Although the starring role of con man Professor Harold Hill in The Music Man is traditionally associated with bigger-than-life portrayals like that given by Robert Preston, who originated the part on Broadway in 1957 and played it onscreen in 1962, there is also an alternate, more sly and understated approach taken by such performers as Dick Van Dyke, who was in a 1980 New York revival. This is the approach taken by Matthew Broderick in a version of the show filmed for The Wonderful World of Disney and broadcast over three hours of network television on February 16, 2003. Broderick is an appealing comic performer, but his performance in The Music Man suggests that Preston got Harold Hill right the first time. Singing patter songs like "Ya Got Trouble," Broderick gets all the words out of his mouth at the right time, but that's about all you can say for him. It's hard to believe he could sell the citizens of River City, IA, on his non-existent boys band, since he can't sell his character to the audience. And if he seems to be sleepwalking through a part that demands an actor who's wide-awake, his performance is typical of others. Kristin Chenoweth, who could certainly hit the soprano notes of love interest Marian Paroo's songs, has been given arrangements in a lower key that rob the songs of their force. Other new orchestrations ruin songs by making them sound too silly. The Music Man is not as saccharine a show as it has been played here; it has been Disney-fied. It's a shame that this is the version many children will see for the first time, since it will give them a false impression and bore them, besides. With typical Disney insensitivity, the actors are not even credited on the CD.
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AllMusic Review by William Ruhlmann
|The Music Man, musical|