Trouble in River City in Lyric Stage's Vanilla Music Man

Meredith Willson's 1957 musical The Music Man, now at Irving's Lyric Stage, feels as summery as an ice cream social. If only this production came in more flavors than vanilla. The quaint ode to small-town life circa 1912 falls flat if its angelic Iowans aren't threatened with perdition by a devilish Harold Hill.

Flim-flammer Hill hops off a train in River City to sell instruments for a nonexistent boys' band. He wins over townsfolk by bad-mouthing the pool hall — "trouble, that starts with T and that rhymes with P and that stands for pool," he talk-sings in "Ya Got Trouble," the third song into the first act.

Robert Preston's Harold Hill was sui generis. He debuted the role in 1957, repeated it in the movie and hasn't been topped since. Dallas Summer Musicals' Harold Hills have included John Davidson and, no lie, Barry "Brady Bunch" Williams. But Lyric's brought in an even blander guest star, Ian R. Gleason. He's part of the nationally syndicated "Lex and Terry" radio show and though he's a decent singer, his acting is as flat as Midwestern vowels. There's no sexy-dangerous glint in his eye, no growl in his come-ons to Marian the Librarian (the lovely Dara Whitehead-Allen).

Ian R. Gleason (far right) sells snake oil as Harold Hill in The Music Man.
Terry Verbois
Ian R. Gleason (far right) sells snake oil as Harold Hill in The Music Man.


The Music Man Continues through June 23 at Lyric Stage, Irving Arts Center, 3333 N. MacArthur Blvd., Irving. Call 972-252-2787.

The production directed by Cheryl Denson, choreographed by Ann Nieman, is short on dance, too, with an eight-minute segment cut from "76 Trombones." And what's with the out-of-tune barbershop quartet?

Lyric Stage usually presents knockout musicals. This one comes up about 75 trombones shy.

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Sorry I won't get to see for myself, as, indeed, Lyric generally does such excellent work, and I've been wondering what was up with Ms. Whitehead-Allen, so wonderful in many shows through the years. A friend reported that "Marian the Librarian" (the song, not the character) was not sexy in this production, which might've been reason enough to miss it, even if I'd had the chance not to.  

Re. Barry "Brady Bunch" Williams, I was bowled over with his performance as Stone in the natl. tour of CITY OF ANGELS, back in the early '90s. Having detested the TV show in my childhood, I was dismayed to see him listed in the program, but he was very good.  I'd be interested to see him in more things.