Sometimes Bakersfield gets a bad rap for what can be branded a small-town mentality. While our community is far more progressive than some give us credit for, it's worth noting that there can also be beauty in a simpler way of life. "The Music Man," which opens Friday at Stars, serves as a valentine to Mason City, Iowa, courtesy of playwright Meredith Wilson.

"It celebrates life and love in a time and place that it’s good to look back on that," said director Brenda Baldwin.

"I consider it the quintessential American musical."

The show, which debuted on Broadway in 1957, has enjoyed numerous stage revivals, along with a classic 1962 film and a made-for-television adaptation in 2003. It features such beloved classics as "76 Trombones," "Goodnight My Someone" and "Till There Was You."

Bruce Saathoff stars as Harold Hill, a con man planning to prey on the small Iowa town of River City by posing as a boys' band leader, ready to sell instruments and uniforms. Challenging him is Marian Paroo, a librarian and piano teacher who has his number.

Baldwin said she was excited to step in as director for the production, being a fan of the film and stage show, including a turn as the prim librarian.

"When you understand the material and have a great affection for it, you can help others capture the essence of it," she said.

"I treat it with such love. I want every character to reach their full potential."

The cast of 33 includes Bob Anderson, Leslie Lane, Julie Gaines, Kaya Leyendecker, Braxton Briscoe and Justin Thompson.

Along with the performers, Baldwin said the production would not be possible without her crew, including choreographer Brent Rochon and vocal co-director Char Gaines. Helping set the scene is designer Cory McCall, who the director said did a fantastic job bringing her vision to life.

"You can talk about it with somebody, but to bring it to life" is something else entirely, she said.

"It’s just a wonderful set and I'm grateful to Cory. He’s magnificent."

Complementing the staging are the costumes, designed by Laura Engle.

"It’s hard to describe how brilliant she is as a costumer," Baldwin said of Engle. "All the time, effort, energy and research to find the pieces to go together.

"The costuming is just beautiful. You couldn’t ask for more."

With a clever musical score, vibrant visuals and an uplifting tale, "The Music Man" is a fitting way to end the current season at the downtown theater.

"I think it’s a big hoorah to end the season," Baldwin said. "January is a gloomy time. This is bright and festive."

The show runs 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday. It continues with shows through Feb. 9. Call 325-6100 or visit for tickets.

Stefani Dias can be reached at 661-395-7488. Follow her on Twitter at @realstefanidias.

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