Like Oz, River City is a city that exists only in our collective imagination. Nonetheless, it’s not an overstatement to say that its existence is embedded so deeply in the subconscious of the baby boomer generation that it has attained the status of myth. As such, it serves an essential purpose by defining and validating just who and what we are as a culture. To put it simply, this wonderful musical with its lovely, unforgettable tunes is as American as the proverbial apple pie.
Preston, Jones and Howard, cast in the classic movie adaptation, set the standard for their respective characters, and they have yet to be surpassed. Nevertheless, this version comes astonishingly close to reaching that high bar. The exceedingly talented White, Winslow and DeHart are simply marvelous to behold, performing true to the heart and spirit of their characters without resorting to some ersatz imitation of the original template. And their success can be attributed in no small measure to the uniformly strong and delightful supporting performances and the visionary direction of C. Michael Traw. Outstanding!
It’s a first class production in virtually every aspect: from the elaborate choreography and costuming, to the creative set, audio and lighting design-it’s definitely a winner. Notwithstanding some audio mixing problems, and the irony of a slightly out of tune, yet more than adequate, live orchestra, the presentation was virtually flawless. It’s not hyperbole to suggest that with a little more burnish we’re talkin’ the Curran in San Francisco, even Broadway, folks!
At the risk of sounding like a latter-day Professor Harold Hill, please do yourself a favor ladies and gentleman and run, not walk, to the theatre and treat yourself to this exceptionally entertaining slice of Americana before it ends its short run. Egads!