Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Musicals / Industry News

The Music Man turns 60! and KIDS version now available.

If your school or society hasn’t yet discovered this musical theatre gem, then get marching! There is no better time than 2017 to perform Meredith Willson's THE MUSIC MAN, a show full of hit songs like “Goodnight My Someone”, “Till There Was You” and the unforgettable “Seventy-Six Trombones”. In December 2017, this award-winning and delightful show officially earns its seniors card and turns 60 years old!.

THE MUSIC MAN is an unusual show with an unusual past. Composer, lyricist and book writer Meredith Willson was a complete Broadway novice but a respected film composer and musician, with many years of experience touring with John Phillip Sousa, the king of marching bands (and the designer of the sousaphone). Willson also played with the New York Philharmonic and even composed film music for Charlie Chaplin. However he had never so much as collaborated on a musical before when he starting writing his affectionate ode to his hometown and the skills of a unique salesman.

Willson took 8 years to refine and perfect THE MUSIC MAN, which opened on Broadway on December 19, 1957. It quickly endeared itself to audiences, racking up 1375 performances over three and a half years and winning the Tony Award for Best Musical, beating out WEST SIDE STORY and cementing its place in theatrical history. Two film versions followed: first in 1962, featuring Broadway’s Harold Hill (Robert Preston) again in the leading role; a second was released in 2003 starring Matthew Broderick and Kristin Chenoweth.

Sometimes described as the perfect musical comedy, Meredith Willson’s THE MUSIC MAN gives us the story of con man Harold Hill, a travelling salesman hopping from town to town, convincing the townspeople that they are in dire need of a boys’ marching band to save their precious children from the scourges of immorality and depravity – scourges that were concocted by Hill. Collecting money for instruments and uniforms, Hill skips town with the cash before the townsfolk can discover that he doesn’t know a trombone from a treble clef.

But when Hill tries his hand in River City, Iowa, he runs into a few complications. The local librarian and piano teacher, Marian Paroo, is immediately suspicious of “Professor” Harold Hill, yet can’t bring herself to expose him when she sees her lisping, withdrawn young brother Winthrop start to come out of his shell at the idea of learning the cornet in a boys’ band. Meanwhile, the town Mayor is not happy that Hill has decided to focus on the new pool table in his billiard parlour to demonstrate the “Trouble” that the sons of River City might get themselves into. Hill must evade the Mayor who is after his credentials, and distract Marian from discovering the truth. But by the time the curtain falls, the con man has discovered respectability, and both Harold and Marian have found love.

Willson may have been a theatrical novice, but there was no doubt he knew his way around a lyric. Instead of any conventional opening number, THE MUSIC MAN’s opening number “The Rock Island Line” is completely spoken (almost a precursor to rap music) and focuses on the show’s archetype – the travelling salesmen - slinging their rapid-fire barbs back and forth in time with the rhythm of the of the steam train.

There can’t be many of us alive that wouldn’t know the lyrics “Seventy-six trombones led the big parade”! Meredith Willson’s THE MUSIC MAN is full of danceable numbers (“Shipoopi”), romantic standards (“Goodnight, My Someone”; “Till There Was You”), barbershop quartets and unique chorus numbers (“Pick-a-Little, Talk-a-Little”).

The show’s diverse cast is perfect for musical societies and schools as it features a wonderful selection of small roles and solos for the townspeople and their children. Voice types range from the lyrical soprano required for Marian; enthusiastic teenagers and young children, harmonically solid barbershop singers, and strong chorus voices. The show is also a marvellous showcase for a talented actor/singer in the role of Harold Hill. The creator of the original role, Robert Preston, was not a trained singer, but as an experienced actor he relished the chance to deliver Willson’s tongue-twisting lyrics. “Trouble”, “Seventy-six Trombones” and “The Sadder-but-Wiser Girl” are brilliant moments to showcase an actor’s comic timing and rapid-fire patter.

For such a beloved show, surprisingly there have only been three Broadway productions over the past 60 years. Remarkably, and thanks to the industry of local producer Garnet H. Carroll, Australians were the first to experience Meredith Willson’s THE MUSIC MAN outside of New York, even before its move to the West End. There have only been two professional productions of Meredith Willson’s THE MUSIC MAN here in Australia – the original production in 1960 and a semi-staged version by The Production Company in 2002 with Rob Guest as Harold Hill. Perhaps this is because the show’s Iowa setting is so archetypically small-town America, but its themes are certainly universal – the redemption of a con man finding true love, and of a small town that discovered hope.


• Standard Terms of Use apply – please visit our website for details.
• Offer valid until 31st December 2016 for performanes in 2017
* Only available for THE MUSIC MAN JR & THE MUSIC MAN KIDS
** Only available for THE MUSIC MAN (full version)

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