The Music Man, Photo by Joan Marcus

The Music Man – Broadway reviews round-up, starring Hugh Jackman and Sutton Foster ★★★

Meredith Wilson’s The Music Man opened yesterday, 10 February 2022, at the Winter Garden Theatre on Broadway.

Starring Tony-winners Hugh Jackman and Sutton Foster, the show is directed by four-time Tony Award winner Jerry Zaks, with the wider creative team including Warren Carlyle (Choreography), Santo Loquasto (Scenic & Costume Design), five-time Tony Award winner Brian MacDevitt (Lighting Design), Tony Award winner Scott Lehrer (Sound Design), Luc Verschueren for Campbell Young and Associates (Hair, Wigs, & Makeup Design), Tony Award winner Jonathan Tunick (Orchestrations), David Chase (Vocal and Dance Arrangements), and Patrick Vaccariello (Musical Director)..

The musical also stars Shuler Hensley as Marcellus Washburn, Jefferson Mays as Mayor Shinn, Jayne Houdyshell as Mrs. Shinn, Marie Mullen as Mrs. Paroo, Remy Auberjonois as Charlie Cowell, Gino Cosculluela as Tommy Djilas, and Emma Crow as Zaneeta Shinn.

Rarely performed in the UK, but considered a national musical treasure in the US, The Music Man originally premiered on Broadway in December 1957, winning five Tony Awards including Best Musical, and has rarely been off stage since. Written by Meredith Wilson, The Music Man is about Harold Hill, a traveling salesman who dupes Iowans into buying instruments for an imaginary band.

And the reviews are in for this much-awaited show that has been delayed a number of times due to Covid and has seen a long preview period. Did the Broadway critics love the show? Or is it a Music Man Miss?

Average Critics Rating

The New York Times

"Even With Hugh Jackman, ‘The Music Man’ Goes Flat. Sutton Foster also stars in this neat, perky, overly cautious Broadway revival of a musical that needs to be more of a con."

"There comes a moment in the latest Broadway production of Meredith Willson’s “The Music Man” when high spirits, terrific dancing and big stars align in an extended marvel of showbiz salesmanship.Unfortunately, that moment is the curtain call."

"Until then, the musical, which opened on Thursday night at the Winter Garden Theater, only intermittently offers the joys we expect from a classic revival starring Hugh Jackman and Sutton Foster — especially one so obviously patterned on the success of another classic revival, “Hello, Dolly!,” a few seasons back."

"Jackman mostly suppresses his sharky charisma here; this is not a star turn like Dolly Levi or, for that matter, Peter Allen in “The Boy From Oz.” Instead, he seems to see Hill as a character role: a cool manipulator and traveling horndog who in being unprincipled must also be unlovable."

Jesse Green, The New York Times
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Time Out New York

"For a revival of musical theater’s most famous portrait of a con artist, the new Broadway production of The Music Man seems oddly lacking in confidence. Meredith Willson’s 1957 classic should sweep you up in a happy spell of suspended disbelief—much as its reformable-rascal hero, the fast-talking traveling mountebank who calls himself Professor Harold Hill, does to the easily misled citizens of a small town in 1912 Iowa. And who better to cast such magic, one might think, than Hugh Jackman, a bonafide movie star with real musical-theater chops, who has already played a charming charlatan on film as the sucker-seer P.T. Barnum in The Greatest Showman?"

"Yet while this Music Man is a solid and professional piece of work, and includes many incidental pleasures, the hoped-for enchantment never arrives."

"The Music Man‘s story of duplicity and redemption could have deeper resonance today than ever, but this incarnation sticks resolutely to the surface."

Adam Feldman, Time Out New York
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The New York Post

"Hugh Jackman’s revival is a huge let-down"

"The meteoric hype surrounding “The Music Man,” which opened Thursday night on Broadway, has been building now for — somehow — three years.

The musical boasts the same creative team as Bette Midler’s wildly successful “Hello, Dolly!,” and we all hoped it would be the bandleader of Broadway’s post-pandemic return. Adding more sparkle, Hugh Jackman plays the leading man, Harold Hill, and on paper, it’s the role of the celebrated actor’s lifetime.

The Music Man,” I’m sorry to say, does not live up to our oversize expectations. Quite unexpectedly, you leave not raving about Jackman, one of Broadway’s hottest sellers, but the music woman — Sutton Foster, who plays Marian “The Librarian” Paroo. She’s a wonder and the main reason to buy a ticket."

Johnny Oleksinski, The New York Post
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The Hollywood Reporter

"After being delayed two years by the pandemic and having both its stars briefly sidelined by COVID, the most anticipated Broadway production of the season finally opens."

"In a way, the most creative element of this revival originally produced by Scott Rudin (who had to withdraw after he essentially got canceled) is the deal that made it happen. Recreating the formula of his mega-successful revival of Hello, Dolly! starring Bette Midler, Rudin cannily cast the supremely bankable Hugh Jackman in a role seemingly tailor-made for him: the endearing con man Harold Hill, who manages to win over an entire Iowa town through sheer force of will and charisma. Add the adorable, multi-talented Sutton Foster as prim librarian Marian to the mix, and…ka-ching!"

"By technical standards, Jackman is neither a great singer nor a particularly accomplished dancer. But he manages to overcome those minor inconveniences through sheer force of will and clearly evident hard work."

"Foster’s name is listed below the title in the program but in letters just as large as Jackman’s, and she deserves the font. Her voice doesn’t have the crystalline beauty of such predecessors as Barbara Cook and Shirley Jones, and many of the songs aren’t really suited for her. But what does it matter, when she can make an audience love her with merely a winsome smile? She also displays a fierce comic edge that makes her a perfect foil for her co-star. When her Marian finally succumbs to Hill’s charms, it seems less like he seduced her than the other way around."

Frank Scheck, The Hollywood Reporter
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The Stage

"We’re left wanting more. Hugh Jackman and Sutton Foster don’t quite gel in a restrained revival with moments of exuberant dance"

"The resulting production, which boasts a top-notch team chock-a-block with Tony winners, including Hugh Jackman and Sutton Foster, is relatively muted, though it has moments of razzle-dazzle stage exuberance and comic appeal. When the cast is not dancing, the show feels oddly reserved and too much like the earthy cornfields of Iowa that dominates the show’s design. We long for more theatrical oomph."

Nicole Serratore, The Stage
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"Hugh Jackman Shines in Smashing Broadway Revival"

"Hugh Jackman dazzles as Professor Harold Hill, the charismatic con man who fires up an entire Midwestern town, in this abso-tootin’-lutely smashing revival of Meredith Willson’s adorably corny 1957 musical “The Music Man.”

"It’s a role made for Jackman, a song-and-dance man who can also act up a storm and — wonder of wonders — play a convincing lover. This is also a heavy dance show (the huge cast is a big hint) and it’s great to see a leading man who can keep pace with the dance ensemble."

Marilyn Stasio, Variety
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The Guardian

"Hugh Jackman dazzles in uneven Broadway show"

"The actor enthusiastically sings and dances through a big-budget version of the much-loved musical but the show around him isn’t always on his level"

"Throughout the swiftly paced production, Jackman looks like he’s been raring to go. As Hill, a con artist disguised as a traveling salesman who moves in on a small Iowa town, selling the promise of civic improvement through musical instruments, uniforms and band instruction, Jackman is appropriately snaky and cynical – when he’s not pretending to be an upstanding musical impresario, of course. But when he brings a signature number like 76 Trombones or a smaller one like Gary, Indiana to a close, there is unmistakable joy in his eyes; at times, facing the rapturous crowd reactions, he looked as if he might burst out laughing with glee."

"It’s tempting to say that for the rest of this production director Jerry Zaks can’t match the star power at its center, but that’s not quite it – not exactly. Sutton Foster plays the buttoned-up librarian Marion, who is immediately suspicious of Hill but starts to see the good in him even before he does, and she emerges as a formidable match for her co-star. This is particularly noticeable in the second act, which she periodically rescues the killer song score from its first-act front-loading."

Jesse Hassenger, The Guardian
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👤 📅11 February 2022
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📷 Main photo: The Music Man, Photo by Joan Marcus

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