By: Patrick Christiano
Hugh Jackman stars in Jerry Zaks’ entertaining revival of Meredith Wilson’s The Music Man with Sutton Foster, and a cast of forty-two backed by an orchestra
March 8, 2022: The Music Man has been the most anticipated show of the new season, a beloved old-fashioned classic starring superstars, Hugh Jackman and Sutton Foster. The large billboard of the Winter Garden Theater has been looking down at us from 1634 Broadway for over two years now and despite both stars coming down with COVID, the pandemic delayed revival of Meredith Wilson’s The Music Man has finally opened.
Broadway veteran, director Jerry Zaks, has reunited the same team, choreographer Warren Carlyle and scenic/costume designer Santo Loquasto, that brought us his glorious revival of Hello Dolly a few seasons ago. Unfortunately, The Music Man with Hugh Jackman, does not fare as well as Dolly did with Bette Midler. Still, it is a dazzling entertainment with jubilant dancing and a marvelous classic score performed handsomely by a cast of forty-two, backed by a full orchestra.
The huge supporting cast boasts four Tony winners, Jefferson Mays and Jayne Houdyshell as the mayor and his wife, Shuler Hensley as Hill’s accomplice and Marie Mullen as Marian’s mother. Each of them has more than a moment to shine and there are many elaborate production numbers that give the entire cast a chance to break into spirited song and dance. Warren Carlyle’s lively choreography heightens the festivities and gives Sutton Foster a chance to strut her stuff with a big tap number. And there is more dancing to close out the evening when during the curtain call the two stars break out into dance for no reason except the audience loves it.
The story centers on an endearing con man, Professor Harold Hill played by Jackman, who has arrived in Rock Island to peddle the same musical instrument scam he’s been running all through the Midwest. This is a role you would think would be a perfect fit for Jackman, the charismatic con man, who wins over an entire town with the sheer force of his determination.
I saw Jackman’s 2005 Tony winning star turn as Peter Allen in the musical The Boy From Oz. and felt convinced he had the stuff needed, but there is another level he does not get to and every time he sings the air goes out of the evening because he is not selling the songs. He never plays the con. Jackman looks great and he in terrific physical shape. He sings the songs beautifully and his dancing is equally skilled, but there is not a phony bone in his body. He oozes authentic charm, and he remains the same throughout. It seems obvious that Sutton Foster’s Marian, the librarian, would fall for him, almost as if she had charmed him.
Regardless, The Music Man remains an enduring musical classic, great family fun and with spirited dancing. I look for it to run as long as the stars wish to perform in it. Reports indicated there was a fifty million advance in ticket sales. Do I hear the ring of the cash register?
The Music Man is now playing at the Winter Garden Theatre, 1634 Broadway. For tickets telecharge.com or call 212-2396200.
The Music Man
Winter Garden Theater, 1634 Broadway, NYC.
Tue 7pm, Wed 2pm & 8pm, Thu 7pm, Fri 8pm, Sat 2pm & 8pm, Sun 3pm. Running time: two hours and 30 mins. including intermission. $99—$699. www.telecharge.com. Opened Feb. 10 for an open run.
Photography: Julieta Cervantes