OGDEN — Everyone has something that reminds them of home. It could be the taste of mom’s cooking, the sound a favorite song playing, or the smell of that favorite cozy blanket. Those comforting key elements stick in our brains for decades and make us wax rhapsodic about how good things used to be. With book, music, and lyrics by Meredith Willson, The Music Man has persisted for over 65 years because it builds up the Americana of yesteryear and makes the audience want to live in River City in a simpler time and place. If you did’t make it to the Broadway revival starring Hugh Jackman, then you should certainly make your way to Peery’s Egyptain Theatre to see Ogden Musical Theatre’s rendition of this classic musical.

Show closes August 12, 2023.

Director Jennifer Westfall stages the show beautifully by leaning into the nostalgia of the show rather than shying away from it or trying to reinvent the show. The production is true to what the script was written to be and highlights the good things about it through excellent stagecraft allowing the actors’ performances to shine. The charlatan title role is played masterfully by Russell Maxfield with an oozing charisma from the moment he rolls into town on the train. Maxfield’s Harold Hill seems to cast a spell on the town during the patter song “Trouble” as he sows seeds of hysteria and whips the town to a frenzy over the new pool table. Of course, the only solution to the assault on the souls of the children in town, is to form a boy’s band—which Mr. Hill conveniently sells the instruments and uniforms along with the promise of training the boys with his revolutionary “think system.” Maxfield has a captivating charm in his performance that makes you instantly want to buy what he is selling.

Standing in the way of Professor Hill swindling the whole town with his empty promises is the town librarian, Marian Paroo (Samantha Wursten) who doesn’t trust Harold from the minute she sees him and gives him the cold shoulder before eventually thawing to his charms. Wursten portrays Marian as cautious, rather than bitter, which gives her a performance a nice warmth. Wursten’s classically trained soprano voice shines brightly on her romantic ballads “Goodnight, My Someone” and “Till There Was You.” Both Marian and Harold show a growing affection and chemistry with each other which makes their kissing at the end electric.

Aiding Professor Hill in his schemes is an old friend, conman Marcellus Washburn played by Caleb Parry who is a master of physical comedy. Parry’s character is hilarious with the way he walks and talks, drawing each gag out to its fullest potential and never wasting a moment that could be filled with laughter. His peppy song, “Shipoopi” is fun because Parry makes the best of each line.

Another comedic highlight of this show is Eulalie Shinn (Mandie Wood Harris), wife of Mayor Shinn (Todd J Wente). The Mayor is always red-faced and sputtering in frustration as he tries to get Harold Hill’s credentials and references, but his wife is the one to watch. Harris is trussed up in the most outlandish costumes of the show by costume designer Shelly Burkhardt. With gaudy stripes, excessive layers with wavy hems, and towering hats with feathers, Mrs. Shinn is obviously the grand poobah of the River City women. Their song “Pick-a-little (Talk-a-Little)” is well done as the women strut about the stage like hens in a barnyard pecking at all the things they don’t like about the town’s librarian.

Opposite the town’s women are the members of the schoolboard—Ewart Dunlop (Nick Cash), Olin Britt (Nelden Maxfield), Oliver Hix (Jacob Coates) and Jacey Squires (Braxton Burton). Harold Hill convinces these bickering men to form a barbershop quartet and pulls them into a four-part harmony with a quick wave of his pitch pipe. I’ve sat through many renditions of this musical and this is one of the tightest barbershop quartets I’ve seen.

An adorable performance is given by Sam Cash as Winthrop Paroo, the shy little brother of Marian. Cash shows his character explode with new confidence when he gets his shiny new coronet during “The Wells Fargo Wagon” and keeps the speech impediment of poor Winthrop consistent during the cute song “Gary, Indiana.”

While this show has a magnetic anti-hero in Harold Hill, it still needs a villain. Charlie Cowell (Ben Ames) is a traveling anvil salesman who has collected documentation on how Hill has defrauded countless towns before and wants to bring this evidence to town to expose the trickster. Ames portrays the salesman as a self-serving slimeball and makes it easy to hate him for endangering the suave Harold Hill.

All of the actors give stellar performances and are supported with strong set and costume designs. Ricky Parkinson’s set design is beautiful with gorgeous backdrops that quickly set the scene. Marian’s house looks like it came from the Grant Wood painting “American Gothic.” All of the wagon pieces move on and off quickly to never slow the pace of the show and are well painted to quickly set the scene for the actors. Shelly Burkhardt’s costumes are beautiful throughout, helping to ground the show in the nostalgic past of 1912. Aside from the ostentatious pieces for Mrs. Shinn, the designs for Marian are perfect as it moves her character from tight long lines in a rigid black and white prints to end in a flowing pastel blue gown that flounces about her as she floats around the stage in new love.

Being a big musical, there must be dancing, and choreographer Marilyn Montgomery makes good use of all her dancers. The partner work in “Marian The Librarian” and “Shipoopi” are particularly first-rate. The dancers can shine and stay in sync because the choreography is well designed for them.

Director Jennifer Westfall and musical director Kenneth Plain stay true to the original feel of the show. This traditionalist approach highlights the peppy music, fast pacing, and perky dance moves that have brought people back to this show for decades and make it a pillar of Americana. I recommend this show for audiences of all ages and experience. The universal themes of love and joy are light and leave the audience just feeling happy and nostalgic for a simpler time.

Ogden Musical Theatre’s production of Meredith Willson’s The Music Man plays at Peery’s Egyptian Theater 2415 Washington Blvd Ogden, UT  July 28-August 12, 2023 on Mondays, Thursdays-Saturdays at 7:30 PM, with Saturday matinees at 2:00 PM and Sunday August 6, 2023 at 4:00 PM. Tickets are $15-$28. For more information and to purchase tickets go to ogdenmusicaltheatre.org