The Company Theatre’s production of Meredith Wilson’s Broadway classic “The Music Man,” which kicks off Friday at the venerable Norwell playhouse, brings Holbrook native and local theater staple Michael Hammond back, after two years, to where audiences know him best: front and center onstage.

The Company Theatre’s production of Meredith Wilson’s Broadway classic “The Music Man,” which kicks off Friday at the venerable Norwell playhouse, brings Holbrook native and local theater staple Michael Hammond back, after two years, to where audiences know him best: front and center onstage.


Hammond, who tackles the now-legendary role of charmer and would-be charlatan Harold Hill, hasn’t been gone or anything – he’s just been on the other side of the proscenium, directing and choreographing a number of different projects for the Company and other groups.


It’s been a good long while, though, since 2007’s “The Will Rogers Follies,” which was the last time Hammond graced the stage. What brought him back?


The role.


Harold Hill, Hammond says, is “irresistible.”


“I had to do it. It’s really interesting because the show is so brilliantly written,” said Hammond. “I got to analyze that this time and appreciate just how well. I’m not really a huge fan of classic musicals – I tend to like things that are a little heavier. But for some reason this one appeals to me. You can choose to focus on whatever you want, really. If you like upbeat musical numbers it has those, if you want a great storyline, it has those, there’s something for everyone.”


The Company hasn’t made any major adjustments to the story, which still concerns the raffish Hill’s efforts to relieve the naive residents of River City, Iowa of their hard-earned cash, thinking they’re financing uniforms and instruments for a music program. Hill, of course, didn’t bank on one thing – falling love with librarian Marian Paroo, here played by Ann McCoy. The musical numbers that frame the story and their romance – among them, “76 Trombones” – are some of the most famous in musical theater history.


“Music Man is a special show for a lot of reasons, but it should be pointed out that it embraces three great American styles of music, [including] the Broadway styles of the great era of American musicals, as well as the vintage sound of barbershop,” said Michael Joseph, the Company’s music director and one its co-founders. “Finally, there is fantastic and exciting orchestra music that borrows from the rousing marching band tradition of John Philip Sousa. These styles, when performed in as well as in our production, are stirring and so much fun for the audience. They give the show its ‘period feel.’”


The production is also a reunion for Hammond and McCoy, as matter of fact – the two played opposite each other in “Will Rogers” as well.


“I think the chemistry just wasn’t coming across at first,” laughs Hammond, “precisely because we feel so comfortable with each other. It’s supposed to be that tension of two people not knowing each other, but [Ann] and I is like watching two old friends. I remember being a kid and doing theater for the first time and thinking I’d never see anyone again after a show ended, which, if you’re in this business long enough, you realize isn’t the case at all.”


Hammond’s association with the Company Theatre goes back at least two decades, he said. His first show was “Anything Goes,” and he remembers his first day of auditions didn’t go too well.


“I went to an audition and I was so intimidated that I just went home. I got there, filled out a sheet and then said ‘no way,’” he recalled. “It was pretty early on, maybe ‘86 or ‘87. But even back then they were such an incredibly supportive group of people. They always give you an opportunity to pursue something if you’re interested in it.”


With regional theater groups declining left and right thanks to the ravages of a down economy – the North Shore Music Theater, which went under in June, was probably the area’s most visible example – Hammond champions the Company Theatre’s resilience.


“The quality of their shows is consistent. They work harder than anyone else to put out a good product,” Hammond said. “I think they’ll do anything they need to do to keep it alive, and both they and the audience just love the shows.”


THE MUSIC MAN at the Company Theatre, 30 Accord Park Drive, Norwell, July 24-Aug. 16. Tickets $30-$32, head to www.companytheatre.com for showtimes, reservations and additional information.


The Patriot Ledger