The City of Gary was founded in 1906 by the United States Steel Corporation as the home for its new plant, with this future metro area along the lake named after the lawyer and founding chairman of U.S. Steel, Elbert H. Gary.
It's easy to remember the founding year for Northwest Indiana's largest city, since it is forever etched as a Broadway stage footnote in Meredith Willson's popular 1957 musical "The Music Man."
Not only did Willson, who was actually born and raised in Mason City, Iowa, write a song for the show, set in 1912, called "Gary, Indiana," but the plot also includes an important reference to the founding of Gary as a city in 1906. It's the fact tossed out by Marian the Librarian when swindler traveling salesman Prof. Harold Hill claims he earned his music degree at the Gary Conservatory of Music in the Class of 1905, even though the City of Gary had yet to exist.
A new original production of "The Music Man" is the latest Broadway offering at Paramount Theatre in Aurora, Ill., with one final week of performances today through Sunday.
Clocking in at two and a half hours, with one intermission, it opened Jan. 16 and is directed and choreographed by Rachel Rockwell.
Starring in the title role is Stef Tovar, who has a little less pep in his step than some previous music men in this lead, from what I recall from other incarnations of the show I've enjoyed throughout the years. He's opposite Emily Rohm as his librarian love interest. The two have fine voices and share a chemistry.
Don Forston plays a perfectly pompous Mayor Shinn and Liz Pazik is great as his wife. Michael Aaron Lindner is in fine form as second banana Marcellus Washburn.
Encouraging the town librarian to find love are her mother, a great performance by Mary Ernster and little, lisping brother Wintrop, played nicely by Johnny Rabe.
Rounding out the vocal highlights are the gossipy ladies of the town, played by Caron Buinis, Lauren Villegas, Elizabeth Dowling and Anna Hammonds, who really capture the energy of the song "Pick-a-Little-Talk-a-Little," and the quartet of harmonizing school board members Roger Anderson, Rob Dorn, Sean Effinger-Dean and Matthew R. Jones.
Kevin Depinet has created an amazing set, only matched by the glorious hats and costuming of Melissa Torchia.
The pace of this show felt a little off, however, and I was never convinced the entire cast, assembled together for ensemble scenes, quite reached their full potential.
Tickets are $34.90 to $46.90 at (630) 896-6666 or paramountaurora.com.