BERNARDSVILLE NJ - A con artist, a strait-laced librarian and a whole lotta all-American elements are featured in one of the most well-known musicals of all time, “The Music Man,” which will be presented at 7 p.m., Friday, March 2, 2 p.m. and 7 p.m., Saturday, March 3, and 2 p.m., Sunday, March 4, at Bernards High School (BHS) in the Performing Arts Center (PAC), 25 Olcott Avenue, Bernardsville, NJ.

Set in 1912, Meredith Willson’s, “The Music Man,” has delighted audiences of all ages since its Broadway debut in 1957, with most people familiar with the 1962 film version starring Robert Preston and Shirley Jones as the two main leads. The story portrays an innocent time in history with a slightly deceitful character, Harold Hill, who, despite what he sets out to achieve, accomplishes something far greater. He comes to the small town of River City, Iowa, to fast talk his way into the hearts of the community in order to gain their trust so he can sell them musical instruments and uniforms for a boy’s band he promises to form.

With the help of his old friend, Marcellus Washburn, Hill discovers a hook to convince the residents that they need to purchase his goods. He persuades the parents to buy into his con idea by telling them the new addition of a pool table at the billiard hall in town will only cause their boys to get into trouble, however, they can avert that from happening if they sign up their sons to his newly forming boy band. One of the hurdles Washburn points out to Hill is that he will need to win over the only person in town that may see through his scheme – the librarian/music teacher, Marian Paroo.

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Hill manages to immediately gain the trust of Paroo’s Irish mother, Mrs. Paroo, and Paroo’s shy, lisping brother, Winthrop Paroo. However, it takes some time for Hill to win over the intelligent and sophisticated librarian who is also the town’s music teacher because she doesn’t fall for his scheme and attempts to uncover his lack of credentials to the mayor.  It is Hill’s confidence and encouragement in Paroo’s young brother that brings him out of his shell and causes her to eventually change her mind about him.

Along the way we meet many colorful, fun and naïve characters of River City like Mayor Shin and his wife, Eulalie MacKecknie Shinn, their daughter, Zaneeta, the Pickalittle Ladies and Tommy Djilas, the young man who is secretly dating the mayor’s daughter but is considered the boy from the wrong side of town. There are many energetic dance scenes with a large ensemble cast that keeps the audience entertained throughout. 

Surprisingly many people state they know “The Music Man,” however it seems a lot of people either don’t remember the story or didn’t actually see it even though they thought they had since the title is so well known. What people do remember or recognize right away are its iconic songs like, “Seventy-Six Trombones,” “Gary, Indiana,” and “Till There Was You.” Even if you don’t recall the story line, it definitely portrays a light, fun, patriotic, all-American, small town community ambience of a much simpler time that is sure to lift audiences of all ages.

Music Man History and Accolades

In 1958, “The Music Man,” was nominated and won several Tony awards, including the coveted Best Musical, Best Performance by a Leading Actor in a Musical (Robert Preston), Best Performance by a Featured Actress in a Musical (Barbara Cook), and Best Conductor and Musical Director (Herbert Greene). Many years later, in 1980, the show returned to Broadway with Dick Van Dyke in the role of Harold Hill, Meg Bussert as Marian Paroo and Christian Slater as the young Winthrop Paroo. In 2000 another revival of the show came back to Broadway and had a long run of 699 performances in the Neil Simon Theatre, again garnering many Tony award nominations.

Multi-School Cast

The BHS cast is comprised of more than 60 students, not only from the high school but also from Bedwell Elementary and Bernardsville Middle School. The director, Christopher Tomaino, is bringing in several students from the elementary and middle schools in order to enhance the ensemble for the show. This not only encourages the love of theater arts in the younger grades, it creates a more well-rounded, realistic show for the audience.

Adding to the musical atmosphere of each performance, led by orchestra director, Fred Trumpy, are more than 20 live orchestra pit crew with various instruments such as violin, bass, flute, clarinet, saxophone, trumpet, percussion, and of course, trombones. The live music creates an intensely genuine experience for the audience to enjoy the musical to the fullest.

Tickets are $5 for students, $10 for senior citizens and $15 for adults and can be purchased online at showtix4u.com or at the box office at BHS PAC just before each performance. For additional details, please send an email to bhspacparents@gmail.com.