"Music Man" is totally grand and "Enter Laughing" is a delightful laugh fest!

Diablo Light Opera will lighten you load with a terrific production of Merideth Wilson's Classic - Music Man!
“Music sooths the angry beast”, “music lightens our load”, and “music is the universal language”. How many ways can we express how important music is in our daily lives, to our health, happiness and well being? Musicals are perpetually the most often attended event in theatrical venues and few musicals move us more than Meredith Wilson’s often produced upbeat musical, “The Music Man”.

The Diablo Light Opera Company is currently presenting this thoroughly delightful musical in the Dean Lesher Regional Center for the Arts (DLRCA) in Walnut Creek. Director Sue Ellen Nelsen has brought together a superlative cast that once again brings those marvelous “Seventy-six Trombones” right back into our lives and we relive again the small-town angst, anger and reclamation of River City, Iowa, and splendiferous super-salesman, Harold Hill.

I doubt if there is anyone in my readership who has not thrilled to the marching band music, the fast-paced patter and lyrical dialogue of “Ya Got Trouble – right here in River City” and the sweet, moving, heart-felt lyrics of Marion the Librarian with “Goodnight, My Someone.” But if by some strange quirk of fate, you’ve not joined the chorus of happy theater-goers who have partaken of this musical feast, then here is a brief outline of the story line.

The musical opens with the classic scene of a group of salesmen on board a train crossing the mid-west, swaying and undulating to the rhythmic rocking of the train car on the rails, all singing the praises, the passion, and the promise of a life of a salesman. At the same time they caution each other that “You got to know the territory”, if you are going to be successful! This opening scene is as grand as the entire production turns out to be, a truly outstanding opening number, certainly the best I have seen in reviewing 21 years of regional theater.

Harold Hill (Keith Barlow), a co-passenger on the train, exits the train in River City, Iowa, after over-hearing from the other salesmen on board that this is “one city” that the purportedly nefarious, band promoting salesman, “Harold Hill”, could never bamboozle.

Once in town, Hill looks for an opportunity to promote the “wholesome value of a local boys’ band” to the River City residents. He discovers through an old acquaintance, Marcellus (Paul Vega), that the town Billiard Parlor has just recently added a pool table to its entertainment opportunities. He begins at once to pull the town’s people aside and warn them of the many “evils” that can be fostered by young boys gathering around a pool-table, with the lyrics of “Ya got Trouble”! Of course his solution is simple, what this town needs is a “Boys’ Band” and “Professor” Harold Hill has come to the town’s rescue.

Of course, the town’s Mayor, known as Major Shinn (Warren McClure), also happens to be the owner of the Billard Parlor, in whence the pool table of iniquity resides. The Mayor is not too happy with Professor Hill’s campaign to paint his newly purchased pool table as a generator of community problems. The Mayor demands his School Board (played by Ben Baptiste, Bob Horwitz, Charles Feltman, and Bob Dunn) to track down “Professor” Hill’s credentials out of fear that the man is a music promoting charlatan. Harold Hill is a master of deception and distraction and manages to constantly distract the school board members by convincing them that they are a repository of barbershop harmony, sending them side-ways, off their objective, flush with harmonic song.

The community’s only legitimate musician, the local piano teacher and librarian, Marian Paroo (Rena Wilson), becomes Hill’s object of conquest, hoping to win her over to his revolutionary “Think System” of musical instruction. Marion, the very lovely, slightly lonely, and as yet, unmarried guardian of the town’s library, is not easily swayed by the ever-repetitious, amorous advances of Professor Hill.

Hill plays upon the towns-people’s love of their children and continues to sell the community a bill of goods, collecting money for all the children’s instruments, music, and uniforms, even from Marion’s mother, Mrs. Paroo (Joan Evans) for Marion’s very young and bashful brother, Winthrop (Nathan Baum). But in the process, the salesman brings a very conservative towns-people more in touch with each other, and in a way, earns their admiration and respect, so, that when a jealous salesman competitor comes to town to derail Hill’s financial ride, the town’s response is eventually, surprisingly, more positive than negative.

The acting and voices are terrific! Vocal Director, John Erréca, should be commended for his very important insistence that each and every voice clearly and pointedly articulate each and every syllable and consonant, making every word well heard! The music direction by Cheryl Yee Glass, the set design by Ed Gallagher, the costumes by Carol Edlinger, the lighting design by Michael Palumbo and the dance choreography by Kate Leland, each contribute in superb fashion to a well tuned, superbly directed, richly rewarding production. This production of The Music Man is absolutely “Pluperfect”, a treat for the entire family!

The Music Man plays Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m., with matinees on April 14th, 15th, 21st, 22nd, 28th and 29th at 2 p.m., now through May 5th. Tickets are very reasonable, between $$26 and $38 each. Call 925-943-7469 or visit the website at www.leshercenter.org. The DLRCA is located at 1601 Civic Drive in Walnut Creek.

Act Now! Theater Company delivers a fun-filled family comedy in Joseph Stein's 1930's comedy, Enter Laughing in the Dean Lesher Regional Center for the Arts!

In addition to the melodic beat of tapping feet in the Hofmann Theatre, upstairs in the DLRCA, there is a whole lot more going on with rollicking laughter on the ground floor in the Knight’s Stage III theatre, with Act Now! Theatrical Company’s production of Joseph Stein’s comedy, “Enter Laughing”.

Director Lynne Elizondo has once again delivered a sterling comedic adventure with a terrific cast and outstanding direction in this heartwarming tale of a young man’s delightfully funny, rollercoaster ride, as he attempts to become an actor, in the economically difficult landscape of the 1930’s.

David Kolowitz (Carter Chastain) is a loving, sincere, honorable young man who works as a delivery boy in a small machinery repair shop for Mr. Foreman (Peter Richman). His parents, Mr. and Mrs. Kolowitz (Bill Clemente and Sarilee Janger), want him to eventually attend druggist’s school as his path to a career in pharmacy. Young David, however, is a dreamer with a wild imagination. He dreams of becoming a famous actor, commanding the attention of the entire theatrical world, as well as a myriad of beautiful women.

His girlfriend, Wanda (Jennifer Taylor), is appreciated but somewhat taken for granted. In addition, David, like most young men of his age (18) is constantly attracted to the opposite sex. He becomes quite enamored with the very lovely Miss “B” (Karen Leigh), a very shapely and very attractive receptionist for a hat company where he delivers his employer’s repaired equipment.

David learns about an acting school that is looking for actors from his friend Roger (Kim Noblit), applies and is accepted, even given a scholarship (which amounts to a half-price reduction in his weekly training fee) and is promised a small but key part in their current production.

As it turns out, this company is truly desperate for actors, as David (the character), shows little promise as an actor, in fact, he is a real dud! The actor who plays David, Carter Chastain, is in fact a superb actor, as it takes an accomplished actor to play a complete dud, perfectly, and that is exactly what Carter does.

The story evolves as David’s very controlling Jewish mother, Mrs. Kolowitz, intimidates and cajoles her son, attempting to convince him that a life as an actor would be a total disaster. His dad, Mr. Kolowitz, is a loving father, is really wrapped around his wife’s finger and backs her up, even though he thinks his son is perfectly ok and can do no wrong. The story is about family values, David’s dream of romance and fame as an actor, and the value and support of friends, right, wrong, or indifferent.

David is determined to continue the acting efforts, but is torn my loyalty to his mother’s wishes, and Mr. Foreman’s concerns for him. David tackles his acting career with a flourish, but after a series of on-again, off-again starts; his new found romantic attention from the leading lady; his ultimate abiding respect for his current girlfriend, Jennifer, this topsy-turvy fun-filled comedy leaves you laughing all the way home having enjoyed an evening’s upbeat entertainment in ACT Now!’s current production of “Enter Laughing.”

This production continues Fridays and Saturdays at 8:15 p.m., with Sunday performances at 2:15, now through April 28th in the Knight’s Stage III Theatre in the Dean Lesher Regional Center for the Arts at 1601 Civic Drive in Walnut Creek. Call 925-943-7469 (SHOW) for tickets and reservations and additional information. Ticket prices range between $12.50 and $25 each. Live a little, laugh a little, and go home feeling just plain good! This is very enjoyable comedy by a great cast!