Flashback Friday: ‘The Music Man’ marches into the hearts of fans

Matthew Broderick as Harold Hill.

Matthew Broderick as Harold Hill.

A musical set in small-town middle America in the early twentieth century may not sound like the most exciting show to ever hit Broadway, especially compared to the spectacles that are in theatres today. But The Music Man has proven over time to be a wonderful and uplifting musical despite its dull setting.

This show, which tells the story of con man Harold Hill’s ploy to make money by posing as a boys’ band conductor in River City, Iowa, opened in 1957 and became an instant hit, both with audiences and awards committees. With five Tony Award wins and the first Grammy Award for “Best Original Cast Album,” The Music Man showed that it was not going to disappear anytime soon when it closed after 1,375 performances.

And sure enough, a movie adaptation was made in 1962, with Robert Preston reprising the role of Harold Hill that he created on the stage, and Shirley Jones as the prim and proper town librarian, Marian Paroo, who becomes Harold’s love interest. Because it stuck closely to the original Broadway show but also provided different takes on the classic scenes and musical numbers, the film was blockbuster and was critically acclaimed.

A Broadway revival opened in 1980 with Dick Van Dyke starring as Hill. Unlike the original production, this revival was not quite the hit it was expected to be; it played for only 21 performances. A second, more successful revival was staged in 2000, which inspired another movie adaption – this time made-for-TV – in 2003 with Matthew Broderick as the con man and Kristin Chenoweth as Marian the librarian.

The Music Man has been adapted many times, mostly because it has always been loved by many. Meredith Wilson’s music is the stand-out of the show. Tunes like “Seventy-Six Trombones” and “Goodnight, My Someone” have become classics, and The Beatles even covered “Till There Was You” making the song the most popular number of the musical.

Despite three previous productions on Broadway, it would be great to see a brand new revival of The Music Man coming back to New York very soon. While it most likely would not have the success of the very first production, or even of the first film adaptation, a new revival would introduce a whole different generation to this beloved show. River City, Iowa may not sound like the most exciting setting for a musical but it works very well for such a timeless show as The Music Man.

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