by Bruce Strand, Arts editor
Front Porch Musical Theatre deserves a 76-trombone salute for its production of “The Music Man Jr.” which opened Friday evening, especially considering it was thrown together in just three weeks of rehearsal in their Showtime Summer Theatre Camp.
The Dayton-based group’s shortened version of the Meredith Wilson classic at ERHS’s Little Theatre is rich in color and pageantry and music and dancing, decorated with sweet 1912 costuming (meaning lots of laces and wide-brim hats) and teeming with the youthful enthusiasm of 40 cast members.
Landon Liberator of Brooklyn Park, just 13 but quite mature for his age and a veteran of four years on stage, is charming and beguiling and yet vulnerable as phony music professor Harold Hill, whose scheme to swindle River City, Iowa, citizens into buying band instruments and uniforms starts to unravel when he falls for Marian Paroo, a prim librarian who sees right through him. She is played with elegant stage presence by first-time actress Emily Anderson, 15, of Monticello.
Directors Tim and Linda Lindeen and choreographer Mary Huebert are sticklers for detail, as evidenced right away by the opening scene when travelers in a train heading to River City are bouncing gently in their seats and bending forward and backward in unison as the train comes to a halt.
The story opens with a July 4 celebration scene, not a bad way to get into the spirit for the coming week. There are two performances today (Saturday) at 2 and 7 p.m. and another Sunday at 2 p.m. Tickets are available although the Little Theatre was nearly full for the premier.
Hawkeye humor also exudes from Josh Cisewski as pompous Mayor Shinn and Ashley Bendickson as his shrill, attention-seeking wife Eulalie and the rest of the cast including Delaney Fraser (Mrs. Paroo), Ethan Hickle (Winthrop Paroo), Anthony Sixta (Marcellus Washburn), Hunter Fraser (Charlie Cowell), Lucy Dunne (Amaryllis), Jake Bendickson (Tommy Djilas), Spencer Gearin (Constable Locke), Bailey Rosdahl (Zaneeta Shinn), Ava Hoidal (Gracie Shinn) and Josh Ely (conductor).
There’s also some entertaining groups — the warbling Pick-A-Little Ladies played by Allison DeMorett, Megan Hassing, Toby Heuer, Alayna Hoidal, Gabrielle Lien, Mandy Prom and Emily Rosdahl; a gaggle of teens played by Anna Ganser, Ellie Heitzig, Lauren Howe, Anna Love, Annika Richards, and Juliana Singh; the WaYanYe girls Lucy Dunne, Clare Gaffney, Ava Hoidal and Sarina Lindell; and the school board barbershop quartet of Josh Ely, Drake Fraser, Jonah Heuer, and Aaron Stauffer.
Other cast members are Jake Bendickson, Drake Fraser, Jonah Heuer, Antony Sixta, Tyler Gearin, Zachary Hassing, Elisa Hickle, Andrew Elgard, and Sam Gaffney.