The meteoric hype surrounding “The Music Man,” which opened Thursday night on Broadway, has been constructing now for — in some way — three years.
The musical boasts the identical artistic workforce as Bette Midler’s wildly profitable “Whats up, Dolly!,” and all of us hoped it will be the bandleader of Broadway’s post-pandemic return. Including extra sparkle, Hugh Jackman performs the main man, Harold Hill, and on paper, it’s the function of the celebrated actor’s lifetime.
Working time: 2 and a half hours with one intermission. On the Winter Backyard Theatre, 1634 Broadway.
“The Music Man,” I’m sorry to say, doesn’t stay as much as our oversize expectations. Fairly unexpectedly, you allow not raving about Jackman, one in every of Broadway’s hottest sellers, however the music lady — Sutton Foster, who performs Marian “The Librarian” Paroo. She’s a marvel and the primary purpose to purchase a ticket.
A lot has been fabricated from Foster not having the hovering soprano vary of Barbara Prepare dinner and Shirley Jones, however that doesn’t matter. Hers is as considerate, humorous, threatening, witty, maternal and romantic a Marian as you’ve ever seen. She by no means settles for a schoolmarm stereotype and makes 65-year-old traces recent.
When the actress sublimely sings Meredith Willson’s “Until There Was You,” it’s a victory — for her, for Marian, for us and for a manufacturing of an American traditional that, up till then, struggles to seek out an assured id.
Typically the present is darkish and moody, decided to not have an excessive amount of enjoyable with a narrative a couple of con artist who wins in the long run regardless of his misdeeds. At others, it’s the “Music Man” of our cringeworthy highschool reminiscences — painfully corny when it needn’t be. The pleasant opening night time crowd was unsure when to snigger on the jokes, and that’s a serious downside for a musical comedy.
Jackman performs Harold Hill, a touring salesman who arrives on the practice in repressed River Metropolis, Iowa, with the purpose of swindling the city by forming a children’ marching band. He’ll overcharge gullible mother and father for the devices and uniforms, educate bogus classes after which hightail it to the subsequent metropolis as quickly as of us catch on. Then, whoopsie, he falls in love with hardened Marian.
The function was famously performed on Broadway and on display by Robert Preston, the reminiscence of whom Jackman spends most of his time operating away from. When he speak-sings “Bother” — probably the most rousing tunes in the complete musical theater canon — he modifies it up all over the place he can, even when meaning sacrificing punch and momentum. “Ya Bought Bother” and, say it ain’t so, “Seventy-Six Trombones” are jarringly ho-hum right here. The entire first act meanders to a fizzle.
What Hill is supposed to attain in these large numbers is convincing a bunch of cussed Midwesterners, together with his radiant appeal and charisma, to belief and embrace a smooth-talking charlatan. However Jackman’s interpretation is so bizarrely dour — as if he’s judging his personal character’s sins for us — that their infatuation is senseless.
He and Foster dance Warren Carlyle’s choreography higher than any earlier pair of actors may’ve. The motion is simple on the eyes (even when Santo Loquasto’s flat, lusterless set will not be) however mild on storytelling. When Hill arrives, his rebel vitality sparks a fireplace in River Metropolis’s youth and also you’d hope to really feel their revolt within the dancing. Numerous it, although, is cute and wiggly.
Jackman and Foster are joined within the musical, directed by Jerry Zaks, by a helluva stacked solid. Tony Award winners (similar to Jefferson Mays as Mayor Shinn, Jayne Houdyshell as his inflexible spouse and Shuler Hensley as Marcellus) utter just some traces. We depart wanting extra from them as a result of we’ve seen how nice they are often — like if Laurence Olivier had a brief walk-on function in “Younger Sheldon.”
Within the lead-up to “Music Man,” many associates admitted to me that they simply plain don’t just like the present. I’d reply that they haven’t but seen a manufacturing that lives as much as the wondrous materials. The staging at Canada’s Stratford Pageant in 2018, for example, that many New Yorkers noticed was an unforgettable triumph.
It’s been 20 years since “The Music Man” final performed Broadway. Possibly 20 years from now, an invigorated Harold Hill will hop off the practice at Grand Central and present ‘em the way it’s executed.