When it comes to playing frumpy, middle-aged widows, Meg Dooley is no match for Pert Kelton.
But in the new, more modern production of “The Music Man” at Mac-Haydn Theatre in Chatham, Dooley is just about perfect as a younger and hipper Mrs. Paroo.
“Our director, John Saunders, is taking a bit of a different approach to Mrs. Paroo,” said Dooley, who plays the mother of ingenue Marian Paroo (the librarian) in the Mac-Haydn production of the Meredith Willson musical opening with two performances today at 2 and 8 p.m.
“My character and Marian are both redheads, and John decided that we weren’t going to go for the real grandmotherly type.”
Kelton played the widowed Mrs. Paroo in the 1957 stage version as well as the 1962 movie with Robert Preston and Shirley Jones.
“We all have the character in our heads from the movie, but the script describes Mrs. Paroo as being in her 40s, which is a bit different now than it was back then,” said Dooley. “And, she does have a 10-year-old child, so we know she can’t be that old.”
Joining Dooley on stage is Julia Mosby as Marian Paroo and Eric Chambliss as Professor Harold Hill, a smooth-talking salesman of musical instruments whose sales pitch eventually seduces the entire town of River City, Iowa.
The show won the Tony Award for Best Musical in 1957, beating out “West Side Story.”
“I know there are people in the musical theater community who feel that ‘West Side Story’ should have won the Tony that year, but I really love ‘The Music Man,’ ” said Dooley. “I loved ‘West Side Story,’ too, but ‘Music Man’ is absolutely one of my favorite musicals. The music is wonderful and it’s a great story. It’s a real portrait of American life.”
As Mrs. Paroo, Dooley admits she doesn’t quite get as much opportunity to sing as she would like.
“I don’t sing that much, but I do ‘Gary, Indiana,’ and ‘The Wells Fargo Wagon,’ and there is a wonderful and funny exchange with Marian in ‘If You Don’t Mind Me Saying So,’ ” she said. “The show also has some very interesting music and a very unique opening sequence. Some of it is very talky. It’s very different from most other musicals.”
Dooley, who splits her time between New York City and Chatham, first came to the Chatham area to take vocal lessons from Marion Hunter back in the 1990s.
“I had done a lot of singing in church and in choirs, but it was Marion who really encouraged me to get involved in musical theater,” remembered Dooley.
“So, I auditioned in the spring of 1999 at Mac-Haydn and got the part of Mrs. Higgins, Henry’s mother, in ‘My Fair Lady.’ I had always thought about doing some musical theater, but life and various other things got in the way. But I’ve been working here pretty steadily now for quite a while, and I love it.”
Dooley credited Mac-Haydn co-creators Lynne Haydn and Linda McNish for getting her performing career started. When she isn’t busy at Mac-Haydn you might also find her at the Theater Barn in New Lebanon or the Ghent Playhouse.
In Troy, “Any Addict,” a dramatization of true stories told by 18 drug addicts, will be performed at the Arts Center of the Capital Region at 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday.
Michael Kennedy, who edited the transcripts and created the script, is directing the project along with assistant director Joanne Pearl. They are using a cast of 16 Capital Region actors to play the parts, including Patrick White, Joan Justice, John Stevenson and Amanda Brinke.
The addicts ranged in age from 20 to 70. The play contains profanity and adult themes.
In Schenectady, the Classic Theater Guild is presenting a staged reading series featuring new plays by local playwrights Friday through Sunday at its new gallery space at 137 State St.
Glenn Read and Kat Broadus are among the actors reading, while Amanda Stankavich and Ed Bablin are two of the local playwrights contributing new material.
Reach Gazette reporter Bill Buell at 395-3190 or [email protected]
‘The Music Man’
WHERE: Mac-Haydn Theatre, 1925 Route 203, Chatham
WHEN: Opens at 2 and 8 p.m. todayand runs through June 15; performance times vary
HOW MUCH: $30-$12
MORE INFO: www.machydntheatre.org, 392-9292
WHERE: Arts Center of the Capital Region, 265 River St., Troy
WHEN: 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday
HOW MUCH: $12-$10
MORE INFO: 763-2843
WHAT: Staged readings of new plays by the Classic Theater Guild
WHERE: Classic Theater Guild Gallery, 137 State St., Schenectady
WHEN: 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday, 2 p.m. Sunday
HOW MUCH: $7
MORE INFO: www.classictheaterguild.com, 387-9150