Hugh Jackman stars alongside Sutton Foster in Meredith Willson’s, The Music Man. The five-time Tony Award winning musical from 1957 is back and better than ever before! In The Music Man, Jackman will still star as the charismatic conman, Professor Harold Hill, who travels to River City and convinces local musicians to buy uniforms and instruments from him in order to start a band. But River City librarian Marian Paroo played by Sutton Foster, catches on to his plan, and somehow also becomes Hill’s love interest, and Hill is forced to choose between love or money…
Four Tony Award winning actors join stars Hugh Jackman and Sutton Foster in the production, Jefferson Mays will play the pompous mayor of River City, Iowa, with Jayne Houdyshell as his overbearing wife, Mrs. Shinn. Marie Mullen will appear as Mrs. Paroo, the Irish mother of Foster’s character, the town librarian and part-time piano teacher Marian. Shuler Hensley will play Marcellus Washburn, an old friend and former shill of “Professor” Harold Hill, the con man posing as a traveling salesman, is played by Jackman, reprising a role that earned the original actor, Robert Preston a Tony award for best actor in a musical in 1957.
Jackman’s huge footprint in musicals goes back a long way. In his early career days in Australia, he starred on stage in Sunset Boulevard and Beauty and the Beast, before landing the part of Curly in an acclaimed 1998 National Theatre revival of Oklahoma! in London. He headlined a 2002 Carnegie Hall concert staging of Carousel, opposite Audra McDonald, and starred in the big-screen musicals Les Misérables and The Greatest Showman. In 2003 Jackman made his Broadway debut with a Tony winning performance in The Boy From Oz, since then he has appeared in A Steady Rain in 2009, The River in 2014 and the concert showcase Hugh Jackman, Back on Broadway in 2011.
“The first musical I was ever part of was the phenomenal The Music Man,” said Jackman in a statement. “The year was 1983, and I was at Knox Grammar School in Sydney, Australia. I was one of the traveling salesmen, and I think I can actually (almost) remember that unforgettable opening number! That was probably the moment when the magic of theater was born in me.”
The Music Man is a musical with book, music, lyrics by Meredith Willson, and produced by Scott Rudin, based on a story by Willson and Franklin Lacey. The show will be directed Jerry Zaks, with Warren Carlyle on board as choreographer, Santo Loquasto designing sets and costumes, Natasha Katz on lighting, Scott Lehrer on sound and David Chase on dance arrangements. Joining the team will be distinguished music veterans Jonathan Tunick, doing orchestrations, and Patrick Vaccariello as music director.
The show first opened in December 1957, at the Majestic Theatre, where it played for nearly three years before transferring to The Broadway Theatre, completing its 1,375 performance run there in April 1961. The success of the first Broadway run led to a popular 1962 film adaptation, in which Robert Preston reprised his role as Harold Hill and Shirley Jones played Marian.
A successful revival of The Music Man, directed and choreographed by Susan Stroman, opened in April 2000, at the Neil Simon Theatre, and was nominated for 8 Tony Awards in the same year. The revival repeated the theme with a 2003 television adaptation, starring Matthew Broderick as Hill and Kristin Chenoweth as Marian, with Victor Garber, Debra Monk, and Molly Shannon in supporting roles.
The 1957 Broadway production won five Tony Awards, including Best Musical, winning in the same year that West Side Story was nominated for the award. The original cast recording was released by Capitol Records in January 1958 in stereophonic & monaural versions and held the number 1 spot on the Billboard charts for a staggering twelve weeks, remaining on the charts for an unbelievable total of 245 weeks. The cast album was awarded the very first Grammy Award for Best Original Cast Album at the first Grammy Awards ceremony in 1958 and was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame Award winners in 1998.
The Music Man is set in the fictional town of River City, Iowa, in 1912, based on Willson’s birthplace, Mason City, Iowa. However, there are a few inconsistencies with the time; The song, “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, was first brewed in 1916. In addition, Rafael Méndez, referred to by Hill as “O’Mendez,” a great Irish trumpeter, was only six years old in 1912.
MAN, OH MUSIC MAN. A review of The Music Man, at Goodman Theatre’s Albert Theatre by Lawrence Bommer for Theatre in Chicago, July 2019.
If ever a show spelled out summer, it’s Meredith Willson’s 1957 masterpiece The Music Man. Throughout the rollicking story, the title character exudes sunny optimism, a flimflam that “Professor” Harold Hill wants to believe as much as the suckers who take it in. His buoyant drive fits the season like a picnic. It’s 150 minutes of bumptious confidence triumphing over small-town suspicion.
Of course Hill is a 1912 confidence man who hornswaggles a ragtag band into playing music, a shy boy into speaking, a town into believing in itself, and a librarian into love. The sturdy story is perfectly embedded in a very particular time capsule as Willson meticulously employs, with glorious abandon, assorted slang, celebrities and colorful metaphors from the era and the state.
Helping this miracle worker Hill cast his spell, Willson gives him such powerful persuasion as “Seventy-Six Trombones” and “Trouble,” the famous snake-oil sermon. By the musical’s end Hill has sold far more than he knows, a passel of dreams for River City to grow on. It’s a great formula: As in The Rainmaker, a mysterious stranger comes to town and changes everyone for the best, including himself when he realizes that what he gives is worth far more than what he sells.
In 2019, when the swindles are much more serious, we need this show like a fix. “Ya Got Trouble” indeed! But we’ve also got The Music Man!