30 Days Of The 2014 Tony Awards: Day #27 - THE MUSIC MAN
Today we continue the 2014 edition of our annual BroadwayWorld feature series spotlighting the very best Tony Awards-related moments of all time with a special spotlight on an American classic just announced to be coming in a live production broadcast on NBC next year, THE MUSIC MAN!
A true anomaly in the musical theatre canon, author-cum-composer/lyricist/bookwriter Meredith Willson spent the better part of a decade crafting the finely-honed show that became THE MUSIC MAN after initially pitching producers on the concept of adapting his own autobiographical book AND THERE I STOOD WITH MY PICCOLO, published in 1948, into a TV special. A heartwarming and deceptively prescient tale of a con man and his effect on a small Iowa town, THE MUSIC MAN is arguably the first musical to contain a proto-rap song - in the form a large dialogue section from the original libretto which was morphed into the rhythmic and catchy "Rock Island" that now opens the musical in classic fashion. While the rest of the score is loaded with gems, this first burst of brilliance expertly sets the stage for a show unlike any other in its design, intent, style and charm.
Of course, what also makes THE MUSIC MAN such a beloved entry among even Golden Age masterpieces is the incredible performance opportunities it affords the title star. While it is inconceivable to compare anyone the original essayer of the role, Golden Age superstar Robert Preston, the acting and performative chance it provides an able performer with is myriad - and, fully realized, potentially magical. After all, to this very day Harold Hill's "(Ya Got) Trouble" is widely referenced throughout pop culture, more than 50 years after its introduction in the 1961 original Broadway production, directed by Morton DaCosta and choreographed by Oona White.
In addition to Harold Hill, THE MUSIC MAN also boasts a glorious female lead role in the guise of the complex and enchanting Marian (The Librarian), created on Broadway by legend Barbara Cook. While Cook's pristine soprano is tough to top, subsequent leading ladies such as Rebecca Luker - as part of Susan Stroman's 2000 revival, starring Craig Bierko - as well as Kristin Chenoweth - sharing the screen with Matthew Broderick in the 2003 TV adaptation - have proven that there are compelling ways to attack the character while still being reverent and respectful to the church of Cook. Plus, nearly everyone around the world is well-versed in one of Marian's major musical moments in the musical thanks to The Beatles and their huge hit cover of "Till There Was You". Of note, Willson's widow admitted years later that the royalties from The Beatles cover outweighed those from the show itself, as a matter of fact.
And, what a score it is! Besides the aforementioned standards such as "(Ya Got) Trouble)", "Rock Island" and "Till There Was You", perhaps the most iconic of all the score standouts is the showstopping "Seventy-Six Trombones". Pure jubiliation. Perhaps it seems unfair to compare THE MUSIC MAN to WEST SIDE STORY, yet they shared the same season and THE MUSIC MAN came out the big winner at that year's Tony Awards, winning Best Musical as well as Best Actor In A Musical and Best Actress In A Musical, among others.
So, now, let's look at a few of the most attention-worthy moments from THE MUSIC MAN's long and lovely history.
First up, here is Craig Bierko, Rebecca Luker and company performing the show's biggest showstopper on the 2000 Tony Awards.
After that, see a preview of an ideal Harold Hill if there ever were any - Hugh Jackman in an impromptu talk show turn.
Lastly, a tribute to the one and only Robert Preston.
As a special bonus, sample Conan O'Brien's hilarious "(Ya Got) Trouble" as seen on the 2006 Emmys.
So, what exactly is it about THE MUSIC MAN that fills you with excitement and sets your heart (and ears) soaring? Is it the down home, good-natured Americana feel? Is it the awesome score? Whatever it is, THE MUSIC MAN is a classic and NBC is wise to pursue a new version for a new generation. So... Hugh, are you listening?!