All tagged Meredith Willson
Break out the marching band uniforms, the brass instruments, the banners and batons! The Music Man is headed back to Broadway and it is time for a parade. Producer Scott Rudin has announced that Tony-winning actor Hugh Jackman (The Boy From Oz) will make his triumphant return to the Broadway musical stage as Professor Harold Hill in a revival of the classic for the fall of 2020. Jerry Zaks (Hello, Dolly!) will direct the piece with Warren Carlyle (After Midnight) choreographing. Performances will begin on September 9, 2020 toward an October 22 opening at a Shubert Theatre to be announced.
Meredith Willson gave us one big Broadway smash hit with The Music Man, one modest hit with The Unsinkable Molly Brown, and one critical failure with the musical Here’s Love. For a man who wrote so adeptly about parades and an unlikely romance between two stubborn individuals in The Music Man, Willson seemed like an ideal choice for bringing the classic holiday film Miracle on 34th Street to the musical stage. Here’s Love was that attempt, but the show failed to ignite on Broadway lasting a serviceable (if lackluster) 334 performances. Not exactly a disaster, but this was a time when the big hits were running well over 1,000 performances. The show opened on October 3, 1963, a little over a month before the assassination of John F. Kennedy, which may have led to a slump in ticket sales as Broadway as a whole experienced a weak fall and winter that season. Nevertheless, Here’s Love cannot blame all of its shortcomings on the bad timing of its opening.
The bookwriter of a musical is probably the greatest unsung hero of Broadway. He or she gets very little recognition when a show works, but when a show fails, the book writer is often the first to be blamed. It is perhaps a thankless task, but their work is essential to designing the framework of the story for the composer and lyricist to hang their score on. Indeed, some of the book writer's best writing is often transformed into musical moments, stealing the best of their thunder. Many books of a Broadway musical are amazingly strong and today's top-ten list is an examination of some of the best. I made my choices by the criteria of originality, intelligently designed character voice, and the book needs to follow strong storytelling structure. I know I will be maligned for leaving certain titles out and I'm glad to justify why I left them off the list. Start the debate and maybe I'll agree. Or...maybe not.
The Music Man is a marvel for many reasons and I'm tired of all of the arguments that West Side Story was robbed of the "Best Musical" Tony that year (1957-58 season). I'm not knocking West Side Story. It's a special show full of artistry and it was certainly groundbreaking for its use of dance in telling the story. The Music Man, however, is a tightly constructed piece of original musical theatre, combining nostalgia, humor, musical pastiche, sentiment and a terrific concept. At the turn-of-the-twentieth-century, a con man masquerading as a traveling salesman sweeps into a small, uptight, midwestern town to sell the folks on the idea that they need a boys marching band. He hangs around just long enough to collect money for instruments and uniforms and plans to skip town. Along the way, he brings the town together, falls in love with the emotionally stunted librarian, and becomes a father figure to her little brother.