The Music Man

“The Music Man” is a classic Broadway musical from the golden age. It opened on Broadway on Dec. 19, 1957, at the Majestic Theatre, and starred Robert Preston and Barbara Cook. It won five Tony Awards, including Best Actor in a Musical for Preston and the Tony Award for Best Musical.

It is being revived as a vehicle for movie star and Tony Award winner Hugh Jackman. His co-star is Broadway leading lady and two-time Tony Award winner Sutton Foster.

“The Music Man” follows a con artist salesman, Harold Hill, who travels the Midwest circuit conning people into buying musical instruments and uniforms for a boy’s marching band that he will organize. Of course, he is no musician and knows nothing about bands or instruments. He travels to River City, Iowa, where he pretends to be a professor of music from the Gary Conservatory of Music in Indiana. He takes money from the townsfolk to buy instruments and uniforms for their sons. He intends to abscond with the money, as he has always done. The town’s music teacher and librarian is a spinster, Marian. The one thing he doesn’t anticipate is falling in love with her.

Jackman oozes charm from every pore and is very good as Harold Hill. Foster is plainly miscast. She is far too old for the role; the thought of her having a 10-year-old brother is quite laughable. The music doesn’t suit Sutton’s voice. It was written for a high soprano like Cook, or Rebecca Luker, who played Marian in the 2000 Broadway revival. Sutton is a mezzo-soprano and despite the score having been lowered to try to fit her voice, it just doesn’t work.

The supporting cast, made up of treasured Broadway character actors, is what really gives the sparkle to this revival. Tony Award winner Marie Mullen plays Mrs. Paroo, Marian’s mother. The mayor of River City is played by Tony Award winner Jefferson Mays. Tony Award winner Jayne Houdyshell plays Eulalie Mackecknie Shinn, the mayor’s wife. They are all sheer perfection, with spot on comic timing.

Director Jerry Zaks, Choreographer Warren Carlyle and Set and Costume Designer Santo Loquasto, who all worked together on the Tony Award winning revival of “Hello, Dolly!” a few seasons ago, are not able to conjure up the same success here. “The Music Man” has a staid and static feel to it.