Coming along in the summer of 1962, four and a half years after the Broadway opening, the film version of The Music Man appeared in an era when Hollywood was more likely to be faithful to stage musicals, rather than dramatically altering them, as had been the practice in the past. The Music Man found Robert Preston re-creating his starring role as conman Professor Harold Hill, intent on swindling the good people of River City, IA, by selling them on a fictitious boys' band, and some minor roles were also filled by the Broadway originals. More important, Meredith Willson's score was rendered intact, the only change being a revision of the song "My White Knight" into "Being in Love." The major casting change was the substitution of Shirley Jones, who had a box-office track record, for Barbara Cook, who did not, in the role of Marian the librarian. Cook may have been preferable, but Jones handled the part well, too. Musically, the big change had to do with scale; the Broadway pit orchestra and original cast were replaced by a vast Hollywood orchestra and chorus, and musical director Ray Heindorf made the most of the larger effects on songs like "Seventy Six Trombones." Still, the music fan who already owned a copy of the original Broadway cast recording didn't really need to plump for the original motion picture soundtrack, which didn't keep the album from racing up the charts and going gold as the film became one of the year's top grossers. But it remains true; unless you are a Shirley Jones fan or want to hear future Andy Griffith Show co-star and film director Ronnie Howard sing "Gary, Indiana" with a lisp, stick to the Broadway version.
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AllMusic Review by William Ruhlmann