|"The Music Man"|
Original Broadway Poster
|Book||Meredith Willson and Franklin Lacey|
|Productions||1957 Broadway |
1961 West End
1980 Broadway revival
2000 Broadway revival
|Awards||Tony Award for Best Musical|
The Music Man is a musical with book, music, and lyrics by Meredith Willson, based on a story by Willson and Franklin Lacey. The plot concerns con man Harold Hill, who poses as a boys' band organizer and leader and sells band instruments and uniforms to naive Midwestern townsfolk, promising to train the members of the new band. Harold is no musician, however, and plans to skip town without giving any music lessons. Prim librarian and piano teacher Marian sees through him, but when Harold helps her younger brother overcome his lisp and social awkwardness, Marian begins to fall in love. Harold risks being caught to win her.
In 1957, the show became a hit on Broadway, winning five Tony Awards, including Best Musical, and running for 1,375 performances. The cast album won the first Grammy Award for Best Musical Theater Album and spent 245 weeks on the Billboard charts. The show's success led to revivals, including a long-running 2000 Broadway revival, a popular 1962 film adaptation and a 2003 television adaptation. It is frequently produced by both professional and amateur theater companies.
Meredith Willson was inspired by his boyhood in Mason City, Iowa, to write and compose his first musical, The Music Man. Willson began developing this theme in his 1948 memoir, And There I Stood With My Piccolo. He first approached producers Cy Feuer and Ernest Martin for a television special, and then Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer producer Jesse L. Lasky. After these and other unsuccessful attempts, Willson invited Franklin Lacey to help him edit and simplify the libretto. At this time, Willson considered eliminating a long piece of dialogue about the serious trouble facing River City parents. Willson realized it sounded like a lyric, and transformed it into the patter song "Ya Got Trouble". Willson wrote about his trials and tribulations in getting the show to Broadway in his book But He Doesn't Know the Territory.
The character Marian Paroo was inspired by Marian Seeley of Provo, Utah, who met Willson during World War II, when Seeley was a medical records librarian. In the original production (and the film), the School Board was played by the 1950 International Quartet Champions of the Society for the Preservation and Encouragement of Barber Shop Quartet Singing in America (SPEBSQSA), the Buffalo Bills. Robert Preston claimed that he got the role of Harold Hill despite his limited singing range because, when he went to audition, they were having the men sing "Trouble". The producers felt it would be the most difficult song to sing, but with his acting background, it was the easiest for Preston.
After years of development, a change of producers, almost forty songs (twenty-two were cut), and more than forty drafts, the original Broadway production was produced by Kermit Bloomgarden, directed by Morton DaCosta and choreographed by Onna White. It opened on December 19, 1957 at the Majestic Theatre. It remained at the Majestic for nearly three years before transferring to The Broadway Theatre to complete its 1,375-performance run on April 15, 1961. The original cast included Robert Preston (who went on to reprise his role in the 1962 screen adaptation) as Harold Hill, Barbara Cook as Marian, Eddie Hodges as Winthrop, Pert Kelton as Mrs. Paroo, Iggie Wolfington as Marcellus Washburn and David Burns as Mayor Shinn. Eddie Albert and Bert Parks each replaced Preston as Hill later in the run, and Paul Ford was a replacement for Mayor Shinn, later reprising the role in the film version. Howard Bay designed the sets. The musical won five Tony Awards, including Best Musical, winning in the same year that West Side Story was nominated for the award. Preston, Cook and Burns also won.Liza Redfield became the first woman to be the full-time conductor of a Broadway pit orchestra when she assumed the role of music director for the original production's final year of performances beginning in May 1960. The long-running US national tour opened in 1958, starring Forrest Tucker as Hill and Joan Weldon as Marian.
The original Australian production ran from March 5, 1960 to July 30, 1960 at the Princess Theatre in Melbourne, and at the Tivoli Theatre in Sydney from December 13, 1960 to February 4, 1961. The first UK production opened at Bristol Hippodrome, transferring to London's West End at the Adelphi Theatre on March 16, 1961, starring Van Johnson, Patricia Lambert, C. Denier Warren, Ruth Kettlewell and Dennis Waterman. It ran for 395 performances at the Adelphi.
A two-week revival at New York City Center ran in June 1965, directed by Gus Schirmer, Jr. and starring Bert Parks as Harold Hill. Doro Merande and Sandy Duncan played, respectively, Eulalie and Zaneeta Shinn. A three-week revival, directed and choreographed by Michael Kidd, ran in June 1980, also at the New York City Center. The cast included Dick Van Dyke as Hill, Meg Bussert as Marian, Christian Slater as Winthrop, Carol Arthur as Mrs. Paroo, and Iggie Wolfington (who played Marcellus in the 1957 production) as Mayor Shinn.
In 1987, a Chinese translation of the musical was staged at Beijing's Central Opera Theater.New York City Opera staged a revival from February to April 1988, directed by Arthur Masella and choreographed by Marcia Milgrom Dodge, starring Bob Gunton as Hill, with Muriel Costa-Greenspon as Eulalie and James Billings as Marcellus.
Another Broadway revival, directed and choreographed by Susan Stroman, opened on April 27, 2000 at the Neil Simon Theatre, where it ran for 699 performances and 22 previews. The cast included Craig Bierko (making his Broadway debut) as Hill and Rebecca Luker as Marian. Robert Sean Leonard and Eric McCormack portrayed Hill later in the run.
A Broadway revival is planned to begin previews on September 9, 2020, and open on October 22, starring Hugh Jackman as Hill and Sutton Foster as Marian, produced by Scott Rudin and directed by Jerry Zaks with choreography by Warren Carlyle.
In the early summer of 1912, aboard a train leaving Rock Island, Illinois, Charlie Cowell and other traveling salesmen argue about consumer credit ("Rock Island"). The conversation turns to another topic: a con man known as "Professor" Harold Hill, who scams parents by promising to form boys bands, taking payments for instruments and uniforms and skipping town with the money before being exposed. Upon the train's arrival in River City, Iowa, a stranger declares, "Gentlemen, you intrigue me. I think I shall have to give Iowa a try." Retrieving his suitcase, labeled "Professor Harold Hill," he exits the train.
After townspeople of River City describe their reserved, "chip-on-the-shoulder attitude" ("Iowa Stubborn"), Harold sees his old friend and shill, Marcellus Washburn, who has "gone legit" and now lives in the town. Marcellus tells Harold that Marian Paroo, the librarian who gives piano lessons, is the only trained musician in town. He also informs Hill that a new pool table was just delivered to the town's local billiard parlor, so to launch his scheme, Harold convinces River City parents of the "trouble" that can come from a pool table ("Ya Got Trouble"). Harold follows Marian home, attempting to flirt with her, but she ignores him. Marian gives a piano lesson to a little girl named Amaryllis while arguing with her widowed mother about her high "standards where men are concerned"; she mentions the man who followed her home ("Piano Lesson/If You Don't Mind My Saying So"). Marian's self-conscious 10-year-old brother Winthrop arrives home. Amaryllis, who secretly likes Winthrop but teases him about his lisp, asks Marian to whom she should say goodnight on the evening star, since she doesn't have a sweetheart. Marian tells her to just say goodnight to her "someone" ("Goodnight, My Someone").
The next day, Mayor Shinn and his overbearing wife Eulalie MacKecknie Shinn lead the festivities for Independence Day at the high school gym ("Columbia, the Gem of the Ocean") but are interrupted by a firecracker set off by troublemaker Tommy Djilas. Harold takes the stage and announces to the townspeople that he will prevent "sin and corruption" from the pool table by forming a boys' band ("Ya Got Trouble [reprise]/Seventy-Six Trombones"). Mayor Shinn, who owns the billiard parlor, tells the bickering school board to get Harold's credentials, but Harold gets them to sing as a Barbershop Quartet to distract them ("Ice Cream/Sincere"). Harold also sets up Zaneeta, the mayor's eldest daughter, with Tommy, and persuades Tommy to work as his assistant. After another rejection by Marian, Harold is determined to win her ("The Sadder But Wiser Girl"). The town ladies are very excited about the band and the ladies' dance committee that Harold plans to form. He mentions Marian, and they imply (falsely, it turns out) that she had an affair with a now-deceased miser, who willed the library building to the town but left all the books to Marian. They warn Harold that she advocates "dirty books" by "Chaucer, Rabelais and Balzac" ("Pick-a-Little, Talk-a-Little"). The school board arrives to review Harold's credentials, but he leads them in song and slips away ("Goodnight, Ladies").
The next day, Harold walks into the library to woo Marian in earnest ("Marian the Librarian"). For a moment, she forgets her decorum and dances with Harold and the teenagers. Harold kisses her; when she tries to slap him, she accidentally hits Tommy instead. With Tommy's help, Harold signs up all the boys in town to be in his band, including Winthrop. Mrs. Paroo likes Harold and tries to find out why Marian is not interested. Marian describes her ideal man ("My White Knight"). She sets out to give Mayor Shinn evidence against Harold that she found in the Indiana State Educational Journal, but they are interrupted by the arrival of the Wells Fargo wagon, which delivers the band instruments ("The Wells Fargo Wagon"). When Winthrop forgets to be shy and self-conscious because he is so happy about his new cornet, Marian begins to see Harold in a new light. She tears the incriminating page out of the Journal before giving the book to Mayor Shinn.
The ladies rehearse their classical dance in the school gym while the school board practices their quartet ("It's You") for the ice cream social. Marcellus and the town's teenagers interrupt the ladies' practice, taking over the gym as they dance ("Shipoopi"). Harold grabs Marian to dance with her, and all the teenagers join in. Regarding Winthrop's cornet, Marian later questions Harold about his claim that "you don't have to bother with the notes". He explains that this is what he calls "The Think System", and he arranges to call on Marian to discuss it. The town ladies ask Marian to join their dance committee, since she was "so dear dancing the Shipoopi" with Professor Hill ("Pick-a-Little, Talk-a-Little" [Reprise]). They have reversed their opinions about her books, and they eagerly tell her that "the Professor told us to read those books, and we simply adored them all!"
That night, the school board tries to collect Harold's credentials again, but he gets them to sing again and slips away ("Lida Rose"). Marian, meanwhile, is sitting on her front porch thinking of Harold ("Will I Ever Tell You?"). Winthrop returns home after spending time with Harold and tells Marian and Mrs. Paroo about Harold's hometown ("Gary, Indiana"). As Marian waits alone for Harold, traveling salesman Charlie Cowell enters with evidence against Harold, hoping to tell Mayor Shinn. He only has a few minutes before his train leaves, but stops to flirt with Marian. She delays him so he won't have time to deliver the evidence, eventually kissing him. As the train whistle blows, she pushes him away. Charlie angrily tells Marian that Harold has a girl in "every county in Illinois, and he's taken it from every one of them – and that's 102 counties!"
Harold arrives, and after he reminds her of the untrue rumors he's heard about her, she convinces herself that Charlie invented everything he told her. They agree to meet at the footbridge, where Marian tells him the difference he's made in her life ("Till There Was You"). Marcellus interrupts and tells Harold that the uniforms have arrived. He urges Harold to take the money and run, but Harold refuses to leave, insisting, "I've come up through the ranks... and I'm not resigning without my commission". He returns to Marian, who tells him that she's known since three days after he arrived that he is a fraud. (Harold earlier claimed to have graduated from the Gary Conservatory in 1905, but Gary, Indiana, was not founded until 1906.) Because she loves him, she gives him the incriminating page out of the Indiana State Educational Journal. She leaves, promising to see him later at the Sociable. With his schemes for the boys' band and Marian proceeding even better than planned, Harold confidently sings "Seventy-Six Trombones". As he overhears Marian singing "Goodnight My Someone", Harold suddenly realizes that he is in love with Marian; he and Marian sing a snatch of each other's songs.
Meanwhile, Charlie Cowell, who has missed his train, arrives at the ice cream social and denounces Harold Hill as a fraud. The townspeople begin an agitated search for Harold. Winthrop is heartbroken and tells Harold that he wishes Harold never came to River City. But Marian tells Winthrop that she believes everything Harold ever said, for it did come true in the way every kid in town talked and acted that summer. She and Winthrop urge Harold to get away. He chooses to stay and tells Marian that he never really fell in love until he met her ("Till There Was You" [Reprise]). The constable then handcuffs Harold and leads him away.
Mayor Shinn leads a meeting in the high school gym to decide what to do with Harold, asking, "Where's the band? Where's the band?" Marian defends Harold. Tommy enters as a drum major, followed by the kids in uniform with their instruments. Marian urges Harold to lead the River City Boys' Band in Beethoven's Minuet in G. Despite the boys' limited musical ability, the parents in the audience are nonetheless enraptured by the sight of their children playing music. Even Mayor Shinn is won over, and, as the townspeople cheer, Harold is released into Marian's arms ("Finale").
"Lida Rose" and "Will I Ever Tell You", sung first separately and then simultaneously, are examples of Broadway counterpoint (songs with separate lyrics and separate melodies that harmonize and are designed to be sung together). Similarly, "Pickalittle" and "Good Night Ladies" are also sung first separately, and then in counterpoint. Willson's counterpoint, along with two counterpoint song pairs from Irving Berlin musicals, are lampooned in the 1959 musical Little Mary Sunshine, where three counterpoint songs are combined: "Playing Croquet," "Swinging" and "How Do You Do?." "Goodnight, My Someone" is the same tune, in waltz time, as the march-tempo "Seventy-six Trombones".
In the 1962 movie, the 1980 and 2000 revivals, and some amateur and regional productions, "Gary, Indiana" is sung in Act I by Harold and Mrs. Paroo (between "Marian the Librarian" and "My White Knight"), with Winthrop singing a reprise of it in Act II.
|Character||Original Broadway Cast
|Original West End
|TV Film |
|Prof. Harold Hill||Robert Preston||Van Johnson||Craig Bierko||Matthew Broderick|
|Marian Paroo||Barbara Cook||Patricia Lambert||Rebecca Luker||Kristin Chenoweth|
|Marcellus Washburn||Iggie Wolfington||Bernard Spear||Max Casella||David Aaron Baker|
|Mayor Shinn||David Burns||C. Denier Warren||Paul Benedict||Victor Garber|
|Eulalie Shinn||Helen Raymond||Nan Munro||Ruth Williamson||Molly Shannon|
|Mrs. Paroo||Pert Kelton||Ruth Kettlewell||Katherine McGrath||Debra Monk|
|Winthrop Paroo||Eddie Hodges||Dennis Waterman||Michael Phelan||Cameron Monaghan|
|Professor Harold Hill||A confidence man and traveling salesman|
|Marian Paroo||The town librarian and part-time piano teacher|
|Marcellus Washburn||Harold's old friend and former shill, who now lives in River City|
|Mayor George Shinn||A pompous local politician; suspicious of Hill|
|Eulalie Mackecknie Shinn||The mayor's wife|
|Mrs. Paroo||Marian's Irish mother|
|Winthrop Paroo||Marian's shy, lisping brother|
|Character||Description||Original Broadway performer|
|The School Board (Barbershop Quartet)||Four bickering businessmen united by Hill (Olin Britt, Oliver Hix, Ewart Dunlop and Jacey Squires)||Bill Spangenberg, Wayne Ward, Al Shea and Vern Reed (The Buffalo Bills)|
|Pickalittle Ladies||Eulalie's four gossipy friends (Alma Hix, Mrs. Squires, Ethel Toffelmier and Maud Dunlop)||Adnia Rice, Martha Flynn, Peggy Mondo and Elaine Swann|
|Tommy Djilas||A young man "from the wrong side of town"; secretly seeing Zaneeta Shinn||Danny Carroll|
|Zaneeta Shinn||The mayor's oldest daughter; secretly seeing Tommy Djilas||Dusty Worrall|
|Charlie Cowell||An anvil salesman who tries to expose Hill as a con man||Paul Reed|
|Constable Locke||The town sheriff||Carl Nicholas|
|Amaryllis||Marian's young piano student||Marilyn Siegel|
The Music Man is set in the fictional town of River City, Iowa, in 1912. The town is based in large part on Willson's birthplace, Mason City, Iowa, and many of the musical's characters are based on people that Willson observed in the town.. The "river" in River City is probably the Mississippi River near Davenport, Iowa: the Rock Island conductor's announcing "River City, Iowa! Cigarettes illegal in this state" implies crossing the Mississippi from Rock Island, Illinois, into Iowa. The year 1912 was a time of relative innocence, as recalled in 1957 after two world wars, the Great Depression and the arrival of atomic weapons.
The musical includes numerous references to popular culture of the time. For example, in making his pitch, Harold Hill lists popular musicians and composers: Gilmore, Pat Conway, Giuseppe Creatore, W.C. Handy and John Philip Sousa. Some of the cultural references are anachronistic: "Trouble" contains references to both Captain Billy's Whiz Bang, a monthly humor magazine that did not begin publication until October 1919, and the nonalcoholic "near-beer" Bevo, which was first brewed in 1916. In addition, Rafael Méndez (referred to by Hill as "O'Mendez," a great "Irish" trumpeter) was six years old in 1912.
The first recording of "Till There Was You" was released before the original cast album version. Promotional copies of the 45 rpm single, Capitol P3847, were released on November 26, 1957, even before the Broadway production had premiered. Produced by Nelson Riddle, it featured his orchestra and 17-year-old vocalist Sue Raney.
The original cast recording was released by Capitol Records on January 20, 1958 in stereophonic & monaural versions and held the #1 spot on the Billboard charts for twelve weeks, remaining on the charts for a total of 245 weeks. The cast album was awarded "Best Original Cast Album" at the first Grammy Awards ceremony in 1958 and was inducted in 1998 as a Grammy Hall of Fame Award winner.
In 1959, jazz composer and arranger Jimmy Giuffre released Jimmy Giuffre and His Music Men Play The Music Man, consisting of jazz arrangements of tunes from the musical.
"Till There Was You" was covered by Anita Bryant in 1959 as a single for Carlton Records, reaching #30 on the Billboard Hot 100. ln 1963, The Beatles covered "Till There Was You" on their second LP With the Beatles (issued on Meet the Beatles! in the United States). Willson's widow later told The New York Times that his estate made more money from the royalties of the Beatles' recordings of "Till There Was You" than it did from the musical.
The success of the 2000 stage revival prompted a 2003 television movie starring Matthew Broderick as Hill and Kristin Chenoweth as Marian, with Victor Garber, Debra Monk, and Molly Shannon in supporting roles.
Though West Side Story had opened nearly three months earlier, The Music Man captured audiences, critics and five Tony Awards, including Best Musical. The New York Times theatre critic Brooks Atkinson wrote in his review "If Mark Twain could have collaborated with Vachel Lindsay, they might have devised a rhythmic lark like The Music Man, which is as American as apple pie and a Fourth of July oration.... The Music Man is a marvelous show, rooted in wholesome and comic tradition."
Walter Kerr of the Herald Tribune glowingly described the opening scene of the musical: "It's the beat that does it. The overture of The Music Man drives off with a couple of good, shrill whistles and a heave-ho blast from half the brass in the pit, with the heartier trombonists lurching to their feet in a blare of enthusiasm. The curtain sails up to disclose the most energetic engine on the Rock Island Railroad (circa 1912) hurtling across the proscenium with real smoke pouring out of its smokestack and real steam rolling along the rails". Kerr called Preston "indefatigable: he's got zest and gusto and a great big grin for another slam-bang march tune". Robert Coleman of the New York Daily Mirror wrote that the producer "made a 10-strike in landing Robert Preston for the title role", stating that Preston "paces the piece dynamically, acts ingratiatingly, sings as if he'd been doing it all his life, and offers steps that would score on the cards of dance judges".
Frank Aston of the New York World-Telegram and Sun declared "It deserves to run at least a decade", especially praising Barbara Cook's performance as Marian: "If all our stack-tenders looked, sang, danced, and acted like Miss Barbara, this nation's book learning would be overwhelming". John Chapman of the Daily News pronounced The Music Man "one of the few great musical comedies of the last 26 years", stating that Of Thee I Sing (1931) "set a standard for fun and invention which has seldom been reached. Its equal arrived in 1950 - Guys and Dolls - and I would say that The Music Man ranks with these two". In the Journal-American, John McClain deemed the show "a whopping hit. This salute by Meredith Willson to his native Iowa will make even Oklahoma! look to its laurels".
The Music Man's popularity has led to its being mentioned, quoted, parodied or pastiched in a number of media, including television, films and popular music.
The Music Man has been parodied in a number of TV shows, including The Simpsons episode "Marge vs. the Monorail", written by Conan O'Brien. At some point during the second Broadway revival, O'Brien was approached about playing the role of Harold Hill for a brief run, but he ultimately could not fit it into his schedule. He says, on the DVD commentary track for the aforementioned Simpsons episode, that it was the hardest choice he's ever had to make professionally, because The Music Man is one of his favorites. O'Brien did, however, as host of the 2006 Emmy Awards, sing a parody version of "Ya Got Trouble" in his opening monologue targeting NBC and their slide in the ratings.
The television program Family Guy has parodied the musical at least three times. In the episode "Brian Wallows and Peter's Swallows", Lois chastises Brian's high standards in a spoof of "Piano Lesson". In another episode, "Patriot Games", Peter showboats after scoring a touchdown by leading a stadium full of people in a rendition of "Shipoopi", complete with choreography from the film. In Episode 22 of Boston Legal, "Men to Boys", Alan Shore sings a parody of the song "Trouble" to convince patrons of a restaurant not to eat the salmon. Several Music Man songs were used in Ally McBeal, for example in the season 2 episode "Sex, Lies and Politics" in which lawyer John Cage spurs the jury into singing "Ya Got Trouble" with him. Season 2 Episode 15 (2012), "The Super Speedy Cider Squeezy 6000", of the TV show My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic, makes numerous allusions to The Music Man, including a song based on "Ya Got Trouble".
In the 1960 film The Apartment, Jack Lemmon's character is given tickets to the show but is stood up at the Majestic Theatre. In Romy and Michele's High School Reunion (1997), Michele sings "The Wells Fargo Wagon". The next year, in The Wedding Singer (1998), Robbie teaches Rosie to sing "'Til There Was You" for her 50th wedding anniversary.
The 2006 mockumentary/documentary Pittsburgh centers on actor Jeff Goldblum as he attempts to secure a green card for his Canadian actor/singer/dancer girlfriend, Catherine Wreford, by appearing with her as the leads in a summer regional theatre production of The Music Man in Goldblum's hometown of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
The political satire group, the Capitol Steps, parodies numerous songs from musicals, including The Music Man. To evoke turn of the 20th century Main Street USA at some of its theme parks around the world, Walt Disney Parks and Resorts uses songs from the show, including: "76 Trombones", "Iowa Stubborn", "Wells Fargo Wagon", and "Lida Rose".BIll Hayes parodied "Rock Island" in a 1959 industrial musical Good News About Olds written by Max Hodge, with Oldsmobile product terminology serving as the "whatayatalk".
The North Iowa Band Festival in Mason City, Iowa is a yearly event celebrating music with a special emphasis on marching bands. Willson returned several times to his home town of Mason City during the 1950s to participate in the event, including leading the "Big Parade", and the stars of the film version participated in the event in 1962.
|1958||Theatre World Award||Eddie Hodges||Won|
|Tony Award||Best Musical||Won|
|Best Performance by a Leading Actor in a Musical||Robert Preston||Won|
|Best Performance by a Featured Actress in a Musical||Barbara Cook||Won|
|Best Performance by a Featured Actor in a Musical||David Burns||Won|
|Best Direction of a Musical||Morton DaCosta||Nominated|
|Best Choreography||Onna White||Nominated|
|Best Conductor and Musical Director||Herbert Greene||Won|
|Best Stage Technician||Sammy Knapp||Nominated|
|2000||Tony Award||Best Revival of a Musical||Nominated|
|Best Performance by a Leading Actor in a Musical||Craig Bierko||Nominated|
|Best Performance by a Leading Actress in a Musical||Rebecca Luker||Nominated|
|Best Direction of a Musical||Susan Stroman||Nominated|
|Best Orchestrations||Doug Besterman||Nominated|
|Best Scenic Design||Thomas Lynch||Nominated|
|Best Costume Design||William Ivey Long||Nominated|
|Drama Desk Award||Outstanding Revival of a Musical||Nominated|
|Outstanding Actor in a Musical||Craig Bierko||Nominated|
|Outstanding Actress in a Musical||Rebecca Luker||Nominated|
|Outstanding Director of a Musical||Susan Stroman||Nominated|
|Outstanding Orchestrations||Doug Besterman||Nominated|
|Outstanding Set Design||Thomas Lynch||Nominated|
|Outstanding Costume Design||William Ivey Long||Nominated|
|Theatre World Award||Craig Bierko||Won|