The Music Man (Second Review)
I love musicals, and this is a damn near perfect one. I can’t think of a single musical number that I didn’t care for. The plot is terrific and funny and touching. It gets right into it with a great opening number, “Rock Island,” with all the traveling salesmen talking along with the rhythm of the train they are on, and it just keeps on coming at you with songs like “Marian the Librarian,” “The Wells Fargo Wagon,” “Good Night My Someone,” and of course “Seventy-six Trombones.” Not to mention the sweet barbershop harmonies of the Buffalo Bills. Let me tell you, I’ve seen this and listened to the sound track enough times that I can talk the famous “Ya Got Trouble” number right along with Harold Hill. I once saw the play produced in Eugene, Oregon, and at the arrival of the Wells Fargo wagon at the end of Act I, a real horse pulled the wagon on stage!
Naturally Hollywood wanted to change everything, particularly Robert Preston as Professor Hill. The guy just wasn’t a big enough star for the likes of Jack Warner. Frank Sinatra was approached. Can you imagine it? I can, and it would have been a disaster. Then they tried for Cary Grant, and he made one of the classiest replies to a stupid idea I have ever heard: “Not only will I not star in it, if Robert Preston doesn’t star in it, I will not see it.” The original Broadway director, Morton DaCosta, was hired to film it, and he was fanatically faithful to the stage show, eliminating only one song. I can easily see this one every couple of years and never grow tired of it.