Monday, March 26, 2012

the music man [1962]

This movie used to freak me out.

But it doesn't anymore. And that's what I'm here to tell you about.

Mama did a fantastic job of somehow making sure that all my favorite movies growing up were musicals. The classics, like Mary Poppins, The Sound of Music, Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, My Fair Lady, and The Music Man.

Ah, yes. The Music Man.

I used to LOVE it. I knew all the songs, I sang them all around the house, and knew that someday I was going to grow up and be Mayor Shinn's *youngest* daughter (the little one in the sailor suit below). Just because she got to do everything awesome without having to be grown up. 

I've seen it twice on stage (one highschool, one community theater) and grew on the Broadway soundtrack and the 1962 film. Years and years of little-girl fandom.

Well, then Marie wanted to watch it for her 8th birthday about three years ago. 
It had been a while since the last time we'd seen it, so we did. 


It grossed. me. out

Big time. 

I mean, I thought Marian was supposed to be *young* (as in, eighteen) and the idea of a freaky old (forty-something) "dirty rotten crook" falling in love with her, and then kissing her and he got away with it ....and the whole relationship was just BLECH. I honestly never wanted to see it again. EVER.

Then, as I got older (having still not watched it again), I stopped saying I didn't like it, and was just a passive voice on the subject. Didn't have an opinion.

Until this week.

For some unknown reason, I decided that I wanted to watch The Music Man again. Leia didn't have any objection (although she didn't really like it either), so on Thursday night, we started it.

Guys, I was so wrong. So wrong. 

The Music Man is one of the best muscials ever to go on Broadway, and is so lighthearted and small-town, COLORFUL (oh, their costumes! *dies*) and so darn *cute* that even while I sort of see why it grossed me out at age fourteen, all of those feelings are lost and smothered in my appreciation for this often-overlooked musical.

If not for anything else, the music is phenomenal. It captures the feel of the era (1912), and the songs are so catchy, no wonder I loved them so much as a child. (yes, I did find this week that I still know all the words to all the songs :D) Each song is so full, and has it's own bit of character. It just screams vintage too, what with big-band sound and barbershop harmonies. And the dance numbers and choreography - so detailed. Obviously hours went into each song...each one masterpiece of its own.
Back when we traveled to TN a lot, we would stop about six hours into the trip and crash with friends. These friends have eight boys and two girls (3rd oldest and youngest) - and they can sing. Really well. So the guys would sing "Goodnight ladies" and Lizzy and us girls would sing "Pick a little talk a little" - at the same time. We actually got it to work several times - and filmed it. Worth trying to find again :)

And the characters. How can you not love them? The School Board - that wonderful barbershop quartet with their impeccable outfits and absentmindedness. Mayor Shin - who can't keep his words straight and spends all summer trying desperately to recite the Gettsyburg Address before an audience. Mrs. Eulalie Mackecknie Shin - flaunting feathered hats and a stern countenance, she ends up leading the women's dance group. Zaneeta Shin and Tommy Dijlas - ye gods and great honk, one of the cutest little library/ice cream shop romances you could find. Winthrop Paroo - little redheaded boy with a lisp and a broken heart. Mrs. Paroo - his wonderful Irish mother with an accent and a great sense of humor. And Amaryllis, and Marcellus Washburne, Charlie Cowell, and the list goes on. It's hard to find that many developed characters in one show. Really, think about it! Don't you feel like you love and know them all by the end? Small-town family.

And then the romance. Which is not gross. Or weird. Now that my seventeen-year-old mind has grasped the fact that Marian is about twenty-six years old, considered an "old maid", and that Professor Hill has been living a lonely, single life and is probably about forty....the whole freaky-old-man-seducing-naive-little-girl mentality has left forever. Now it's just sweet. They both find love in an unexpected place after most likely thinking they'll never find it. And it changes them both in ways they didn't think possible. Marian opens up to her community, starts having fun again and wearing her hair looser. Harold realizes that being alone isn't so fun anymore...finds his own techniques backfiring. Oh, I found it to be quite lovely, actually. A little....different, yes, but lovely. I love that song they sing towards the end - when Harold starts out with "Seventy-six trombones, led the big parade" and she starts with "goodnight my someone"....and then they switch :)

 Of course the costumes and sets are like candy for my designer and vintage-loving heart. Big hats, elegant straight skirts, filmy dancing dresses, parasols, bowties, men's boater hats, plaid and pinstripe suits and wooden doesn't really get much better than that. 

And the whole River City setting - 1910s Iowa - is *perfect.* Train station, wooden buildings, lamposts, the all-purpose highschool, the library, gossipy ladies, a bumbling mayor, the infamous pool hall, and the Candy Kitchen. What a life, folks. :)

I could go on. More pictures, more little disjointed random tidbits of "i loved this" or "it was perfect." :) But I will spare you that, and just say: WATCH IT. Believe me, the humor you missed as a child will *jump* out at you now...everything just gets better and better.

Let's end with a song, shall we?
Mr. Gary Conservatory, Gold Medal Class of '05.
love the little jig from 1:35-39


  1. Funny you reviewed this. It's been in our DVD player in the car for the past month (till we just switched it to Tangled) Bug has memorized it--from "Cash for the merchandise" to Marian breaking the stick on her leg (he now runs around the house doing so). It's hilarious. :P He now knows it almost better than us...and we know it pretty well from seeing it in the car for a month. :D Very cute movie...;)


  2. Thanks for the review, Jo. I've never seen this musical before.

    By the way, do you remember those posts you did for movie characters (especially the LOTR ones)? They were great fun to read, and quite informative too when I was still figuring out if I should watch the Lord of the Rings! It would be great if you can do the rest of the Lord of the Rings characters sometime =D, once at least you're finished with yr 12 highschool!

  3. Oh Jo, I love this movie too! I have to whole-heartedly agree with you--the soundtrack is simply amazing! I haven't seen this movie for quite a long time, but I do love it. Question: have you ever watched the Disney version with Matthew Broderick and Kristen Chenoweth? We didn't like the main actors as much, but it wasn't awful. :)

  4. Thanks for the recommendation! I only remember seeing the 2003(?) version with Matthew Broderick. I liked it, but it's been a while, and I had the idea I ought to watch the old one. And it actually has Opie (Ron Howard) and Tenessee (Buddy Hackett) in it? That makes it all the better.
    I loved the "76 Trombones"/"Goodnight My Someone" medley, too.
    Have a blessed day!

    The Fourteenth Assistant Kitchen Maid

  5. This is one of the few musicals that Pa loves. Most he will tolerate but this one he is just crazy about. And he has this thing for the Richard Preston version that cracks me up. Typically I'm the one particular about my versions but last year we watched both right in a row one movie night and he wouldn't stop complaining about Matthew Broderick as Hill :) It was pretty funny hearing him go on. (I thought both versions were pretty good and don't really have a preference.)

    Anyway, great musical, great movie. I've always loved it :) I love the setting. When you walk into the Magic Kingdom it's like walking into this movie. You go right onto Main Street USA - basically a remake of a 1900's small town. There is even a trolley and street shows featuring song/dance numbers from this movie. Literally it's like walking into The Music Man. One of my favorite things at Magic Kingdom. Even all the cast members (Disney for employees :P) are dressed in period costumes. It's an awesome experience.

    Okay. I'm finished ranting now. I better go before I start ranting about Robin Hood (we watched the finale episode last night and I'm still weeping).

  6. Have you ever seen the Matthew Broderick/Kristen Chenowith version? It is my favorite--I just loved the costumes and I thought everyone but Marian and Winthrop was way better than the '62 version. (Though I like that one too.) I guess my fondness for the newer movie comes from the inordinate amount of red-heads in that movie--they have some awesomely deep, red hair. It's hilarious! Mrs. Paroo is one of my favorite actresses too, and I actually thought Matthew Broderick as Harold Hill was convincing for the part of a Snake-oil Salesman. :D
    Thanks for reminding me how much I love the Music Man--I'll have to borrow it from the library sometime soon. :)

  7. Prepare yourself: I have never seen this. I know, I know, I have missed out on a huge chunck of American culture. (Mrs. Shaw {piano teacher} was horrified when she realized I'd never seen it.) However, it is now on the top of my list of "to see" movies. :) I think I'm gonna love it.