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‘The Music Man’ Broadway: The Classic For A Modern Audience

The Music Man has returned once again to Broadway. Every twenty years or so they’ve had a revival. While I do know older Broadway fans who know the musical well, some of my fellow theatre friends don’t know anything about it. So whether you know it and love it or are new to it, I’m going to go a bit into everything about the show so you can decide if you want to see The Music Man Broadway before it closes January 2023.


What is The Music Man on Broadway about?

The plot follows con man Harold Hill (Hugh Jackman) as he pretends to be a band organizer and leader but isn’t actually a musician. He sells band uniforms and instruments to a group of trusting Midwestern townsfolk. He promises to train them, but he actually just intends to run with their money. Meanwhile, Marian (Sutton Foster), a piano teacher and librarian, is the only one who can blow a hole in the con he’s running. Marian is mostly uninterested in his attempts to get close to him… until he starts helping her younger brother (Benjamin Pajek) with his lisp and social struggles. 

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How is it different from other production and the movies? 

The biggest difference that fans have mentioned in this most recent rendition of the musical are lyrical and key changes. Several lines in songs were changed to suit a modern audience. Things like “hard to get…but you can win her yet” are changed to “the boy who’s seen the light…to treat a woman right.” As well as “My White Knight” being changed since Sutton Foster isn’t a soprano. In this change also came the change of lyrics to an earlier draft.

Outside of the original and this revival, the other Broadway renditions have had shorter runs. A lot of the differences have been what the actors have brought to their roles and blocking. There is the original The Music Man movie that has the original Broadway Harold Hill (Robert Preston) as well as several other of the original actors cast. In the most recent movie from 2003, Matthew Broderick plays Harold Hill and Kristen Chenoweth plays Marian. I think comparing the two is likely similar to comparing the original musical to a more modern revival.

Pop culture references to The Music Man you may have seen…

There are two ways The Music Man shows up in pop culture. Either in some form of parody, from one song to an entire episode, or by casual reference. I have some examples for multiple!

It’s been parodied on:

The Simpsons episode “Marge vs. the Monorail”

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Family Guy episode “Brian Wallows and Peter’s Swallows” 

The Family Guy episode “Piano Lesson” 

Family Guy episode “Patriot Games”

Boston Legal episode “Men to Boys”

Ally McBeal episode “Sex, Lies and Politics” 

My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic episode “The Super Speedy Cider Squeezy 6000”

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Referenced by:

In Grace and Frankie, Robert Hansen stars in a community theater production of The Music Man.

In The Apartment (1960), Bud is given tickets to the show but gets stood up.

With Romy and Michele’s High School Reunion, Michele sings “The Wells Fargo Wagon.”

In The Wedding Singer, Robbie teaches Rosie to sing “‘Til There Was You” for her 50th wedding anniversary.

Have you seen any of these? Are there any references you liked that I missed?


Do people like The Music Man?

The original production won multiple Tony’s including Best Musical, Best Performance by a Leading Actor in a Musical, Best Performance by a Featured Actress in a Musical, Best Performance by a Featured Actor in a Musical, Best Direction of a Musical, and Best Choreography amongst other awards. The 2000 revival had a lot of Tony nominations but no wins. Likewise with this 2022 revival. 

 In The New York Post’s review of the musical, writer Johnny Oleksinski writes that the musical: 

“does not live up to our oversize expectations. Quite unexpectedly, you leave not raving about Jackman, one of Broadway’s hottest sellers, but the music woman — Sutton Foster, who plays Marian “The Librarian” Paroo. She’s a wonder and the main reason to buy a ticket… Much has been made of Foster not having the soaring soprano range of Barbara Cook and Shirley Jones, but that doesn’t matter. Hers is as thoughtful, funny, threatening, witty, maternal and romantic a Marian as you’ve ever seen. She never settles for a schoolmarm stereotype and makes 65-year-old lines fresh.

In The Hollywood Reporter’s review of the musical, writer Frank Schechk writes: 

By technical standards, Jackman is neither a great singer nor a particularly accomplished dancer. But he manages to overcome those minor inconveniences through sheer force of will and clearly evident hard work. Unlike Robert Preston, who originated the role in the 1957 Broadway production and triumphantly recreated it in the 1962 film version, he never seems very larcenous.

Multiple fans praised how much Hugh Jackson cared for fans.

Fans share their love.

Have you seen it? What do you think?

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