The score of The Music Man must be one of the most bulletproof among all Broadway musicals. By the time he wrote it, composer Meredith Willson was a mature talent who had spent the better part of a decade crafting a valentine to his Iowa boyhood. The result is a rock-solid collection of tunes imbued with the styles of pre-World War I America, from the marching-band sound of John Philip Sousa to barbershop quartets. It's hard not to make a good recording of the score if you just perform it as written, but the original 1957 production also boasted two indelible performances: Robert Preston's as Professor Harold Hill, and Barbara Cook's as Marian Paroo. Maybe that's why, although The Music Man is a perennial favorite of high school drama departments, it has not been recorded as many times as a show of its popularity usually is. When it was determined that a major Broadway revival was to be mounted after more than 43 years, casting was the obvious challenge. Surprisingly, though, the producers succeeded in finding two talented lead performers, neither of whom shies away from recalling the original performances. Rebecca Luker does not hesitate to sing in a manner similar to Cook, her soprano full of innocence and longing. The previously little-known Craig Bierko is even more unabashed in patterning his interpretation of Harold Hill on Robert Preston's, recreating nearly every inflection. Onstage, this acting choice works as a kind of homage. On record, of course, he is forced to compete with the original Broadway cast album (still in print), but here one catches more of the subtle changes he does make in his phrasing and line readings, and he is still very impressive. Doug Besterman's orchestrations are a bit too cute here and there, but on the whole this is an outstanding performance of The Music Man with a strong supporting cast.
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AllMusic Review by William Ruhlmann