Few American musicals have had as much staying power as The Music Man, a quaint story of reformation through love set in small town Iowa. Meredith Willson's memorable Seventy-Six Trombones and The Wells Fargo Wagon are still performed today in theaters all over the world. Here is some information about The Music Man that you may have been unaware of.
When "The Music Man" by Meredith Willson first opened on Broadway in December of 1957 few could have known that it was destined to become the icon of the classic American musical. The timeless strains of "The Wells Fargo Wagon," and "Seventy-Six Trombones " are still heard fifty years later as they are blended into current television commercials and other productions. More recently a Broadway revival and made for TV remake of the musical have also served to renew interest in this classic. These modern renditions, however, cannot be compared to the toe tapping fun of the original.
Despite the well known music and the nearly fifty year history of the show, there are many interesting aspects of this masterpiece that you may not be aware of:
- The Music Man began its life with the title "The Silver Triangle."
- The town of River City was based on the composer's home town of Mason City, Iowa .
- The musical's first run on Broadway lasted 1,375 performances at the beautiful Majestic Theater, the same theater that houses the current record holder for musical longevity, The Phantom of The Opera by Andrew Lloyd Weber.
- The part of Wilfred Paroo, originally played by the young Ron Howard, was at first intended to be a very hyperactive character in contrast to the shy boy with a lisp that we now know.
- Meredith Willson penned four musicals including The Unsinkable Molly Brown. The other two musicals, Here's Love and 1491 were major flops with 1491 closing after only a few performances.
- The original production of The Music Man won a total of nine Tony awards and bested West Side Story for the honor of Best Musical.
- The part of librarian Marian Paroo was based on Willson's mother, a piano teacher.
For more information about The Music Man and its composer, check out my brief biography of Meredith Willson.