Stage's most likable con man leads musical at three area theaters

Stage's most likable con man leads musical at three area theaters

June 24th, 2012 by Clint Cooper and Susan Pierce in Life Entertainment

Chuck Nalley, center, plays Harold Hill in the Closed Door Entertainment production of "The Music Man." His cohorts, from left, include J.C. Smith, Andrew Boone, Jonathan Ingle and Bob Marsden.

Photo by Angela Lewis /Times Free Press.

Harold Hill may be the stage's favorite con man.

Although he declares in the opening segment of "The Music Man" that he's going to a place "wherever the people are as green as the money," in the end he finally gets his "foot caught in the door."

In between, in the Meredith Willson musical, Hill warns the town's citizens of a "situation they do not wish to acknowledge," hastily forms a quartet of singers from a group of men who would as soon argue as talk, makes a match of the mayor's daughter and the town's delinquent, befriends the scandalized town spinster and makes a mint from parents who are eager for their sons to be in a band.

The singing, dancing extravaganza, set during a River City, Iowa, summer about 100 years ago, is the perfect summer musical.

In the area, three theaters have made "The Music Man" a summer presentation.

The production opened Friday at the Cumberland County Playhouse in Crossville, Tenn., and will run through Sept. 1. A Closed Door Entertainment production of the show debuts Friday at the Tivoli Theatre and runs through July 1. And Signal Mountain Playhouse hosts the musical beginning July 6 and continuing through July 28.

The role of Harold Hill is a coveted one in any production.

Greg Glover, the WRCB-TV anchor who plays the character on Signal Mountain, said his past as a tuba player and drum major at the University of Tennessee at Knoxville made Hill seem inviting.

"I'm a band geek from way back," he said. "This is a role I've always wanted to add to my resume."

Chuck Nalley, who plays Hill at the Tivoli, spoke for all three leading men, perhaps, in the effort it takes to put together such a complicated show.

"We've put a lot of sweat equity into it," he said. "It would be a shame for people to miss it."


Production company: Closed Door Entertainment.

Production location: Tivoli Theatre, 709 Broad St.

Production dates: 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday, 2 p.m. July 1.

Admission: $20-$28.50 (plus fees); call 642-8497 or 757-5156 to reserve.

Day job: Retail manager, GameStop.

Stage experience: Several dozen shows from high school and college to more recent roles as Gaston in "Beauty and the Beast," Audrey II (voice) in "Little Shop of Horrors" and the father in "A Christmas Story." Was previously in "The Music Man" but not as Harold Hill.

What makes Harold Hill a great con man: "I think he gets so into his profession. He's very, very likable -- a smooth-talking guy. You want to believe him as soon as you meet him. He can come up with a great spin or lie instantly.

Favorite song in the musical: "Trouble."

Favorite line: "I can't go, Winthrop. ... For the first time in my life, I got my foot caught in the door."

What he brings to the character: "A little bit of looseness. I'm not one of those actors who does the lines verbatim. I'll give a little pause [in his lines], interact with the audience, and laugh or wink."


Production company: Cumberland County Playhouse.

Production location: 221 Tennessee Ave., Crossville, Tenn.

Production dates: Through Sept. 1, dates vary weekly.

Admission: $14-$27; call 931-484-5000 to reserve.

Day job: Full-time actor.

Stage experience: Has co-starred in four national tours. Resident actor at CCP since 1997, starring in "Oklahoma," "Chicago," "A Little Night Music," and "Camelot" among the 50 major roles he has played. Has been in two performances of "The Music Man," but this is his debut as Harold Hill.

What makes Harold Hill a great con man: "He's so likable, so energetic and enthusiastic that he sells what he says. His winning personality draws people to him."

Favorite song in the musical: "Trouble."

Favorite line: " 'I always think there's a band, kid.' I think that's very telling of who Harold Hill is."

What he brings to the character: "I think it's fresh to me because I've never done the role before. I'm just trying to portray a very likable, genuine image of Harold Hill."


Production company: Signal Mountain Playhouse.

Production location: Amphitheatre at 301 Rolling Way on Signal Mountain.

Production dates: 8 p.m. Friday and Saturdays, July 6-28.

Admission: $15 adults, $5 children under 12; purchase tickets at gate.

Day job: WRCB-TV anchor/reporter.

Stage experience: Has performed in more than 100 plays, two dozen of them locally. This is his first time to be in "The Music Man."

What makes Harold Hill a great con man: "He's a good listener and thinks quickly. Those are the great parts of the play when he's looking for an 'in' with the townspeople. He listens to what's going on, what the town problems may be, and he makes a plan almost immediately. He's good with the improv."

Favorite song in the musical: "Trouble."

Favorite line: "Almost anything in 'Trouble,' that song is so challenging. The (verse) about 'tryin' out Bevo, tryin' out Cubebs, tryin' out tailor-mades like cigarette fiends, And braggin' all about how they're gonna cover up a telltale breath with Sen-Sen' -- I had to look everything up to learn what they were to understand what he was saying!"

What he brings to the character: "Since Harold Hill is a con man, there's an element of him that's not likable. But if you start the show off unlikable, you don't bring the audience along with you. Having played the beast in 'Beauty and the Beast' and Tommy in 'Brigadoon,' I hope to pull from those experiences to make Harold a likable con man from the beginning so the audience will be happy to come along on this experience with me."