Meredith Willson's The Music Man (2000 Broadway Revival Cast) Cast Recording
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Choreographer-turned-director Susan Stroman struck gold twice in the 1999-2000 Broadway season, first with her dance play Contact and then with her grand revival of Meredith Willson's The Music Man. One of the most loving--and beloved--celebrations of Americana ever to grace the stage, The Music Man captures the soul of the heartland with its evocation of brass bands, barbershop quartets, and even piano lessons. The titular role of the fast-talking con man who hoodwinks an Iowa town has, perhaps more than any other role in musical theater, always belonged to one performer: Robert Preston, who starred in the original 1957 Broadway cast and subsequent 1962 film. Craig Bierko, a movie actor making his Broadway debut, acquits himself well, sometimes sounding astonishingly like Preston but without aping him. In his hands, "76 Trombones" remains a rousing signature tune. As Marian the librarian, a radiant Rebecca Luker (star of the Broadway revivals of Show Boat and The Sound of Music) beautifully delivers her ballads, including "My White Knight," which was written for the original stage production but replaced in the film by "Being in Love." Longtime fans will appreciate the inclusion of the barbershop tunes "Ice Cream" and "It's You," and the dance music in "76 Trombones," "Marian the Librarian," and "Shipoopi," as well as a booklet with full lyrics. Preston's magical performances are irreplaceable, but this energetic revival is worthy of a spot on your shelf. --David Horiuchi
Top customer reviews
This version in the 2000 revival does a more than fair job of honoring the original interpretation of the show without slavishly imitating it. The music in this version has been treated to some new arrangements; the musicianship is more than adequate, and the sound of the ensemble has been scaled down in a way that makes the production feel more intimate. While the original more than delivered on the promise of "76 Trombones" this isn't quite so overwhelming. (Less filling, more taste?) Someone taking part in an amateur production of the show might find this recording useful for that reason alone - it's a sound that will be easier to attempt for those without a major Broadway production budget behind them.
One of the things that has improved in 50 years of cast recordings is that they've become more inclusive of the show. The original Broadway recording featured arrangements that sounded like they had been rewritten and cut down specifically for studio performance. The movie soundtrack captured a little more of the feel of the story with a little more dialog. (The movie version also swapped out the song "My White Knight" for "Being In Love" - this latest version restores it.) The 2000 version uses more dialog to set up the songs and the way several of them flow into each other. It includes several songs that were not on the previous two albums, and more of the music used in the dance elements of the show. That incidental music can be just as vital as the big vocal numbers - it's good that technology can now fit more of it into a recording.
A particular bonus of this CD recording of the show is the booklet included in the full size jewel case. It has notes about the show, many photos from the production, AND it has all of the song lyrics. That alone makes this CD worth buying - and still remains one of the biggest drawbacks to buying music by download. You just don't get this kind of material any more, and it's a loss.
Summary: the original Broadway and Movie versions are still the gold standard for The Music Man - but this one deserves to be considered on its own merits and where it exceeds the originals. It's a worthy effort and a tribute to the work of Meredith Wilson.