Trouble in River City: DF & CK Review Broadway’s The Music Man (for Parterre Box)

DAVID FOX: Cameron, before we get into the weeds on The Music Man, I’m struck by the ways in which even prior to its opening, this revival became a barometer of the state of Broadway. Originally announced in September 2020 with Hugh Jackman set for the title role, it appeared to be a juggernaut with nothing to stand in its way. The pandemic changed all that, of course—but perhaps even more damaging was the scandal involving abusive producer Scott Rudin.

Rudin withdrew, and the path forward again seemed clearer. But once the show started performances in one of the longest preview periods I can remember, COVID flare-ups among the cast—Jackman and co-star Sutton Foster in particular—became headline news. When the official opening  finally was set, press guru Rick Miramontez announced that critics would not be invited in the preview period and would instead be accommodated on opening night.

Miramontez’s statement was so hostile—indeed, so Rudin-esque—that one questions just how far the producer has actually distanced himself from the show. (For the record: we bought our own tickets through Telecharge, a rattling experience that included “bargain” seats listed as available which mysteriously disappeared, and ludicrous service charges for no useful service provided—all of which seemed of a piece with a musical about a hustle.)

When the New York Times review and several other prominent ones were ultimately posted, they were tepid at best. And yet, when we saw the show, at a Wednesday matinee a few days after opening, it was cheered to the rafters by a capacity audience. The Music Man 2022—bloodied, but unbowed.

CAMERON KELSALL: In many ways, seeing a matinee of The Music Man felt as close to a pre-pandemic experience as I’ve had at the theater since Broadway reopened in earnest last fall. Sure, masks remained compulsory and vaccine cards were checked at the door. But there was an energy that surged through the theater that’s been missing elsewhere, especially as the industry continues to struggle through its ongoing rebound.

It also seemed contained entirely to the audience. Jerry Zaks’ high-gloss production, which trades heavily on a bland Americana at odds with the sharp satire of Meredith Willson’s libretto and timeless score, operates on all cylinders but fires on hardly any…

Click here to read the complete review on Parterre Box.

Categories: Criticism, New York, PARTERRE BOX, Theater

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