UNTIL a few hours ago, I would have failed miserably if asked who wrote the Beatles song Till There Was You: I would have said Lennon and McCartney before hearing it sung beautifully by Sarah Linehan and Luke Whitchurch in CATS production of The Music Man, but I now know it is written, as is the whole of the show; book, music and lyrics, by Meredith Willson.
Whitchurch plays Harold Hill, a con man who is working his way across the United States promising to set up marching bands in towns, taking money from the residents for instruments and uniforms and, on previous occasions, moving on before the bands actually happen. Linehan is Marion Paroo, the demure piano teacher and librarian, who after first suspecting Hill, falls for his charms and ends up defending him.
These two actors led a strong cast in some wonderful singing, great acting and accomplished dancing. Harold is hardly ever off stage, and Whitchurch has a charismatic warmth which lit up the hall every time he appeared. His voice was authentically mid-American, his singing voice was lyrical and accurate, and he was incredibly light on his feet whenever dancing was called for. Marion is a vital role in this show, and Linehan portrayed her feelings for Harold growing stronger each time they met with delicacy and honesty. Her voice managed the soaring high notes with ease, quite an achievement for an alto singing a soprano part.
Other roles were equally strong, and tightly directed by Chris Holman, with comic highlights from Mary-Anne Johnson as Mrs Paroo and Lynn Saffer as Eulalie and strong performances from younger members, notably Lisha Allen as Amaryllis and Jacob Edwards as Winthrop.
The men’s ensemble includes a barbershop quartet, the ladies’ ensemble a dance troupe, and the two combine musically when the gossip song Pickalittle is joined with Goodnight Ladies. This highlighted the vocal strength of this cast, and Shipoopi showed off their dancing ability. This cast were at home singing single lines, full harmony, even in counterpoint, and dancing at the same time.
The set was colourful and clever, with revolves adapting to take us from gym to library to town street, and additions of a footbridge, a wonderful railway carriage and a front porch, and the cast were costumed to perfection.
The band, under MD Mark Tromans, consisted of piano, bass and drums augmented with some slick flute and clarinet, and a single trombone – surely essential when the best known musical number in this show is about 76 of them!
Another hit for CATS – get along to Ansford Academy this week if you can, and look out for their Oliver next year