My Encounters with “The Music Man”

My Encounters with “The Music Man”

On a recent trip to New York, I saw a new production of Meredith Willson’s The Music Man, with Hugh Jackman and Sutton Foster. I was struck, as always, by the sheer quantity and quality of talent in Broadway shows—on the stage, behind the scenes, in the pit.

Jackman and Foster made a delightful pair—first adversaries and then lovers in a relationship that crackled with energy. The big cast filled the stage with music, notably in the famous opening scene featuring a train car full of traveling salesmen who argue about how to sell their goods. (“But ya gotta know the territory!”)

In spite of all the talent, though, the real star of the show was…the show.

Willson spins a story that epitomizes the Midwestern, small-town America of another time, and the score contains jewels such as “Ya Got Trouble,” “Lida Rose,” “Till There Was You,” and the glorious “Seventy-Six Trombones.”

As I watched and listened, I smiled to remember all the times my life has been touched by this most American of musicals.

Growing up, my mom and dad had a big collection of Broadway albums, including The Music Man. I would play it for hours, imagining myself in that little Iowa town, where I too fell in love with Marian the librarian.  

As a teenager I was given a chance to go there, when Warner Bros. put out a call for high school musicians to march in the River City Band as part of the movie version. I didn’t make the cut, but several of my friends did, and to this day I can watch them in the film finale.

That same year, I enjoyed listening to the Beatles’ version of “Till There Was You” on the radio.  

When our daughter Maggie was born, we started playing the movie soundtrack CD for her at bedtime. By the time she turned six, she was singing “Gary, Indiana” for friends and relatives.

Maggie is now 25, and when she learned that I had a ticket to the new production, she sent me this text: “Pick a little talk a little pick a little talk a little CHEEP CHEEP CHEEP (talk a lot, pick a little more).”

At the theater that night, I settled back and watched the curtain go up on my latest, but certainly not my last, encounter with The Music Man.