The spectacular, intimate feel of the Guthrie Theater’s Wurtele Thrust Stage captured the true experience of a Broadway show with the production of “Music Man.”
The “Music Man” is a 1958 Tony Award winning musical set in the early nineteen hundreds. It is the story of a so called professor of musicology. In reality the “professor” is a scam artist, fast talking salesman of instruments and marching uniforms who is only out to make a sale. First he had to create the buzz, build the need and spark the desire within the town’s people to want to buy those instruments – a difficult task indeed especially since no one had any musical inclination or money. The professor, however, is enthralled with the local spinster, librarian who can see right through him and who teaches him the true meaning of life … love.
The “Music Man’s” songs are comparable to some tongue-twisting rap in that they are fast, fast, fast. The actors bring to life the characters of the small town and the chaos caused by the seasoned money-making schemer in his quest to unload the instruments and uniforms. The 44-member cast danced acrobatically, manipulating props to provide a flawless, brilliant and beautifully executed musical extravaganza.
No match for neighboring luxurious stages, where one can sit back and take in the panoramic view of the show, at the Guthrie’s Wurtele Thrust Stage audience members become part of the show, drawn in through the hypnotic action of an intimate space. Seats are no more than 15 rows from the stage. The 1,100 seats surrounding three sides create a sociable atmosphere where the audience feels one with the actors.
The orchestra is seated behind the stage (stage left) and they can see Andrew Cooke, the conductor on video, who sits halfway in a hole on the stage floor. Thirteen orchestra musicians and 16 local high school marching band members added to the exhilaration of the production.
The stage floor opened up with different props rising from the floor and standing props rotated. Additional props dropped from the ceiling. Screens rolled down as backdrops suddenly transforming the stage into one of the 26 scenes creating a mesmerizing and alluring experience for the audience.
Costumes were exquisite, one of a kind works of art. Even those of the less than grand citizens of the small Iowa town clothes’ mirrored a time when etiquette, good grooming and coming together as a community was in fashion.
All scenery, props and costumes were designed specifically for Guthrie production and were built in the theater’s shop.