(L to R) River City Townspeople Nicholas Yenson and Scott Shedenhelm, with Will Burton as Tommy Djilas, in Arena Stage at the Mead Center for American Theater’s production of The Music Man May 11-July 22, 2012. Photo by Joan Marcus.

By Sheila Wickouski

Meredith Wilson, who wrote the book, music and lyrics for the 1957 Broadway musical hit The Music Man, had been the youngest member of the local band in his home town of Mason City, Iowa. The instruments he played in the band as a boy were bought from a mail order catalog.

So, much of the story line in The Music Man, as seen in the current Arena Stage production, is highly personal. Music had shaped the life of the young Wilson, and music changes the lives of everyone in River City, Iowa, the setting of the musical.

In The Music Man, everyone in River City is special, and in Arena’s production of the much loved musical, everyone really is a star, starting with the leads: Burke Moses as Harold Hill, the con artist who sells band equipment and uniforms, and Kate Baldwin as Marian Paroo, the town librarian who steals his heart.

John Lescault is Mayor Shinn, who thinks he really runs the show in town. Barbara Tirrell is his wife, Eulalie MacKecknie Shinn, who orchestrates the town ladies into their special July 4 production number, an event that no one will ever forget.

One of Washington’s favorite local actresses, Donna Migliaccio, is Mrs. Paroo, the romantic widow and tender-hearted mother of Marian and Winthrop.

 Nehal Joshi, (remember him as the peddler in Oklahoma!) adds to the fun as Harold Hill’s accomplice, Marcellus Washburn. Well on their way to future stardom are the youngsters in the show. Will Burton as Tommy Djilas and Juliane Godfrey as Zaneeta Shinn are the two teenage sweethearts. The two youngest children — Ian Berlin as Winthrop Paroo and Heidi Kaplan as Amaryllis — seem destined to be lifelong partners when they grow up.

The wonderfulness of the show is the variety not just of personalities but in music, which ranges from love duets to barbershop quartets to marching parade tunes. The sentiments and the songs are contagious, hitting every emotional note from outrageous laughter to heartfelt tearfulness.

Bottom Line: The Music Man closes July 22. Don’t miss it!

For more information, visit www.arenastage.org.