After his belated success as a Broadway composer with The Music Man, Meredith Willson must have seemed to the producers of The Unsinkable Molly Brown an ideal candidate to write music for the show. Like The Music Man, it was set in the early years of the 20th century and showcased a spunky, outsized American character while celebrating American values. In this case, the character was a historical figure, Molly Brown, who rose in society as the wife of a Colorado millionaire and acted heroically during the sinking of the Titanic. Willson wrote a clutch of good up-tempo songs for throaty Tammy Grimes, who played Brown with becoming pluck, and he also gave big-voiced male lead Harve Presnell the appealing ballads "I'll Never Say No" and "If I Knew" (the latter recorded for a minor pop hit by Nat "King Cole). The show's plot was wide-ranging and episodic, lacking the tight structure of The Music Man, to which the it was inevitably compared. (Actually, the rambunctious heroine more frequently brought to mind the musical Annie Get Your Gun and the movie Calamity Jane.) With a run of 532 performances, The Unsinkable Molly Brown turned a profit without being the blockbuster that The Music Man was. And that's a good indication of how the score as heard on the Top Ten-charting original Broadway cast album stacks up -- a sturdy, professional effort well performed, but not in a class with Willson's first show.
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AllMusic Review by William Ruhlmann