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Music Man (and Music Mom)

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Perennial favorite “The Music Man” opened in Sacramento this week, for its 10th go-round at the Music Circus.

The show is set in River City, Iowa in 1912, and is about as American as apple pie. It features the squeaky clean sensibilities of a tight-knit Midwestern community, which is transformed in unexpected ways by the arrival of con man “Professor” Harold Hill.

The beloved musical remains the same; there were no surprises in the current production, directed by Glenn Casale. The minimal, evocative sets, the lovely costumes, and the orchestra directed by Dennis Castellano were as professional and enjoyable as always. The company of ensemble actors, singers and dancers — including the very talented youngsters of the junior company — carried off their parts with verve and showcased the exuberant choreography beautifully.

But what brings a special treat to this Music Circus production is the unusual pairing of a legendary actress with her son in the lead roles.

Theatergoers are most familiar with the 1962 film version of “The Music Man,” which starred Robert Preston, the original Tony-winning Harold Hill, and Shirley Jones as Marian the Librarian.

Sacramento audiences will be delighted that the role of Mrs. Paroo, Marian’s mother, is played here by the very same Shirley Jones, a beloved veteran of Broadway and an Oscar-winning actress, later well-known as the matriarch of television’s “The Partridge Family.” Jones is still active in film and television, and the remarkable voice that first brought her fame in the 1950s still has power and clarity.

Jones’ son Patrick Cassidy plays Harold Hill. Cassidy was in utero during the filming of the 1962 blockbuster. His collaboration with Jones in this Sacramento debut may be the beginning of a 50th anniversary tour of the show. Although Cassidy does not bring the same strength and charisma to the role as did the inimitable Robert Preston, he manages to make con man Hill just smarmy enough to be untrustworthy, without making him unbelievable.

The luminous and extremely talented Brandi Burkhardt plays Marian Paroo.

Burkhardt’s clear soprano brought Marian’s longing to life. Though 50 years have passed since Jones sang “Goodnight, My Someone” in the film, the song remains as tender now as it was then. Burkhardt also sang “Will I Ever Tell You” and “Till There Was You,” with all the sweetness and loveliness of the character she portrays.

Carter Thomas is charming as Winthrop, Marian’s shy younger brother. His voice is strong and clear, and as his character blossoms with confidence, Thomas’ performance grows until it fills the stage. This young man has great promise.

“The Music Man” continues through Aug. 6 at the Music Circus’ venue, the Wells Fargo Pavilion, at 1419 H St., Sacramento. Performances occur at 8 p.m. Thursday, Friday and Saturday; 2 p.m. Thursday and Saturday; and 7:30 p.m. Sunday. Tickets and information are available at 916-557-1999, online at www.tickets.com, or in person at the Wells Fargo Pavilion box office.

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