artist, who visits the fictional town of River City, Iowa, in 1912 for his latest scheme. He pretends to be a band organizer that convinces townspeople to form a marching band for their “troubled” boys. But, he’s not a musician and plans to skip town before teaching a music lesson. The catch? Marian Paroo (Monica West), the town librarian and a piano teacher, is on to him and it’s not going to be easy for Hill to win her over until he learns a bit about moral responsibility.
While the plot might feel a bit outdated at times, it’s the music that makes this production worth seeing. The cast at Goodman Theatre doesn’t fail to bring back some good old-fashioned musical theater fun. Your little ones will love to see big company numbers like “Seventy-Six Trombones” and “Shipoopi” thanks to the amazing choreography by Denis Jones. Parents won’t help but swoon over the love chase between the main characters in “Marian the Librarian” and “Till There Was You.”
One of my personal favorites from this production was the set transformation to help tell the story. Set designer Daniel Ostling brings us clever details that help add more joy to certain songs. For example, the design for the train opening scene really connects on how the tempo and the actor’s movements are mimicking an actual steam engine. In addition, it’s always a delight to see colorful fashion from this time period, which is easily accomplished by costume designer Ana Kuzmanic.
The only slight downfall in this revival is the love story between the two leading characters. You wish that there was more chemistry between Packard and West to make us feel these strong emotions as their characters begin to fall for each other. West gives us an excellent performance as Marian, while I wished there was a bit more charm to Packard’s “Professor” Hill in his iconic number, “Ya Got Trouble.” The upside is that he warms up to the audience as the show goes on and interacts more with the brilliant ensemble, who truly bring us the most energy to this production.
What makes “The Music Man” so timeless is that kids of all ages can still enjoy it. The gorgeous music and dancing will keep them mesmerized throughout the show. They will be entertained by the physical comedy. And who knows, they might even feel inspired after seeing a few talented child actors on stage. All in all, “The Music Man” is simply a wonderful musical that the whole family will love.
Goodman Theatre is also hosting a sensory-friendly/relaxed performance on Aug. 10 at 2 p.m. This performance will include lower sound levels and reduction in strobe lights geared for people with special needs and their families.
If you go
Runs through Aug. 18
Goodman Theatre, 170 N. Dearborn St., Chicago
Recommended for ages 7 and up
Tickets start at $25
Learn more at goodmantheatre.org.
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