Cute kids, creepy venue

Nevada Shakespeare Festival provokes warm fuzzies with The Music Man

Cameron Crain plays the title character in Nevada Shakespeare Festival’s production of <i>The Music Man</i>.

Cameron Crain plays the title character in Nevada Shakespeare Festival’s production of The Music Man.

Rated 3.0

The floorboards creaked. The ceiling sagged. Exposed insulation and flimsy-looking railings were the least of my concerns, compared to the chunks of wood missing from underneath the balconies.

Piper’s Opera House is one creepy old building.

I can hear the cries of indignation now. Yes, I know, it’s a historical landmark. In the late 1800s, Piper’s was the hippest little opry house in the West. I just wish it didn’t look so much like it was built in the 1800s.

But despite my nervousness, I have to admit that Piper’s is a great place to see such a classic American musical as The Music Man, Meredith Willson’s wholesome tribute to his home state of Iowa and the life of a small town in 1912. The period costumes and set seem to blend right in with the building’s vibe. Not that The Music Man is all about historic buildings crumbling to the ground, but you get my meaning.

The Nevada Shakespeare Festival’s Department of Education and Community Outreach presents this feel-good piece, which means two things: There’s a lot of adorable little tykes running around on stage, and the talent level varies wildly from person to person. Luckily, NSF found two strong leads to head the show.

Cameron Crain plays the title character, who calls himself Professor Harold Hill but is really some guy named Greg. Greg’s a traveling swindler trying to con the small town of River City into buying musical instruments and uniforms for a boys’ band. Of course, Greg doesn’t know how to play a note, and neither will the boys, something he hopes the townsfolk won’t discover until he’s absconded with their cash.

Cori Cooper plays the town’s uptight librarian and music teacher, Marian Paroo. Marian is an old maid with a dubious past—as 1912 standards go, at least—and she’s out to prove that Professor Hill is a crook. Problem is, he’s apparently the only single, attractive guy in River City, and she’s feeling mighty lonely.

Cooper really makes this show worth watching. She has a sweet soprano voice that is a pleasure to listen to, and I normally don’t like sopranos. Her portrayal of Marian had just the right Disney-esque touches, whether she was sternly glaring over her glasses or wistfully lost in Crain’s eyes.

Crain was also quite good, though his singing wasn’t as strong. Crain lends Professor Hill a boyish, mischievous air; I knew he wouldn’t get away with his scam, but I almost hoped he’d take off with the money anyway, because I liked him so much.

As the mayor’s daughter, 14-year-old Kyrie Fisher was hilarious. If I had to listen to that squeaky “ye gods!” 100 times, I’d probably laugh every time.

Speaking of squeaks, musical director Squeek LaVake deserves compliments. The live band kept the proceedings lively and sounded great. More applause goes to choreographer Norma Conway; the only flawed footwork I saw came from the littlest kids, and that’s to be expected.

The verdict: The Music Man is cute fun for the whole family, but I wouldn’t drive up Geiger Grade again to see it. At least, not until that Piper’s restoration project is complete.