Sierra Stages’ The Music Man is a hit: review

In the interest of full disclosure, I should tell you I’ve been humming “Seventy-Six Trombones” and “The Wells Fargo Wagon” from The Music Man since I was a teenager.

It’s one of my all-time favorite musicals, and (along with the rest of our family) I’ve been eager to see Nevada City-based Sierra Stages’ production of the American classic since it was announced earlier this year.

We’ve enjoyed other productions of Sierra Stages in their four short years of existence, including The Sound of Music, Into the Woods and the 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, among others. The performing-arts group taps our local artistic talent, and it has won some impressional regional awards.

Sierra Stages’ production of The Music Man at the Nevada Theatre, which we saw Saturday night (July 14) to a sold-out crowd, was excellent: The acting, the singing, the orchestra and the dancing was all top notch — further cementing Sierra Stages’ prominence in community theater in the foothills.

We recommend you see the show while lovable con-man Harold Hill, Marian Paroo and the rest of the cast passes through Nevada City — from now until August 4.

And get your tickets early. So far, at least, every show has been a sell out.

Last night was the official “Opening Night,” and it included free ice cream afterward in an “Ice Cream Social” — a feature we all enjoyed. (Our son also enjoyed watching someone else sing the songs from The Music Man besides me.)

The Music Man opened on Dec. 19, 1957 at the Mjestic Theatre on Broadway with Robert Preston as Harold Hill.

“It is the story of a traveling-salesman charlatan who cannot read music or play any instrument, but who sells the boys of River City, Iowa, a brass band and gorgeous uniforms,” as the New York Times review of December 20, 1957 observes. “His motives are dishonest. But during the weeks when he is mulcting the customers, he transforms a dull town into a singing and dancing community.”

“If Mark Twain could have collaborated with Vachel Lindsay, they might have devised a rhythmic lark like The Music Man, which is as American as apple pie and a Fourth of July oration.”


The Sierra Stages production included Erick Lindley as Harold Hill. Erick played Bob Wallace in White Christmas at Imagination Theater and George Nowack in She Loves Me at Placer Community Theater.

Marian is played by Dawn Simmons, who last appeared in Sierra Stages’ I Want It All, and was Cinderella in Into the Woods. Other cast members include Ty Baldwin (Winthrop Paroo); Noreen Barnett (Mrs. Paroo); and Kevin Kirkpatrick (Mayor Shinn).

Dawn has a wonderful voice in singing her solos, such as “My White Knight” and “Goodnight My Someone.” The gossipy town women are marvelous singing “Pick-a Little, Talk-a-Little.” And “Seventy-Six Trombones” and “The Wells Fargo Wagon” are sung with gusto.

In some instances, the actors marched up and down the aisles of the Nevada Theatre, adding intimacy to the show.

The orchestra, under Ken Getz, was fabulous, playing with energy but also a soft touch when needed. I snagged some reserved, third-row seats earlier this week, so we sat right next to the orchestra. (I could read the sheet music from across the aisle).

I enjoyed watching our 10-year-old son (that’s also Winthrop’s age) smile and laugh during the performance. He could relate to the children, but also the music and the story. (He also remembered his visit to Ames, Iowa — a River City-like town — to watch his cousin play football at Iowa State).

All told, we were thrilled to introduce our son to this American classic in our home of Nevada City. The other day he asked me if it was boring growing up without the internet, iPods and in a home that had a black-and-white TV.

I said “No,” we played outdoors, read and listened to music. The Music Man helped him realize the value old-fashioned entertainment and introduce a new generation to Meredith Willson’s classic American performance.

For more information and tickets, go to

(photo credit: David Wong)

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