Monday, January 6, 2014

The Music Man by Meredith Wilson (1)

One of the greatest American musicals is THE MUSIC MAN, by Meredith Wilson. He wrote the music and lyrics, and worked with Franklin Lacey on the book. The show premiered on December 19, 1957 off-Broadway and ran through April 15, 1961. At the 1958 Tony Awards it won Best Musical, Best Lead Actor in a Musical (Robert Preston), Best Featured Actress in a Musical (Barbara Cook), and Best Featured Actor in a Musical (David Burns).

The story revolves around con-man "Harold Hill," who travels through the Mid-West taking orders for instruments and uniforms for boys' bands, then skipping town as soon as he gets his money. In River City, Iowa, however, he begins to fall in love with Marian (the librarian) and his plot unravels. 

Wilson was born and grew up in Mason City, Iowa. One of the songs, "Iowa Stubborn," is a love-letter to the hard-to-get-to-know people of the Hawkeye State.

In 1962 THE MUSIC MAN was made into a motion picture, produced and directed by the Broadway director, Morton DaCosta. Although Warner Bros purchased the rights, and they had a history of insisting "bigger" names take over the main roles when filming Broadway shows, DaCosta and Wilson both insisted that Robert Preston be cast as Harold Hill in the film.  It was his biggest success. Shirley Jones, fresh from OKLAHOMA! and her Academy Award-winning role in ELMER GANTRY, played Marian. 

Meredith Wilson was an accomplished songwriter in Hollywood before he began writing musicals. He has also written such well-known songs as "You and I," "It's Beginning To Look A Lot Like Christmas," "May God Bless And Keep You," and "Chicken Fat." Three songs from THE MUSIC MAN have also become very famous: "76 Trombones," "Trouble," and "Til There Was You." The latter was recorded by the Beatles and appears on their US album, MEET THE BEATLES.

The reason I'm writing all this (and you are reading it) is because my local theatre is putting on an amateur version of THE MUSIC MAN in February. I am playing one of the Iowa Citizens, aka "Chorus." So for the next month or so I will be showcasing the songs from this great show.

If you are anywhere near central Ohio on/around Feb 14, check out the Gahanna Community Theatre page and come see me. "You really ought to give (us) a try....!"

First song I'll feature here is one of the most famous, and one that was used as the Finale in the movie. We haven't gotten to that part yet in rehearsals, but I'm guessing it will be our finale, too.

Look closely and you may notice little Ron Howard in the cast as Winthrop. This was after he had started appearing in THE ANDY GRIFFITH SHOW. 

Ladies and Gentlemen, "Seventy-Six Trombones (reprise)" from THE MUSIC MAN, words and music by Meredith Wilson.

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