Ruckus in River City: Willson's Classic Musical Is Back with Brass Blazing

Article excerpt

Who can possibly dislike "The Music Man"? Meredith Willson's monster 1957 hit musical (later a huge success as a movie) is a squeaky-clean masterpiece, an amazing feat of creativity by Willson, who wrote the book, music and lyrics. Director-choreographer Susan Stroman's rousing revival does brilliant justice to this all-American classic that takes place, as one character puts it, in the "hailstone-and sarsaparilla belt" that the Iowa-born Willson knew so well. If you wanted to get highfalutin, you could say that the character of Harold Hill (Craig Bierko), who comes to River City to fleece the rubes with his phony scheme to sell them instruments for a boys' band, is a variation on the great American theme of the confidence man set out by writers like Herman Melville and Mark Twain. On any level of falutin it's a nifty story, with the supersmooth Hill deflected from his larcenous intent when he falls for Marion Paroo, the town librarian (Rebecca Luker). The result is the transformation of an uptight town into a place of light and joy. …