Welcome to our final rehearsal,” Kate Hicks said. “And keep in mind that, for us, this is still a rehearsal but we’ll try and make it the most perfect show ever.”

Hicks needn’t have worried.

If the rest of The Greater Cleburne Carnegie Players’ performances of “The Music Man,” which begins tonight and Hicks is directing, run as smoothly as Wednesday night’s dress rehearsal, success should be guaranteed.

Set in fictional River City, Iowa, circa 1912, Meredith Willson’s “The Music Man” follows “Professor” Harold Hill (Hillard Cochran), a con man claiming to be a prestigious music conservatory graduate from Gary, Ind. Hill’s scam — selling band instruments, costumes and music lessons, then skipping town before residents discover he can’t play a note — hits a snag thanks to his budding romance with town librarian Marian Paroo (Shannon Loose) and paternal feelings toward her younger brother Winthrop (Cooper Rodgers), a boy severely withdrawn since his father’s death. Suspicious town officials who question his credentials and another traveling salesman determined to expose him for a fraud add to Hill’s problems.

Hall employs flattery, diversion and a silver tongue to slip through most tight spots and only encounters a dilemma once Paroo — against her better judgment — falls for him. Actually, the play is never half that serious. Much singing, dancing and hilarity ensues. Sure, “The Music Man” is cornball by today’s standards, but that’s sort of the point.

What was normal entertainment in 1957, when it was first produced, now provides a balm of nostalgia and good old-fashioned fun to today’s coarser times.

It’s a break worth taking and the Carnegie Players deliver a top take on the classic. The scenery, costumes and actors’ use of all areas of the Don Smith Performing Arts Center deserve praise. Both leads deserve praise as well. Cochran brings just the right mix of smarminess and heart-of-gold to the role of Hill. Loose credibly slides from standoffish to smitten in the role of Paroo. While the remaining cast is too large to cover here, let it be said all are in great voice and quite a few deliver memorable performances.

Special mention is also due to music director Dick Helmcamp and the orchestra. Throughout they complemented and enhanced the action and performers without overpowering or distracting from either.

All of that aside, “The Music Man” contains a lot of fun music — “Gary, Indiana” accepted — and is that rare family-friendly affair that adults can enjoy as much as their children.

“The Music Man” plays at 8 p.m. today, Saturday, June 30 and July 1, and at 2:30 p.m. Sunday and July 2 at the Don Smith Performing Arts Center at Cleburne High School. Tickets are $12 for adults and $8 for children, students with ID and seniors over 65 and are available at the Cleburne Chamber of Commerce and at the door. For information, call 817-645-9255 or visit www.carnegie theater.com.



Matt Smith can be reached at 817-645-2441, ext. 2339, or msmith@trcle.com.

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