The Music Man Coming to Bayou City Straight From River City

In 1958 it won five tony Awards, beating out West Side Story for Best Musical in the process. It's The Music Man, the story of con man Harold Hill and his effect on the people of River City, Iowa and their effect on him.

Theatre Under the Stars is doing its own production of the classic and actor Dylan Godwin takes on the role of Marcellus Washburn, Harold's former protege in scams and schemes who departed from his mentor and chose the quiet life only to feel some of his old stirrings when Hill shows up in his town.

In most productions the Marcellus character has been played by someone with a lot more weight on him than Godwin. In fact, stage directions describe the character as "a roundish, perspiring man," Godwin readily acknowledges. But faced with the unlikely option of gaining 40 pounds to play the role more traditionally, Godwin says, he decided to go for the heart of the character.

"It's a great part," Godwin says. "Back in Marcellus's former life he was the guy that helped Harold (Anthony Crane) set up the cons. Since then he's taken a kinder approach to life and has sort of tried to settle down with a nice sort of comfortable girl. One day he's at work and all of a sudden Harold shows up and it reminds him of his former days on the prowl and he gets excited and goes back to it for a minute." Harold hatches a scheme to teach the town's kids to play music in a band, collects the money for instruments and uniforms but plans to skip town without delivering on his promise to teach them to play (which he couldn't do if he wanted to).

Godwin who won the 2014 Breakthrough Performance category at the Houston Theater Awards, has been in a number of local productions and teaches at Humphreys School of Musical Theatre. He's thrilled that among the huge cast - 60 actors - about 20 are students at the Humphreys School. "There's something about hearing 60 people singing at the same time to see that wall of sounds coming at you," he says. Songs include "(Ya Got) Trouble," "Seventy Six Trombones" and "Till There Was You."

"You don't see these big old musicals anymore. The grand tradition of what musical comedy used to be, the music ensemble," he says. The show is about community and a time period in American history when people didn't have social media and were just kind of connected to the people around them. "It is pure Americana. Regardless of what people say we have that instilled in us. Ultimately what it's about is this guy coming into this closed stubborn town and through conning them it kind of opens their eyes to a world outside of themselves and to each other too. In conning them he helps them out and in doing that he makes himself better. The last sort of feeling you're left with is redemption in a way."

Performances of The Music Man are scheduled for May 5-17. 7:30 p.m. Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays and Sundays; 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and 2 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays. Hobby Theater Center, 800 Bagby, For information call 713-558-8887 or visit $25-$125.

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Margaret Downing is the editor-in-chief who oversees the Houston Press newsroom and its online publication. She frequently writes on a wide range of subjects.
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