The intimate MusicalFare Theatre on the Daemen College campus is one of Buffalo's premier theatres. MusicalFare never ceases to amaze with the way that they adapt notoriously big productions into their space. Chris Kelly's re-imagined production of Meredith Willson's The Music Man is no exception to the rulE. Kelly's directorial vision reduces the set to a series of tables and chairs which can be rearranged to indicate a different location, as well as ladders, used primarily in the "Marian the Librarian" sequence. His reduced set, as well as his reduction of The Cast to 16 performers, is an absolutely delectable choice. Gone is the flashiness and unnecessary spectacle of a huge production, and what remains is the heartfelt and charming tale, along with a little bit of the necessary "flashiness" from Prof. Harold Hill.
As the lovable music professor, John Kaczorowski is a breath of fresh air. He adjusts his performance to the scope of the entire production. He brings the energy that is required in Hill's line of work, and yet he is understated and subtle, a choice that I think brings more opportunities for the actor. Complementing Kaczorowski is the always phenomenal Amy Jakiel as Marian Paroo. Jakiel's voice alone would carry her performance, and yet she does not neglect her acting choices. Jakiel's Marian is much more independent a woman, less of an ingénue and more of a self-sufficient woman; for a moment, there, I truly didn't think she and the professor were going to end up together by the end. Jakiel's rendition of "My White Knight" is remarkable and carries more weight to it than any rendition by Barbara Cook or Shirley Jones.
The ensemble is absolutely flawless. As Eulalie, Kerrykate Abel's comic timing, in addition to her lovely singing voice, are a wonderful addition to the production. Eric Rawski, playing opposite Abel as Mayor Shinn, is equally funny and delightfully "small-town." Beth Donohue, as Mrs. Paroo, has a wonderful charm and poise to her performance, and the motherly nature of Mrs. Paroo can be identified throughout. As her shy son Winthrop, who is given joy and a voice through Prof. Hill's scheme, Adam Kluge is remarkably talented for his age. "Gary, Indiana" is a fantastic number for his voice, all three Paroo generations shine. Brandon Barry as Tommy and Christina Golab as Zaneeta are adorable in their rebellion against Zaneeta's father, Mayor Shinn. The female ensemble of Diane Curley, Maria Graham, and Wendy Hall seem much larger in number than three (four when you add in Beth Donohue, who doubles as another ensemble woman). Graham's track is particularly difficult, as she also portrays the young Amaryllis. Her duet with Jakiel in "Goodnight, My Someone" is a touching moment. Ben Puglisi, as Marcellus, has a thoroughly good time with "Shipoopi," but also adds some great depth to the story towards the end in his effort to let Harold (or Greg, as Marcellus calls him throughout the show) escape despite the love Harold has found in Marian. Last, but certainly not least, great credit is due to the phenomenally talentEd Matthew Iwanski, Matthew Crane, David Bondrow, and Joe Donohue III, appearing as the quartet. Not only is the barbershop style difficult to begin with, but these men are also appearing as ensemble members, as well as salesmen at the beginning.
The overall production is highly effective. From the "Rock Island" section, which is designed in the style of Stomp! and complete with vocal percussion, to the concept for the "Goodnight (reprise) and "Seventy-Six Trombones (reprise)," in which Kaczorowski and Jakiel stare into "mirrors" that are placed at each other's eye level, the production soars. Allan Paglia and his orchestra perform the reduced score with ease. Bobby Cooke's choreography is organic, yet thrilling. MusicalFare once again is flawless in their effort to perform quality productions in the Buffalo area. Music Man runs through 10/14 at MusicalFare Theatre on the campus of Daemen College. Tickets are available by calling 716-839-8540 or visiting the website at www.musicalfare.com.